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Body Language and Communication Compensation

I saw a play this weekend at the Single Carrot Theatre in Baltimore, MD, in which puppets played some of the roles. They were not in the Sesame Street or Avenue Q mold–cartoonish faces and bodies, with silly character voices.

(Watch my video here)

These puppets were human looking. Their faces were painted on, so they couldn’t emote. But their bodies were not fixed and their movements, which were manipulated by the enormously skillful actors/puppeteers, were incredibly expressive and made these puppets come alive. They were at one point funny, and then they would break your heart.

This struck me because I always talk about the nonverbal aspects of speech and that when we’re speaking and communicating, we need it all, including facial expression. But we’re not all strong in every area. Some people make more effective gestures, others have fabulous, expressive voices, and so on.

My point is that you should play to your strengths and keep working on your weaknesses. I’ve named it the principle of communication compensation. If you play up your strong skills, your weaker skills will fade into the background.

Now, this isn’t advice to leave those weaker skills as they are – oh no. Rather it’s to tell you that it allows you to keep working on them so they become as strong as your compensating skills. It gives you some breathing room. So, unlike the puppets in the play, whose faces will never change, you have a chance to do just that. But, while you’re working on it, know that not everything has to be perfect–never will be anyway.

Copyright Ruth Sherman 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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