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Body Language Screams: Communicate Respect

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

Basketball is Psychology XXVI



The majority of communication is not done with our words, but through our body language.

Psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian is best known for his studies on nonverbal cues. He came up with the 7-38-55 rule for the three elements of communication.

Words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of what message is communicated. However, this is very hard to prove because you can’t quantify facial expressions and every conversation is unique, but body language is universal and has always been a large part of communication.

What is your body language screaming?

Body language communicates your thoughts, feelings, and emotions; which means none of those things are secrets- everyone can read your body language.

While it’s important to carry yourself with a body language that demands respect from spectators, what’s more important is that your body language is respectful to your coaches and teammates.

No one wants to feel disrespected. Being disrespectful is kryptonite to the chemistry of a team. We all have an innate desire to be respected-- we want to feel like we matter, we are important, and our role is valued. When we feel respected, we feel comfortable enough to be ourselves, and we want to contribute even more.

This past NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers held a players-only meeting where they called out LeBron James for having bad body language. Some consider LeBron to be the best basketball player in the world, but that didn’t excuse him from needing to show respect to his teammates.

Louder Than Words

Of course you can make someone feel respected with your words, but your actions speak much louder. For example:

If a player tells their coach every day, “I have so much respect for you!” but every time the coach tells them to do something, that player looks disinterested and rolls their eyes, the words lose their meaning because the body language screams something different.

The best way to communicate respect is by showing it.

As a player, you are faced with an abundance of opportunities to communicate respect to your coach and your teammates.

Eye Contact

The ultimate form of respect is eye contact. It’s how you show you are giving your undivided attention to someone.

Eye contact was so important to Hubie Brown that he would punish his players if they failed to keep their eyes locked in on him. The former NBA coach would position his assistants outside of the huddle and their job was to watch for players with wandering attention. If they caught someone staring off into space while Coach Brown was talking, that player was issued a fine. To coach Brown, eye contact was a non-negotiable.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski is also a believer in the power of eye contact. "I have a rule on my team: when we talk to one another, we look each other right in the eye, because I think it's tough to lie to somebody. You give respect to somebody." While Coach K was coaching Team USA to a gold medal, eye contact became a standard on their team.

Improving Body Language

The first step in improving your body language is becoming aware of it.

When your coach is talking in the huddle are you swaying back and forth, checking out your fingernails, staring off into space, or yawning?

When your teammate gives you a bad pass do you throw your hands in the air and give them a look of disgust?

When your coach pulls you out of the game do you put your head down, mope over to the bench, and ignore your teammates attempting to high-five you?

Once you become aware of your body language, you can start to make adjustments, and these little adjustments make a big difference. When you show your coach respect, you put yourself on the fast-track to improvement. It’s much harder to teach someone who doesn’t seem engaged. Coaches enjoy working with players who are enthusiastic about getting better. The easier you are to lead, the further you can go.

Positive body language changes your brain. When you stand or sit up straight, your cortisol levels (stress hormones) go down and your testosterone levels go up. As a result, you will react to stress better and play more confidently. Imagine playing on a team where everyone is experiencing decreased stress and increased confidence. Changing your body language enhances team chemistry and performance.

While it may not come naturally, you don’t have to be talented to show respect. It’s a choice you have to make, to discipline yourself for the good of the team. Coach Cal put it best, “Body language screams. It screams for everybody to see.”

Not only does your body language scream your toughness and maturity level, but you can make your body language scream respect for your teammates and coaches.


You can communicate that you have respect for your teammates and coaches by:

1. Making eye contact: It may seem simple, but it isn’t necessarily easy, especially with the growing use of cell phones. Often times we are in proximity to someone, but that’s different from being present with them. Eye contact forces you to be present.

2. Being engaged: Even if you are on the bench, sit up straight, think like you are on the court, and encourage your teammates.

3. Actively listening: Lean in, nod, and take notes when appropriate.

4. Controlling your facial expressions: No eye-rolling, or looks of disgust.

5. High fives, fist bumps, and having a next play mentality: Instead of getting visibly upset at your teammate for a turnover or a missed defensive assignment, chances are they already know they made a mistake, don’t make it worse, try encouraging them to hustle back and make up for it on the next play.


Written by Julie Fournier



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