Home » Ann Washburn on Body Language: The Key to Your Subconscious at TEDxIdahoFalls (Transcript)

Ann Washburn on Body Language: The Key to Your Subconscious at TEDxIdahoFalls (Transcript)

Sharing is Kindness in Action!

Ann Washburn

Here is the full transcript of body language expert Ann Washburn’s TEDx Talk presentation on Body Language: The Key to Your Subconscious at TEDxIdahoFalls conference. This event occurred on April 2, 2016.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: Body Language – The Key to Your Subconscious by Ann Washburn at TEDxIdahoFalls


So have you ever had one of those buttons popped up on your computer screen that says, “Software updates available. Do you want to install it now?” Well, our computers use programs to process vast amounts of information, and programmers know that if we are running faulty programs, we get faulty results. And this is why we have the upgrade process of our computers.

Well, it turns out your subconscious works much the same way. In fact, our subconscious will process up to 40 million pieces of information every single second. And in order to process those huge amounts of information, our subconscious chooses programs. And the thing is we’ve been choosing those programs since we were a child. And now as an adult, we may still be running the same programs and getting messy results in our life.

So, who wants an upgrade button for their subconscious programming? I have figured out how to access mind, and that’s what I want to share with you.

So I want you to play with me here for a minute. Everybody, fold your arms. Good. Now look down and see which arm is on top. OK, unfold them, now fold them back with the other arm on top. OK, how does that feel? It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable. This person over here is like arms do not do that.

But what you’re feeling there, in science, they have a term called cognitive dissonance. Now cognitive dissonance states that we cannot hold on to two conflicting ideas without discomfort. Our brain cannot hold on to two conflicting ideas without discomfort. So, you can all unfold your arms now. I don’t want you to fold your arms to halt the time. But what you felt there was the feeling of a conflicting program. And so cognitive dissonance is one of the parts that gives us an opportunity to upgrade our subconscious programming.

And here is the other part. When it comes to communication, there are three main parts to our communication. There’s the words that we speak, and then there’s the tone of those words. Have you ever gotten in trouble for your tone of voice? Yeah, it has messages within. And the third part is our gestures or our body language. And so when we don’t know what messages we’re sending with our body language and they don’t match the words we speak, people will discount the words that they hear to believe the gestures they see. Because our subconscious understands the difference between those two messages.

But Ann, how can our brains send out two different messages at the same time? Well, it’s because your subconscious is what runs the majority of your body language. And remember, our subconscious is working on programs. And our subconscious, or our whole brain is inherently ought to conserve energy. Our brain wants to conserve energy and knows that it’s easier to maintain the current programs than to adopt a new one. And so when we put these two ideas together we now have access to this update for our subconscious programming.

So let me explain by telling you where I was in my life, not too long ago. In fact, it was only about 6 years ago that I was at a place where, let’s just say, it was very hard. I tried to interact with people and I found people to be very argumentative, to be unpredictable, to be hard to be around. And it was just not fun, and I decided that everybody on this planet is just mean, it’s just the way it was. In fact, I got too weird, I would send my kids to school in the morning and then I would hide inside the house. And I wouldn’t answer the door and I wouldn’t answer the phone. Because no matter how hard I had tried the results I was getting were not matching the effort I was putting forth to interact with people. And I felt stuck.

So this is where I was, and I saw people having opportunities but I couldn’t seem to catch one for myself. So even though in my life I had worked as an engineer in flight simulation and explosives, this is the point in my life where I changed and started studying communication and body language. And as I learned these two parts that I just told you, I started to recognize that they would give me a choice to change the way I interact with people. And I began to put it into practice, because I wanted to understand why some people could figure these things out but I wasn’t.

So let me teach you a little bit about body language, so you can understand what’s going on here. When somebody feels weak, if I feel weak I will use weak closed body language, my shoulders will come down, I’ll fold my arms, I’ll look down, maybe even my weight goes on one leg, because I feel weak.

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But by contrast, when somebody feels strong their body language opens up, they might put their arms down to their side, their shoulders go up, their chin goes up, they’ll smile, their weight goes on both legs. Now remember in my life at this time I felt weak, but I wanted to be strong. And so I decided I was going to figure this out. And I looked around me at people who were successful. I looked at celebrities, I looked at business owners, I looked at people around me in relationships that were having very strong and powerful relationships. And I realized that these successful people were not behaving exactly the same as me.

So, here’s how it looked for me. Since I felt weak, and I was afraid of the people I was interacting with, I very often folded my arms. I kept my arms folded a lot. And if anybody had asked me why, I’d tell them, “Because I have nowhere else to put my hands when I’m not using them.” I don’t want them just hanging out here, I’m going to fold my arms. But when I watched these successful people, the majority of the time when they weren’t using their hands, they put them down to their sides. So I decided I was going to try it.

And if you could have been in my brain at that time, it would have been very entertaining, because as I walked around I had this dissonance going on inside of my head, because my old program was saying ‘people are unsafe’. But I was choosing to send a message that I felt strong and comfortable and open around people. So I said, ‘My hands will go here when I’m not using them’. Now that doesn’t mean I walk around like this, that would be very weird. But it does mean that when I wasn’t using them, I put them away here. But then my subconscious would say, ‘It’s more comfortable to fold your arms’ and I’d say, ‘No, I want my arms here.’ ‘Fold them here, fold them here, fold them here.’ And that’s what it felt like in my head.

