I'm fluent in body language

25th April 2008 at 01:00
A life in the year of Emily Shark

A life in the year of Emily Shark

"Body language is a vital part of teaching. If a class is giving you trouble, it may be your fault."

Oh, thanks. Where did the head find this little booklet? She wants us all to read it this week and change three things about our body language. Okay, but while I'm re-learning how to use my arms, can I say whatever I like with my tongue? Seems fair.

Right. Here we go. "Body Betrayal Signs - are you leaking power?" That sounds embarrassing.

"Do you have anxious feet? Submissive elbows? If you don't know what your body is saying, you could be saying the wrong things." Hmm . Good point.

"For those in authority, fluency in body language is a must. A few simple tricks can make you appear more powerful. Swing your arms when you walk. Push out your elbows so that you take up more space. Swagger a little .". My Year 9s will be shaking in their seats if I do that - but not with fear.

"Dominance is shown in the face. It often takes the form of snarls disguised as smiles."

Oh yeah, the staffroom is full of those. There's Melinda Sleam dominating that wispy teaching assistant, Sandra Fayde. Fayde is giving a textbook example of a body "closing up in fear while pretending to be relaxed. The face has a fixed smile, but under the table the legs are tightly coiled. In extreme cases, the body will rock rhythmically to and fro". Not quite there yet, but give it time.

"Lying is extremely common." You're telling me! Look at them all. Richard Spatley is "keeping the body stiff, leaking signs of falsehood and quickly covering them up again". Meanwhile, Jennifer Boney is pounding porkies into the telephone, "giving out conflicting signals with different parts of the body". Her left foot doesn't want any part of this. Clearly it has higher moral standards than her cheerfully dishonest hands.

"Avoiding floppiness is a crucial part of speaking more persuasively." I hope Marian Frond is reading this. She's far too floppy to avoid whatever it is that Steven Glape is trying to make her do. Marian is "widening the eyes, which makes a person look more like a baby and therefore more vulnerable. Jerky movements leak fear . ".

How do you stop all this "leaking" then? "Holding the body rigid prevents it betraying our thoughts." So just don't move. Bit weird for visitors, though, coming into a room full of catatonics.

"Miss Shark? I'm Malcolm Shirke. Your new head of English."

`Oh! Hello.'

Claiming territory by arriving early, eh? All right, but you can forget the power handshake, matey boy. And I know all about staring between the eyes to reject dominance, too.

Oh, he's not moving. This stuff rocks.

More from Emily in a fortnight.

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