Safe Body Language

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Using body language, like eye contact, posture, facial expressions or touch, can be a good way of letting someone know you're interested in what they're saying or are feeling confident in a situation. Some other ways of using safe body language could depend on what'۪s culturally appropriate. Think of some of your own examples of culturally appropriate body language. Here are a few general tips about body language to keep in mind while you'۪re talking with someone.

Personal space. Everyone is different when it comes to feeling comfortable with the amount of space between themselves and someone else. Generally speaking, the closer you stand to someone, the more intimate the relationship.

Touch. In some situations, it might be appropriate to touch someone as a sign of comfort, interest or friendly support. Be careful when you touch someone you don't know very well. If you want to offer support or signal your interest, putting your hand on a person's shoulder or arm can be appropriate. But keep in mind that it might be hard to interpret someone'۪s reaction if you don'۪t know him or her very well. Touch can also convey different meanings if the gesture is between persons of the opposite sex.

What can I do if I'۪m uncomfortable?
If you feel uneasy about someone's body language or behavior around you, it's a good idea to let the person know. Ask the person to give you a little personal space. If after you tell this person how you'۪re feeling they don'۪t change their behavior, you might want to leave the situation and tell someone you trust, like a friend or family member (or if you feel like you'۪re in danger, tell a counselor, social worker, or even the police). Remember that your comfort should be a priority, and that no one has the right to make you feel uneasy.

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times. 

Special Thanks:
Rebekka Meyer, Project Director at FirstPic, Inc., has 13 years of program and administrative experience in youth development, education, and government programs. She has served Boys & Girls Clubs of America affiliates as an employee in Pine Ridge, SD and Lower Brule, SD, as a National Training Associate, and as a nationwide onsite training and technical assistance provider. Additionally, through a partnership with the National Congress of American Indians, she wrote and piloted the T.R.A.I.L. Diabetes Prevention program curriculum for Native American youth. Rebekka is an alumnus of AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. She holds Bachelors in Political Science from Truman State University in Missouri and a Masters in International Business from St. Mary's University of Minnesota.

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