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Body Language

Study Body Language During the Holidays

Time away from work can give you a new perspective.

Key points

  • People who have trouble relaxing over the holidays can take the opportunity to learn more about human behavior.
  • Watching people interact can teach us about body language.
  • Focusing on the moment and getting in touch with our inner voice can help us recharge.
 Leeloo Thefirst/Pexels
Source: Leeloo Thefirst/Pexels

Professional speakers are known for being ready to speak anywhere, anytime (for the right price). I’ve witnessed and heard many stories over the years of heroics involving helicopters and cross-country journeys in the middle of the night in order to get to a gig or a series of gigs.

But even the hardest workers among us have to take a holiday once in a while, so here are a few tips for Type-A personalities over the holidays—what to do to keep yourself occupied as you’re attending a neighborhood holiday party or sitting around a festive table with your family.


The IRS (or your local taxing authority) should allow you to write off any holiday that involves any people-watching. Whether you’re waiting at an airport or mingling at a cocktail party, you can learn enormous amounts about body language simply by watching people interact.

Here are a couple of things to look for. Engagement usually means drawing closer to each other. So watch people as they meet, chat, and say goodbye. Are they fully connected with the other person or the group? Or are they half there, with some body language indicating a desire to move on to the next thing? Understanding the mixed messages people send with their faces and bodies can greatly deepen your ability to read others. Adults have a lot of practice in controlling their faces, but they are less able to control the rest of their bodies, so look to the feet and hands to see how interested someone is in the conversation.

Being present

The art of charisma is the art of focusing on the moment and focusing emotion in the moment. The holidays are a great time to practice that elusive focus.

Think about that egg nog you’re holding in your hand—think about it to the exclusion of all else. Now, try to ignore the screaming of the kids in the other room, the droning of your annoying uncle’s voice, and the smell of the dinner that’s two hours late…. That’s focus, and that’s the beginning of the work of being in the moment. There’s no better time to practice the art of presence than when you are relaxed, have little else to think about, and have something alluring to ponder.

Next, find an emotion and practice invoking that emotion to the exclusion of everything else. Recall a time when you felt that emotion strongly and naturally, and go deep into that memory. What did it smell like, taste like, feel like, look like, and sound like? What happened, and in what order? Re-create the scene in order to feel the emotion. It’s much easier to do when you’re not under the gun, so put down that trashy novel and get to (emotional) work.

Finding your voice

Life knocks the stuffing out of us sometimes, and the daily grind can wear us down. That’s what holidays are for, of course: to recharge and stuff ourselves back up with the energy and enthusiasm we need to get back to work with a renewed sense of purpose. It helps when you’re overworked and overstressed to know who you are and what your mission is. It keeps you sane and on track.

So spend your downtime thinking (idly) about why you do what you do. What’s your essence? What really makes you tick? Can you sum it up in an interesting one to three minutes? Work on that now, and you’ll be ready to chat with your seatmate on that red-eye next time.

It’s a holiday. Take it. But if you’re Type-A—and I know you are—you can also make it pay down the road. Happy relaxing!