Body Language and gestures
The use of body language and gestures are a great way to support and amplify what you’re saying - or they can signal something entirely different.
Leaning your body slightly towards another person as you speak with them as it says that you are interested in what they have to say; it’s flattering to receive this kind of attention. You should be mindful not to intrude a student’s personal space, and that personal space can differ depending on the person and their mood.
"Supertutor" Mark Maclaine offered some of his top tips on some gestures that can work well in a tutoring context:
- Holding your palms open is an ancient sign of trustworthiness, showing you have nothing to conceal.
- Facing your palms downwards projects power and authority, which can occasionally be useful when you want to signal that there is no further room for discussion.
- Illustrate ideas: If something is very big, for example, hold out your arms to show just how big!
- Pressing your first finger against your thumb – the “precision grip” – indicates that the words you are uttering are particularly precise
Eye Contact and Nodding
The use of eye contact and nodding can be an excellent way to build rapport with your students. However, be mindful to use an appropriate amount of eye contact as staring at someone for too long can feel uncomfortable and a lack of eye contact might stop the student engaging and leave them feeling despondent.
Nodding when someone is talking shows that you are being attentive and they feel listened to. Research suggests this sometimes leads to people speaking up to 3-4 times longer.
It can also signal agreement making you seem more open to them and their ideas. In turn, this will help to build a better connection with your student.
We asked Mark Macclaine for some certain gestures that are best avoided during lessons:
- Hiding your hands, either behind your back or in your pockets, is the equivalent of saying “I don’t want to talk.”
- Crossed arms generally suggest anxiety or insecurity, and are best avoided (especially by students in interviews)
- Pointing at someone is threatening and unhelpful
- Drumming fingers on the desk suggests boredom, irritation or frustration. If a student is doing this, you might want to mix up your teaching method
This blog is the fifth in our "How to" series offering expert advice and top tips on how to become a great tutor. For more blogs, visit here.