If you follow me on social media, you probably know that I recently got accepted into the Science of People Body Language Trainer Certification program. I'm a Body Language Trainer-in-Training. It's such an honour to be taught and mentored by Vanessa Van Edwards!
One of the first things my fellow trainers and I did in the program was rate ourselves in 6 areas: First Impressions, Presence, Lie Detection, Perceptiveness, Leadership, and Charisma. These 6 areas are what Body Language Trainers help our clients improve on.
Looking at those areas, they are definitely areas that are very relevant to people who stutter (PWS), or anyone who might feel nervous or anxious or un-confident in social situations...
--(Just to clarify, anxiety doesn't cause stuttering, but it can increase stuttering. Stuttering can be fueled by BOTH positive and negative emotions. I say "can" because there are many times I've felt nervous or excited and not stuttered at all. That's the unpredictability and mystery of stuttering. But that's another topic for another blog)--
I will discuss other areas in a future blog, but for now I want to focus on Presence and Charisma. There are many PWS who hide in shame, and hold back what they want (or need) to say, and many of us think we can never have great Presence or Charisma in social situations, dating or work situations - and that's because many PWS focus excessively on their words - the verbal content of their message.
What we often forget (or don't know), is that between 60 to 93 percent of communication is NON-VERBAL, and a huge part of Presence and Charisma is our Body Language.
I gave myself a 2.5 out of 5 for Presence and a 3 out of 5 for Charisma. I thought my ratings for my own Presence and Charisma were accurate, but it turns out I was wrong. I had my Welcome Call (on video chat) with Danielle Baker, Certified Body Language Trainer (and lead trainer/mentor of the program). After the call, I emailed her the next day and asked her if I was too hard on myself on my Presence and Charisma ratings.
First, here's what Danielle said when she gave me feedback on my homework:
"...presence and charisma are really all about the subtle cues of body language like mirroring and the power of touch"
And here's her response when I asked her if I was too hard on myself:
"It was really nice chatting with you too--glad we were able to connect. I definitely think you're probably a little hard on yourself with charisma and presence--you were funny and charming on our call together!"
I think the reason why I rated myself low in those 2 areas at first was because I was unsure of what Presence and Charisma is - I wasn't aware of how much Body Language played a role in those 2 areas.
Presence is the feeling that others get when they're around you, and if they feel you have a strong, competent or confident presence. A huge part of Presence and is using your Body Language and Nonverbal Communication to help the other person feel heard. A great way to be engaging is to smile, nod, give eye contact and mirror the person you are talking to. - Side Note: eye contact is a HUGE topic for people who stutter, so that deserves it's own blog in the future... It's involves more than you think :)
Charisma is how memorable, warm, and competent we are, if we're interested and interesting. Charisma is all about finding a balance between Warmth and Competence. This is important because if you're too warm, you could be seen as a pushover, and if you're too competent, you could be seen as cold. A few methods to be more charismatic is the use of hand gestures, using high power body language, and being more expressive with both your voice and hands when speaking.
If you're a person who stutters, you might be thinking "Brian's a confident person who stutters, but having good presence and being charismatic is too hard for me! I don't think I can level up those areas."
But remember, anything worth working for is going to be challenging. Discomfort is a sign that you're growing and improving. I wasn't always confident - you can't become confident or charismatic if you never do things outside of your comfort zone. Just like anything else, improving your Body Language takes practice.
You CAN be seen as a confident and charismatic person and have great presence, even if you stutter :)
What I've said here is only the tip of the iceberg - there's SO MUCH more about Body Language to learn and to teach, and all of it is relevant to people who stutter, or to anyone who wants to be given the power to feel FELT and HEARD.
"One of the things that is REALLY important to us at the Science of People is giving people the power to feel FELT and HEARD." - Vanessa Van Edwards