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Published April 10, 2019
Dr. Mark Frank, chair of the department of communication, was interviewed for the Thrive Global article “If You’re Giving Critical Feedback, These Body Language Tips Will Help It Go Smoother,” written by Stephanie Fairyington.
In this article, Dr. Frank reveals how to convey compassionate directness with your body language alone. Compassionate directness involves communicating hard truths with empathy and understanding, in order to maneuver challenging conversations.
“Nonverbal communication is just as much a part of the communication process,” says Frank. Next are four tips offered by Frank on how to communicate difficult topics honestly and gently using your body language.
To start, you should relax your stance and avoid a “stick-straight” posture. “Even if your voice is full of compassion, people will pick up on the harsh stance of your body, and it will make the sting of your delivery more painful,” states Frank. He also suggests tilting your head to the side because it connotes vulnerability and curiosity about the other person speaking. Demonstrating you are on an equal level with the other person can be done by assuming a more open and relaxed position while sitting.
Maintaining a soft smile is the next tip. A generic smile and subtly parted lip give the impression you’re approachable. “The smile is the universal softener,” Frank says. “It draws people to you, it doesn’t push them away.”
Dr. Frank’s next tip is to watch your eye movements. Staring signals an attempt to dominate, and constantly averting your gaze suggests you are disengaged and don’t care. Frank advises to, “Follow a normal pattern of eye contact.” “Where you talk a little and look away a little bit, and then you look at them again.”
The fourth tip Frank emphasizes in the article is to “try mirroring.” Mirroring is subtly and imperfectly reflecting your conversation partner’s mannerisms. Mimicking small gestures such as nodding or smiling will evoke familiarity and make you seem disarming. With this tip subtly is key, Frank warns, “If they realize you’re doing it, it’ll backfire.”