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Be careful of what your body is saying
MICHELLE Fleming finds out from body language expert Richard Newman that what you do with your limbs could make or break your success
BEFORE you read this piece of journalism, beware of taking everything I say as Bible truth - you see I'm the best liar in the world.
It's true, I managed to dupe body language guru Richard Newman this week.
With his palms facing downwards, he told me that I was a rarity - in fact, a one-off - before asking me if I lie on a regular basis. I said no, of course.
So began my time with Richard.
Not exactly ideal, being branded a liar five minutes after being introduced. But I was being paid fantastic money to do it, so I did. Just to paint a more detailed picture, as I wrote that last line I was looking to my right.
In other words I was lying. Money had nothing to do with it - journalists ain't in it for the money (I look to the left).
To be honest, I could have happily stayed with Richard all day learning about this fascinating art of people-reading.
I say art because it was while he was studying acting that Richard discovered his interest in reading the subtle cues of movement that we all give off, all of the time, without realising it.
A chat with his hairdresser led Richard to pop in to give young apprentices some tips on chatting to customers and this interest mushroomed into a hugely successful business for Richard and old Dr Challoner's pal Christian Billett, a fellow actor and singer.
The power of body language and voice projection became very clear to Richard during seven months teaching English in a Tibetan monastery - despite having no knowledge of Tibetan.
After what I and my photographer Stuart believed to be a few lessons in Tibetan by Richard, we went on to introduce ourselves, all clever and proud, me describing myself as pig's intestines and Stuart as a little girl.
Richard says: "With the appropriate body language, the meaning of something completely changes. It is the most important part and is read and interpreted before the words."
Point taken - words themselves are often just that. Body language is seriously in.
But then it was never really out.
Richard tells me to cast my mind back thousands of years and reflect on the art of the ancient Egyptians.
Hieroglyphics adorning the walls of the Pyramids still speak to us thousands of years later regardless of age, culture and language.
I consider a painting of crouching bodies with hands held protectively over faces - gestures which speak to us in the universal language that Richard says accounts for 90 per cent of communication.
Sounds astonishing, I know, but to the well schooled, it's the subtle nuances that tell how we're really thinking and feeling.
My next challenge was a test of my public speaking or presentation skills - no mean feat considering that it's top of most people's fear list, ahead of spiders and earthquakes.
Richard tells me I enter the room well and appear confident - but then it all goes pear-shaped.
My stance, with feet and legs tightly together, reveals my inner desire to appear small.
I shrink back in the hope that nobody notices me (some hope, as I'm 6ft tall!).
Despite my smile, my body language reveals the not-too-confident interior and the blithering mess that really stands before them.
Next big give-away is my hands.
I'm naturally quite a fidgety person and as I gave my speech on the joys of being a journalist, I wrung my hands.
That's another no-no as far as trying to appear confident goes.
According to Richard, this reveals my nervousness, a kickback to our childhood desire to be comforted by the soothing hand of a parent.
So I wasn't too hot on giving presentations - lucky my job doesn't include too many of those.
Now encouraging people to tell you their story - that's a tip I could use.
Richard says a good way of breaking down an unco-operative subject is to mirror their body language.
He explains: "They start thinking that this person is on their wavelength and the barriers start to come down."
As the conversation wore on I was becoming increasingly aware of my own movements and wondered what "unsaids" I was giving away by the minute.
It was exhilarating, yet tiring. All of this attention to controlling one's behaviour can be draining.
But Richard insists that by adopting certain behaviours you can change your whole mood.
He explains: "If you make your body look confident then your state of mind shows that. You actually start to feel better."
He says the Americans are a lot more open with behaviour but British culture tends to push staying schtum as the best course of action. Anything to avoid embarrassment.
My second presentation entrance was miles better.
Just like a star guest on Parky, I sauntered in, charged up after my big gulp of air and moving my hips in time with the music - as my photographer Stuart put it, giving off the air of a seriously confident chick.
Not surprisingly, any business that involves people finds that Bodytalk's expertise can come in handy, be it for sale-closers or interviewers.
He says: "What it comes down to is learning what type of impression you give off and changing it to suit your desired result."
Arriving back to the office, I gushed to my colleague Kelly about my afternoon.
Much to the annoyance of those around, we gabbed for half an hour before I noticed Kelly was listening intently with her legs crossed and her hands cupping her chin - just as I was.
I always knew she was a natural at the journalism game.
On my way home I started thinking about the countless situations where I could apply what I'd learned.
I thought of all the time I could save.
Like being astute enough to take the Editor's cue next time I approach him for a raise.
Once I spot the steepled hands, I'm out of there - this guy ain't budging.
Bodytalk will be holding an event on January 30, visit www.ukbodytalk.com for details