Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0463, October 19, 2010

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Dear Friends,

While the color of leaves on a tree give away the season, research shows that our body language contains quite a lot more information about our inner state that our words convey. Reading the attitude and states of our participants is an important bit of information that facilitators can use to serve the good of a group. Your participant's body language never lies and can tell you a lot if you know what to look for. This week's article Body Talk explores some clues for reading body language and using body language as a tool in your group work.

Collaborative Customer Survey. has been operating for over 7 years now and I want to thank you for your generous support of our work. Over the years, my prime focus has been on product development, writing, and program creation. 

To continue to bring my community the best products and support, please join me at my new community group at to discuss what matters most to facilitators, and to check out a new collaboration tool that might support your own business efforts. This tool will not only allow us to capture market research but it will also allow you to view, discuss, and vote on others’ responses, and post your own questions!  So in a sense, this will be a collaborative survey.

We will kick off the discussion with an incentive. Anyone who participates in this community over the next 30 days can choose one of three posted Facilitator U products listed below. This will only take about five minutes of your time. Click here to learn more and to get started.

Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration (JOFC) Workshop. We're pleased to announce our
next Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration Workshop the week of January 10th in Madison, Wisconsin. Check out this opportunity to learn an Integrally Informed Approach to Facilitation and Leadership that will help you find and facilitate flow with your groups. Click here for details and registration!


Steve Davis


journey of collaboration

facilitator's Studio

The Point

Body Talk

Understand the basics of non-verbal communication.

Presence and Presenting Skill

Your participant's body language never lies and can tell you a lot if you know what to look for. Of course, as facilitators, we know better than to assume anything. So as you become adept at reading body language, be careful not to use this information to fuel your assumptions. 

Consequently, our first tip is to always test your observations of body language to increase awareness. If participants appear bored, angry, or frustrated, then they probably are! But always check this out with them first just to be sure. For example, you might say, "I'm noticing that many of you are slouching and fidgeting in your chairs, will someone please share with me what you're experiencing right now?" If you sense that a body is telling you something, check in with the person to find out what it is. 

This leads to examining the congruence between body language and verbal language. For example, laughing while describing a very painful experience is incongruent behavior and should be checked out with participants. This incongruence indicates that something is amiss.

The "movement" aspects of Body Language can provide clues about how one conducts other aspects of their lives, i.e. patterns of behavior that they might not be consciously aware of.

It's also important to be attuned to cultural differences in body language that could be present among your participants. So as always, when in doubt, check out your perceptions with your participants. 

Finally, it pays for you to be conscious of the power of your own body language to engage the audience. For instance, use open posture; stand where you can be seen by all; when you move, move deliberately and for a purpose; use gestures to strengthen or enhance your communication; don't use podiums or other objects to hide behind; make regular eye contact with everyone; and be expressive, amplifying what you are feeling and saying with your facial expressions and your body gestures.


We've included a link to a simple activity we've found extremely valuable in the past called the A to B Exercise. It's a great deal of fun and can be conducted with one participant at a time, or the entire group to catch group patterns. Using only the language of physical movement, it provides great clues as to how we run our lives. Both effective and ineffective patterns may become evident through this exercise.

We've also included some body language tips, both positive and negative, courtesy of the Third Age Website, that you can use as facilitators. Look for these cues and check them out in your groups, or use them yourself to improve your presentations.

Positive Body Language

Negative Body Language

Direct eye contact (no staring)

Warm, open smile (teeth revealed)


Head tilted

Open, inclusive gestures (palms showing)

Fully facing others

Leaning forward

Upright but relaxed posture

Firm handshake

Double hand clasp handshake

Feet firmly planted

Chin up

Sitting forward

Eyebrow flash upon greeting-

Eye contact not met

Tight or no smile

Down and away or dropped glances

Not fully facing, at an angle

Leaning away

Hunched shoulders

Too-stiff posture

Weak handshake

Chin into chest

Arms crossed or Legs crossed

Body sagging

Legs outstretched while seated

Absentminded gazes




Add Your Comments


Your assignment this week is to practice observing body language--that of others and your own. We're interested in hearing what you discover. Please click on the Add Your Comments and tell us about your experiences or if there's something we've missed, we'd love to hear from you.

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