Shakira Was Right: The Importance of Body Language

By Zoey Rosen


Communication in the classroom and in the Writing Center is important, and body language is an often overlooked aspect of this communication. How we present ourselves is crucial to successful communication between you, your professors, and your writing consultant.

As a student, you spend a good amount of time listening in class. The body language you use during lecture can often be the same body language you use during a writing consultation. There are many ways we can talk (differing volumes, tones, and cadences), and there are many types of actions we can do that all mean different things. Writing consultants and professors are perceptive. While they’re talking to you, they’re paying attention to how you’re sitting and what your facial expressions are. Here are some examples of what different actions can convey:

Examples of Attentive Body Language:

  • Leaning forward
  • Having eye contact with the person speaking
  • Having an “open” posture (arms uncrossed)
  • Sitting upright and still
  • Avoiding distractions

Examples of Disinterested Body Language:

  • Looking away from the speaker
  • Being “closed off” (folded arms over chest, slumping into chair)
  • Speaking with/distracting others around you
  • Repeatedly checking the time on the clock
  • Blank, glazed-over stare

You want to show that you are engaged in a class or in a consultation. Attentive body language positively shows that you want to be there and are paying attention. By showing behaviors that read as disinterested, you are distancing yourself from the situation and devaluing the time and effort that your professor or writing consultant have put into you.

However, you can accidentally convey negative emotions through body language. Our faces cannot often mask the internal monologues of our thoughts and feelings. Even if your body shows that you are present in the discussion, your face can betray you. Here are some examples of conflicting facial cues:

Examples of Facial Expressions in Conflict:

  • Enjoying the lecture (smiling; happy) while sitting with arms crossed (angry, disinterested)
  • Thinking about something sad (frowning) while otherwise having open body language (engaged)
  • Furrowing your forehead (stressed out) while lounging (relaxed)
  • Blank face (bored or sleepy) while arms are uncrossed (open posture)

How you sit, where you look, and what your face says all matter. By showing attentive body language with a positive attitude, you are effectively set up to succeed. Remember to put forth your best behaviors in any academic situation—Shakira’s hips don’t lie, but your face might.

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