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Review: Understanding Body Language


Title: Understanding Body Language
Editor: Jonathan Norman
Publisher: Gower
ISBN: 0-566-08431-7
Price: £175.00

Understanding Body Language contains a collection of 20 body language training activities. They come in a loose leaf A4 binder, designed to allow you to flick through quickly, find the exercise you need and photocopy the sheets you require, leaving the binder safely in your office to raid another day.

The exercises are well presented, with a sensible layout: each exercise having a header sheet outlining:

  • Exercise name

  • Source

  • Description

  • Timings

  • Group size

  • Commentary

As well as:

  • Objective

  • Duration

  • Materials

  • Method

Any handouts that you may need are in the binder, along with helpful trainer guidance for running and de briefing the sessions. This means that if you’ve used one Gower exercise you can confidently use them all without too much thought or worry.

The exercises themselves are sound, addressing body positioning, expressions, emotions, assertiveness and feedback as well as how clothing affects perceptions. The activities can be used for learners at a variety of experience and organisational levels without too much tweaking. There are a couple of activities that will require photographs; it would be useful to have at least a starter set included, but it’s up to you to find them.

It does seem a little archaic to use a paper binder, certainly for speedy handout production. The product would benefit hugely from a CD ROM or web link allowing authorised users to download .pdf versions of the material to print direct.

However, modernity is not a high priority here. The average age of first publication of the exercises contained is close to nine years. This is hardly cutting edge thinking, but given the topic area, this isn’t a worry – human body language hasn’t changed so much in the last few years or indeed decades.

The age of the exercises can however be a worry if you already have a training activity library. Understanding Body Language contains 20 exercises, yet 7 of these come from one source – 40 Activities for Training with NLP by Roy Johnson, 3 more can be found in 50 Activities for Developing Management Skills Vol. 4, by Terrence Jackson. In fact, Understanding Body Language is a compendium of previously published Gower material, so check the contents carefully before splashing out.

If, however, you are new to training in this subject, or need to quickly pull together an interesting and credible workshop on body language, this is a great place to start. You’ll find a good variety of material and train safe in the knowledge that the activities are robust and the messages clear.

Reviewed by Claudine McClean MCIPD
mailto:[email protected]

Claudine is a consultant with with interests in instructional design, people and technology and recruiting and retaining talent.

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