Understanding body language translates into advantages for young professionals

How a BN360 presentation helped launch a new program offering at Shea’s Performing Arts Center


What is your body language telling others?

Most of us don’t even think about it, but you might be surprised at what the slightest movement of our body can communicate. Crossed arms. A wide stance. Slouched posture.

Thembi Duncan led young professionals in a 2018 body language workshop for BN360.

Thembi Duncan, Director of Arts Engagement and Education at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, presented to a BN360 audience of young professionals recently and showed how body language plays an important role in both our professional and personal lives. Her inaugural presentation to BN360 was so successful, she did another program for the group. And that led to the program being adapted for other audiences including the Buffalo Police Department and Say YES Buffalo.

“In theater, actors learn how to use their body language for maximum effect, and we can apply that to every day life,” explains Duncan, a seasoned actress, director, producer, and playwright who moved to Buffalo from Washington D.C. about two years ago. “In my position at Shea’s, I am always reaching out to engage the community in teaching opportunities involving the arts. The BN360 presentation helped us create a unique program that we are now taking to audiences including students, business people and community leaders.”

A native of Landover, Maryland, Duncan tapped into her theater background to create the program on body language. Before coming to Shea’s, she spent more than a decade at the historic Ford’s Theatre in Washington, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. She served as an assistant to the producing director and then lead teaching artist and programs administrator there. She also served as producing artistic director at the African Continuum Theatre Company and creative programs director at the Young Playwrights Theater, both in Washington.


Communicating without words.

Students with Say YES to Education participate in a body language workshop led by Thembi.

Duncan notes that feedback from her initial presentations to BN360 have helped her refine the program for other groups and she even created a version for the box office staff at Shea’s who are on the front lines of customer service. Having a baseline awareness of body language can make a difference in how we interact and engage with others, whether we are in sales, management, or other role she says. Some of the topics Duncan covers include:

Eye movement – Duncan notes the eyes are the window to what a person is thinking and let us know that a person’s mind and body are in sync. Are they focused or looking off in the distance? She notes looking someone in the eyes may be Business 101 in America but in other cultures it may be frowned upon. Business professionals need to be aware of such differences.

Stature – “We can control more than we think, even if we happen to be small in stature,” Duncan says. “You can sit to take up more space in a chair to communicate you are in charge. You can plant your feet to be further apart when standing to appear more grounded and confident.”

Group interaction – Next time you are in a group, watch how people mirror one another’s body language. “We may subconsciously all form the same body posture in a communal setting,” Duncan says. “These can be signals to others that we want to be part of the discussion or that we don’t wish to be engaged.”

Duncan points out that those are just a few examples and her presentation is typically tailored to her audience. For instance, for law enforcement personnel, she will include information on how body language can help de-escalate a tense situation.


For more information

BN360 would like to thank Thembi for her unique and informative presentations to our young professionals. Organizations interested in more information on the body language presentation can contact Thembi through Shea’s Performing Arts Center.


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