But after a little while, my subconscious decided, you know what it’s going to be easier to just adopt the new program and not keep arguing with it. And I began to feel differently. And so people around me started to notice. Now you can feel this with me right now. Some of you may have heard of this scientific term, it’s called gravity. You heard of that one? It pulls down on us really well, and during the day it likes to pull down on our shoulders and pull down on our chin. So everybody let your shoulders come down and your chin come down. Now, how does that feel? People tell me it feels tired, it feels burden, it feels depressed. But now, instead, pull your shoulders back up, and pull your chin just above level. Now how does that feel? It feels empowered, like I am awake, I can do it. You’ve just felt the difference in changing or choosing a new program.

In fact, in 2009 there was a study that was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology and in there what they had done was they asked people to fill out a self-evaluation and they did the self-evaluation either in a slumped stance or in good posture. And the people who had good posture rated themselves higher on their self-evaluation and it turns out your grandma was right, because she was pretty smart, she kept telling us to sit up straight. But that is an opportunity to feel different on the inside of us.

So that’s one of the things that I did to start changing my programming. Now I’ll share two more with you. OK, what I’ve noticed about me – well, actually let’s talk about you for a minute. When it comes to body language, I watch body language everywhere I go and I’ve worked with thousands of people. And what I’ve found is that the majority of people will use a lot of push-away body language. They push away and then they wonder why they are not getting job promotions or raises or opportunities or relationships in their lives but they’re pushing things away.

In fact, the fastest way to see somebody use push-away body language is give them a compliment. When you give somebody a compliment, how do they respond? Thank you. And they like throw the compliment away, or they’ll explain it away. I love it, I do a little test all the time, I’d give people a compliment, and then I watch their body language after the compliment. And often people suddenly have to brush off their pants when they get a compliment. Or they’ll like brush their shoulder, or my favorite was once I gave a lady a compliment, and she said “Oh, thanks.” And I’m like so that was like a disgusting burger you had just got off your finger.

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When we have compliments coming to us if we can’t receive a compliment, how are we going to receive other things coming to us? So I recognized this and decided I wanted to access this program that was inside of me, whatever it was. And I realized the easiest way to do this would be to change how I reacted to a compliment. And so now instead of pushing compliments away, I decided when somebody gave me a compliment I would scoop it up in front of me and place it gently in my heart. So I’d just like this while using the magic words ‘Thank you’. Have you heard those words? They’re good.

So try it with me: ‘Thank you’. Oh, do it again, that’s fun. ‘Thank you’. Now notice how a lot of your mouths, the corners of your mouth went up when you did that, because you felt the difference, you felt the difference. And so when you use this kind of body language, it’s changing the program in your subconscious. And as I was doing this in my life, people started to notice the difference in me. And one of the people that noticed the difference was my teenage son. Because at this point in my life, he was 13 years old. And we had been moving around quite a bit, so he had gone to four different junior highs.

Anybody ever been to junior high? Crazy place, junior high — and he’d been to four of them. So he comes home one day after the first day in his fourth junior high — so I need a volunteer. Oh, awesome! Would you come up and be my volunteer? So he was at – he’d just gone on to his fourth – or his first day in the fourth junior high. So what I’m wanting from you is I need really great teenage boy body language; can you do that for me? Oh, nice. There we go. Yeah get that your phone out there.

OK, so let’s put that away just for a second but fold your arms for me. And just freeze, but turn this way so everybody can see you. Has anybody ever seen a teenager before? That’s pretty good body language. Yeah, exactly. So here’s my teenager and he stands like this and he goes, ‘Mom, tell me why the kids keep picking on me?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, woo, all right, I’ll tell you, I’ll help you with that’ and he’s like, ‘Is it body language?’ And I said, ‘Yes, dear, that’s what I do’. And he goes, ‘Oh, fine, tell me then’.

So I knew with that attitude I’d time to only share one piece of body language with you. And I wanted to share something that would send a different message out but also send a different message to his subconscious. And so I chose legs. And I asked him, I said, “At school, do you stand with your weight on one leg like this?” And he goes, “Yeah mom, we all do that”. And I’m like, ‘Well, Mr. Attitude, did you know when you stand with your weight like this, it sends a weak message, it sends a message that you feel weak and that you could be easily knocked off balance’. So I said instead if you come put your weight on both legs, when you’re at your locker or up in front of the class, now this will send a message that you’re strong in your foundation. And people will treat you differently. And he rolled his eyes and he is like ‘sure mom’. So thank you, thank you for being my volunteer.

And so I waited, and I thought well we’ll see what happens. And it wasn’t maybe two weeks later he comes home, and he walks in the house and when he saw me, I could tell he had something he wasn’t quite ready to share with me yet So I just waited patiently. And he comes over and he stands next to me and he goes, ‘Mom, it works’. And he ran out of the room. But he tried it and at the end of that school year I gave him the option to change schools again and he said, ‘Mom, I have more friends and better results in this school than any of the schools I’ve been to’. And the only thing I taught him was legs. But that teaching him of that helped him access programs in his subconscious. So it turns out you have an update available for your subconscious programming. The question is, are you going to install it now?

Change your body language, and change your results.

Sharing is Kindness in Action!