What is Your Body Saying Without You Even Knowing?

What are your body language and gestures saying when you’re doing a presentation?  How consciously are you aware of what you do with your hands and how you stand?  If you’re like me then you may have been one of the ‘talk with your hands’ brigade who have tended to flap their hands all over the place when speaking.  Did you realise you were totally distracting the audience with your physical movement?  Or perhaps you’re more of a ‘fig leaf’ holding your hands together in front of you for protection?  Or maybe you were the ‘lectern grabber’ hanging on for survival?
Suppose you could consciously choose to be in conscious control of your body language and gestures.  You can then use them to deliberately reinforce your message and build rapport with your audience.  And you can avoid sending a physical message that you didn’t intend and that conflicts with what you’re saying.   Wouldn’t that be great?
The Satir Categories – 5 non-verbal patterns of communication – were described in the 1970’s by Virginia Satir, a renowned family therapist.  These gestures/postures communicate certain archetypal messages that work internationally and across cultures.  They produce an internal response in both the presenter and the audience, with the audience feeling different emotions depending on how you are standing/gesturing.  The Satir Categories can be used to add another dimension to your presentations and face to face communication.
Here’s a quick run down of the 5 categories – Blamer, Placater, Leveller, Computer, and Distracter.


  • DEMONSTRATES – power, dominance, authority, in charge and superiority – on the offensive….it’s your fault not mine…
  • VOICE – shrill, tight, loud voice
  • AUDIENCE – feel told off/blamed
  • USAGE – very sparingly –  positively to empower an individual, punch a point home, to get through to someone who just isn’t getting the message or for short guilt trips.  Soften by pointing above the audience or using two fingers.


  • DEMONSTRATES – helplessness, pleading, dependence, vulnerability, begging.
  • AUDIENCE – feel you’re a “Yes man”, can’t think for yourself, just want their approval, trying to please, run from conflict…
  • WARNING – women should avoid this gesture – ingratiating, weakens your position.
  • USAGE – men only, use when say something confrontational to soften the blow or for sympathy.

LEVELLER (hands start at chest height and move down and out as if resting on a desk)

  • DEMONSTRATES – frankness, truth, strength, honesty, openness, sincerity, calming.
  • VOICE – slow, calm, includes pauses.
  • AUDIENCE – feels you level with them – candid and forthright – tell them the truth.
  • USAGE – good for giving impartial or factual information, use for believability, to convince an audience, bring them down to earth.


  • DEMONSTRATES – intellect, thinker, professor, logical, sensible, considering, rational, analytical, unemotional and super reasonable.
  • VOICE – slow/monotone voice and long words.
  • USAGE – great to show someone you’re considering what they say, good diffusion tactic when challenged by the audience, use to separate your message from emotions or to buy time.


  • DEMONSTRATES – fun, laughs, jokes, clown – literally distracting.
  • WARNING – avoid for serious messages, always asymmetric in gesture/posture – switches continually between categories, never makes sense!  Can seem panicky…
  • USAGE – use only for fun and to create energy/surprise.  Don’t overuse!

So next time you’re presenting, or even just talking to someone face to face, try these out.  Computer is a perfect starting point and can be of value in a host of different situations.  Are there any other gestures or postures that you use that you think are great for getting a certain message across?

[Picture credits – NLP THIRTEEN]

© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


4 responses to “What is Your Body Saying Without You Even Knowing?

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