In our world of hyper communication, it would appear that the written and spoken word is the dominant form of communication. In fact, far more is communicated on the physical level of body language than any other form of communication. For example, most research breaks down the relative power of communication in the following three ways:

Body language: 55%
Tone of voice: 38%
Word: 7%

Imagine how much of the message we are missing when we read! It’s also an incredible challenge to be a writer, knowing that the written word is limiting. For example, when I write, the words may flow quickly, but because you can’t hear my tone of voice, see my smiling face, watch my physical gestures (hands, eyes, relative activity, etc.), I have to take extra care in what I say and how I say it. It is so easy to be misunderstood in writing alone. How many times have you responded to an email and offended or upset the other party? Perhaps you were in a rush to reply, or you were ‘cold’ in your message, avoiding some of the required niceties to open the lines of communication and trust. Unless the other person knows you well and expects a ‘yes/no’ type response, miscommunication may result.

So what does this have to do with physical fitness?

In my line of work it is imperative that I continue to develop my perceptions for non-verbal communication. When I meet with a client for the first time, it’s often on the phone so I have to pick up what they are telling me with and behind their words, and also through their tone of voice. Sometimes I can even sense their posture on the phone. (Interesting side-note: a common sales technique for phone work is to have a mirror at your desk to remind you to smile when calling customers – the person on the other end will ‘hear’ the smile in your voice).

When I meet my new client, will we be discussing their past, present and what they would like to achieve with my assistance, but I will be mindful of what they are communicating on a physical level. For example, if they are sitting, are they sitting upright with healthy posture, arms at their sides or on the armrest, gesturing casually, with both feet on the floor? This means they are relaxed, confident and open. Or are they cross-legged and sitting angled to me (protecting and not trusting), slouching in the chair (tired, not caring, apathetic, bored), arms crossed (protecting, not open to my opinion), avoiding eye contact (distrust of me or hiding something), etc.

There are so many possible interpretations to non-verbal communication within the context of the environment, time of day, and how I am ‘carrying’ myself with this person. We can also learn a lot about a person through their eye movements, which can tell you if they are looking to the future or past (and can even tell you if someone is not telling the truth). Both eye movement and choice of words can tell you if the person is predominantly an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner. For example, eye movement to the right is future thought, to the left is past and straight ahead is present. Choice of words like, “That rings true to me” indicate auditory; “I see what you are saying”, indicates visual, and; “That feels right,” tells you the person is kinesthetic. So if I was to work with a visual learner and tired to teach them only by verbal communication, telling them how to do an exercise, I would not be very effective. If I got down on a mat and ‘showed’ them how to do an abdominal exercise, they could copy what I have shown them, and they would think I communicate very well.

So you can see the variety of messages we communicate, sometimes without knowing we are giving a different message from what we are saying in words. Take for example running into someone you don’t care for. You are in a group of people, so you choose polite words and say, “Hey, great to see you! How are you?” but inside you wish this person were somewhere else. How does this ‘internal message’ come across? Does the other person perceive it, consciously or unconsciously?

Lastly, what messages do we communicate in physical movement? Now that is the stuff of books! Again, this is something I look for because the body knows its own story, its own pain, and its own happiness. By understanding from within what your body is telling you, not only will you be more self-aware, but also you can better heal yourself and live more happily, because you will be able to choose your own direction. For example, someone who has problem knees my have ego and pride issues, and may be inflexible and fearful. Leg problems may indicate a fear of moving forward.

I understand if this seems esoteric to you, but we can’t deny our mind-body connection. The mind influences the body and the body influences the mind. This is the yin and yang of life, the universal balance. In your own life, if you have any physical challenges, examine them. Usually the meaning of the physical issue is almost obvious – just ask yourself, ‘What is this part of the body used for?’ and the answers may come. Another example: if you have a chronic cough, is that a need to be heard?

Next time you notice yourself in communication with someone, check your posture. How are you standing? What is your body telling you? What are you thinking? Are those thoughts coming through behind your words? This is knowledge that master persuaders, great leaders, public speakers and influential people use to their advantage. Not only can they ‘move’ people, they communicate more profound messages. What is your body saying to the world?

Recommended reading:
Louise L Hay. You Can Heal Your Life.

© Integrated Fitness Inc. 2006 | All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without the expressed permission of the author.

Author's Bio: 

Darren Stehle is a Toronto-based Physical Fitness Coach, Mentored King Coach and Author. Darren’s mission is to "To inspire and enrich people's livesthrough improved health, personal and spiritual development, and financial freedom." Get the body you want at Integrated Fitness Inc. and the life you deserve at