Without thinking about it, everyone does it. People broadcast their level of attention, interest and comfort in non-verbal messages.
It’s a peek at what is going on in someone’s heart.
To put it into our terms, these messages are the very first offer you get from your scene partner. As you work, it is critical that you are sensitive to the offer, accept it and build on it. The messages are your roadmap to creating a genuine relationship with that specific person.
There are two parts to working with non-verbal behaviors.
First is to be aware of the cues and give them value.
Second is to fold them into your response in a way that makes the scene progress.
Cues can be as simple as – if a person walks up to you fast or slow. If they stop far away or close to you. If they face you square on, at an angle or facing away. If they drag their feet, step lightly, run or even hop. If their shoulders are slumped or open and back. Is their head held high or bowed? Tipped or held back? Do they look in your eyes? Are they looking back at a friend? Are they looking somewhere else?
Try this for the next few days – As you are out and about, observe the people around you. Mentally note the physical behaviors above and call them out silently. Be specific. For example; his head is up, he’s walking briskly in a straight line, with shoulders back and eyes off to the side.
After a while, try doing the behaviors yourself. Learn what it’s like for you to move in that same way. As you do this, you create a more refined sensitivity to non-verbal messages.
BE SURE YOU’RE DISCREET – WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE SOME PRIVACY TO TRY ON NEW BEHAVIORS.
Remember how I say stick to facts at first and then see what feelings come up. So, after you’ve put some time into trying on physical behaviors, allow yourself to explore the feelings that come up for you. Give them your detailed attention. Name them and acknowledge where the feelings sit in your body. Be specific and clear. Throughout this process, you develop your emotional sensitivity to behaviors.
One more step, and no rush for this one either. After awhile let yourself create the stories in your head that might explain the physical behaviors. Make up the world that explains what you see. This is a great skill down the road when you want to connect the behaviors you see with your character’s story. More on that to come…
But, for now, no need to push right away. In the beginning, just focus on catching behaviors and developing simple awareness for what they suggest to you. Let your skills grow in their own time.
There is a wonderful side-benefit to this work. As your observation skills grow, you develop empathy for the people you come in contact with. That’s a fantastic way to be in our business. Genuine connections get made and authentic interactions happen.
You connect with their hearts.
Soon I’ll show you the second part of this work – how to best build on the observations you make. Before that, I’ll give you some more behaviors to be on the look out for.
Next Up – More Behaviors and What They Suggest