Since body language often speaks louder then words, a “posture of involvement” is particularly important in listening.
Each region of the body can be oriented in such a way that it invites, facilitates, or holds an interpersonal relation.Or it can be oriented so as to break off, discourage, or avoid involvement.
Communication tends to be encouraged when the listener demonstrates a relaxed alertness with the body leaning faintly forward, facing the other squarely, maintaining an “open” position, and situating himself at a suitable distance from the speaker.
Maintaining an open position with arms and legs uncrossed is another vital part of the posture of involvement. Tightly crossed arms or legs often communicate closeness and defensiveness.
Baseball fans know what to look forward to when an umpire makes a call that is disputed by a team manager. The manager runs toward the umpire shouting and waving his arms.
The umpire normally crosses his arms in a gesture of defensiveness, communicating that he will not move from his position and that any argument will be fruitless.
The very young do this same thing: they frequently cross their arms when defying their parents, representing a psychological closeness to their parents’ comments.
The importance of Relaxedness and Alertness
By means of the relaxed alertness of his body, the good listener communicates attentiveness during the conversation.
What is sought is a balance between the relaxedness that communicates, “I feel at home with you and accept you” and the alertness or productive tension that demonstrates “I sense the importance of what you are telling me and am very intent on understanding you.”
The combination of both of these body messages creates an efficient listening presence.
Advantage of Inclining the Body Towards the Speaker in Communication
Inclining one’s body in the direction of the speaker communicates more energy and attention than does leaning back or sprawling in the chair.
When a public speaker has his audience spellbound, we say, “He has them on the edge of their seats.”
The people are not only leaning forward, but are sitting forward in their chairs. By contrast, some listeners slouch back in their chairs looking like propped-up corpses. How demotivating that posture is to the speaker!
Benefit of Facing the Other Persons Directly
Facing the other directly, your right shoulder to the other’s left shoulder helps convey your involvement. The common phrase “He gave me the cold shoulder” recommends the indifference or rejection that can be communicated by not positioning yourself to face the other person.
Since homes and offices are seldom arranged for good attending, you may have to reorganize some furniture to be able to place yourself properly.
Another aspect of facing the other directly is to be at eye level with the speaker. This is particularly significant if you are an authority figure – a parent, teacher, or boss – of the speaker.
Sitting on the edge of a desk when the other is in a chair or standing when he is sitting can be a major obstacle to interpersonal contact. Parents of young children often criticize on how important this aspect of attending is in their homes.