Use of Body
We often hear that 80% of our communication takes place on the non-verbal level. While the words “I forgive
you” are unequivocal they are subjected to extreme test of sincerity through our facial expression, posture and tone of voice (as opposed to the content of the words) so is, to a high degree, everything else we say. Broadus again puts it well: “To say, ‘Leave the room,’ is less expressive than to point to the door. Placing a finger on the lips is more forcible than whispering, ‘Do not speak.’ A beck of the hand is better than ‘Come here.’ No phrase can convey the idea of surprise so vividly as opening the eyes and raising the eyebrows. A shrug of the shoulders would lose much by translation into words.” “He who is master of this sign-language has, indeed, an almost magic power.” When a speaker is able to match his body language with the content of his sermon it adds a marvelous dimension to his message as it is not only his mouth that is speaking anymore but now his entire being plays with the beat of an idea he has to deliver.
Several points are to be mentioned regarding the use of body.
- Good posture – just as it was important with the voice it has its indisputable aesthetic reasons as well. It is one of the common mistakes to lean forward either to hold a pulpit or to simply stoop. While touching a pulpit can ease speakers psyche during preaching it is a poor habit that will hardly be appreciated by any congregation. One on one conversations are customarily accompanied by these “leaning tendencies” especially when a highly sensitive subject is dealt with. Kevin A. Miller, however warns us not to bring these inclinations to a stage: “…when we pull in our hands and lean our head a little lower, we can end up looking smaller and cramped, at just the moment our bodies should be communicating, “This is big news! Listen to this!””
- Eye Contact – The two sphere-like sources of our visual perception are crucial to our countenance. All preachers passions and emotions, his inner thoughts and workings are represented in their utmost fullness and power in his eyes. With those can he penetrate into the soul of his audience and “enter into a living sympathy with them.” Bryan Chapell summed it up as follows “You must look at people! The eyes can spit fire, pour out compassion, and preach Christ in you. When you deny people your eyes, you really deny them yourself. No one ever talks to them without looking at them – unless to insult them.”
- Gestures – Facial expressions, hand motions or stage movement are some of the visible ways we can provide accompaniment to our verbal presentation. Here, moderation is always the order of the day. While it is unnatural to remain stiff, an overdone action is rarely an improvement to ones delivery. At this point, it is an uneasy task to cover all the instances as gestures present us almost with unlimited possibilities. “Quintilian says: “As to the hands, without which delivery would be mutilated and feeble, it can scarcely be said how many movements they have, when they almost equal the number of words.” However two things are in my opinion to be highlighted. As a note of variety, any monotonous repetition of any given set of motions is a shortcoming. Read the rest of this entry »