Christian Counseling Skill of Understanding BodyLanguage

Body Language Reveals a Lot in Christian Counseling

Road Home
It's imperative that a facilitator have good communication skills. And equally important is paying attention to the nonverbal language of group members because body language can often speak louder than words.

Dale Carnegie in The quick and Effective Way to Effective Speaking, writes: “Nonverbal communication is 2 to 7 times more significant in the persuasive process than words. The perceived attitude related to public speaking is 7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal and 55 percent facial.”

Carnegie proposes that people have four ways of contact with the world, including:

  • What we do (actions speak louder than words)
  • How we look (first impressions are lasting images)
  • What we say (verbal)
  • How we say it (tone of voice, inflection)

To be a pro-active Christian counselor, it's necessary to notice body language throughout the entire group process. Some examples of body language are crossed arms, nodding, slouching, wiggling, smiling, eye contact, tears and frowning. What people say with words should be mirrored by their body language. Any inconsistencies provide facilitators with opportunities to get to root issues of participants.

A co-facilitator can be the eyes and ears for the main facilitator or counselor. While the facilitator is actively listening to a group member processing, the co-facilitator tunes into the body language of other group members and brings behaviors to light at the appropriate time. This is the power of a group. A lot happens behind the scenes with the non-processing members.

For example. Pete is talking about his mother who recently passed away. Judy is listening to him with tears in her eyes and hands on her face to hide. It is the job of the facilitator or co-facilitator to allow Pete to finish his processing and then ask Judy what is going on with her. Never ignore Body language.

A facilitator can tell if participants are paying attention by noting the nodding of heads. Nodding suggests that a person is listening, is interested and agrees. Much of the time there is a participant who doesn't nod and instead has their arms tightly folded across the chest and is squirming in the seat. This is body language that says, I am not listening, I am bored, and I don't agree.

When a person falls asleep, it is an obvious clue that something is not right. In a recovery group, they may be saying they are bored, tired or high on drugs. Wake the person up by calling on them to answer a question about what just transpired. Don't embarrass them, but don't let them continue the behavior, especially if there is suspision of drug or alcohol use. This may trigger the other group members.

Noting and understanding body language is a valuable skill to learn. It can make or break a group.

Written by: Sherry Colby