Throw your audience a bone.
Really. Give them a clue, a hint, an indication that you are opening yourself up to an intimate exchange. All the heartfelt intentions in the world won’t tell the audience you are open to them unless you give them some form of physical cue.
Note what I said there: physical cue, not verbal cue. This distinction is important. We humans are very sensitive to the silent messages given through our facial and bodily expressions. Words are secondary; telling someone repeatedly that you are interested or open will not result in intimacy if your face doesn’t match those words. Actually, if your physical expression doesn’t match your verbal expression, the person you want to communicate intimately with will likely start to distrust you. Incongruence tends to set off our alarm bells.
What sort of expressions help create intimacy?
1) Those that indicate interest in the person or people you are communicating with: focused gaze, slightly widened eyes, and a slight forward lean or cocked head are all cues of interest.
2) Those that indicate sincerity: emphasis with movement and physical energy with slight body tension show that we are investing energy in what we are saying. That investment usually indicates sincerity; we mean what we say, otherwise we wouldn’t put so much effort into it.
3) Those that indicate vulnerability: an “open” position (chest unprotected by arms, books, etc.), shoulders down, head in neutral and throat exposed (as opposed to the chin tucked in, protecting the neck), hands visible, palms frequently displayed. Intimacy exists when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Physically demonstrating vulnerability instead of defensiveness invites people to be comfortable with us.
Being able to give these physical signals on cue is an exceptionally useful communication skill. Ultimately, your goal is to give these cues in a manner that is still natural to your own communication style. Get to know your own expressions: when you are interested, how wide do you open your eyes? When you are being emphatic, how do you move your hands? Do you always raise your right eyebrow when you find something intriguing? Stand in front of a mirror and chat with yourself out loud. Rehash a recent conversation that you wish you could have again. Deliver that witty reply you thought half an hour after the moment had passed. Deliver your Oscar acceptance speech. See what your face and body do. Then, re-create those expressions and practice them. Get to know how your face muscles work and how your hands feel. Now apply those expressions to new material such as a book you are reading. Read out loud and apply your personal expression style to the text. If you can only manage to do this in the bathroom with the shower running, go for it. That’s usually where I practice.
Remember: our bodies communicate so much. Intimate communication is free exchange; let your body demonstrate your desire for that freedom. Don’t tell your audience how you feel – show them. Even better, show them how they should feel. They’ll respond accordingly!