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Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are [TED Talk Lesson]

Because communication is not all verbal, Amy Cuddy explains how body language can shape who you are and how others perceive you. In this post, you will learn vocabulary and expressions related to body language and some questions to practice comprehension and expression. 

TED Talk: Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are

Topic: Body Language   |  Length: 21:02   |   Speaker: Amy Cuddy

"Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that "power posing" –standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don't feel confident– can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success."

Vocabulary from the video

Vocabulary related to body language and personality:
  • to hunch
  • to cross your legs
  • to wrap your ankles (or arms)
  • to spread out
  • a contemptuous glance
  • to wink
  • handshake, to shake hands
  • to take up space
  • chin
  • to collapse
  • assertive
  • laid-back
  • gifted

General English:

  • to unfold
  • to tweak
  • lack of
  • to make sweeping judgments
  • outcome
  • to ask out on a date
  • to sue
  • tend to
  • prejudice
  • fake it till you make it
  • evidence
  • baseline

Vocabulary practice

Look at the sentences below taken from the video and rewrite them using different words but expressing the same meaning. You can either only change the underlined words, or change the whole sentence structure, up to you!

Example: I find that a really good time to do this is Friday afternoons.

  • OPTION A: I think that a really good time to do this is Friday afternoons.
  • OPTION B: Friday afternoons is for me the best time to do this.
  • 1. Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.
  • 2. It could significantly change the way your life unfolds.
  • 3. So a handshake, or the lack of a handshake, can have us talking for weeks and weeks and weeks.
  • 4. And those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote, who we ask out on a date.
  • 5. You want the person who's powerful and assertive and dominant, but not very stress reactive, the person who's laid back.
  • 6. And we make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language.
  • 7. It was inevitable that I would become interested in power dynamics.

Discussion questions

Practice your speaking skills with the questions below. In the first section, you will be able to test comprehension. In the second set of questions, you will get some interesting conversation prompts related to the TED Talk.

Comprehension questions

  • What is the talk about?
  • What things do you agree and disagree on?
  • Did she bring up any differences in body language between men and women?
  • What are some of the characteristics of powerful people?
  • According to the talk, can you “fake it till you make it”?
  • What is 'impostor syndrome'?

Conversation questions

  • To what extent do you think body language is important? Why?
  • How much do you personally use body language to communicate?
  • How does your native culture use body language? How is it different from others?
  • What do you think about eye contact? When is it a positive thing and when can it be seen as negative?
  • How much do you notice other people's body language?
  • Think about what happens when you are talking to someone. What messages would the following send?
    • standing with your hands on your hips
    • putting your hands in your pockets
    • crossing your arms
    • fidgeting with a pen
    • looking at the floor
    • winking at the other person

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