Undercover Mothers & Body Spies

Undercover Mothers & Body Spies

Undercover Mothers & Body Spies 150 150 The Flyer Magazine

International body language and compassionate assertiveness communication expert Steph Holloway says there’s no need to go ‘APE’ when you can’t get people to co-operate. There’s a simple answer. APE in her book stands for Assumption, Perception and Ego. Communication lives or dies, thrives or survives on just these three things, she says.

Steph, now living at Shotover Country, was trained, reaching ‘expert’ level, by global body language guru Paul Ekman, who’s renowned for consulting with the FBI as a valuable scientific advisor. In 2012, Steph created the world’s first practical model for compassionate assertiveness and she’s worked with more than 10,000 people all over the world, mostly in the corporate sector.Locally, Steph has been working with parents to help them outsmart their kids without needing to shout, yell, whinge or complain. Last month she donated her time and skills to a fundraising workshop for Queenstown Preschool and Nursery.“I’m passionate about teaching parents that they don’t need to shout to get a result with their kids,” says Steph. So many parents also add on the ‘Twiddly Bits’ when they give a child instructions, says Steph. These are tack-ons in which the parent is judging or trying to make the child feel bad for not doing what was asked, and complaining about their reoccurring behaviour. “After a while nagging to children and adults just becomes background noise,” says Steph. The main thing is to be clear and concise, setting rules and boundaries ahead and knowing when to stop and let the child, or other person, talk. “Don’t make statements. Always ask open-ended questions,” she says. There’s no point in whinging at a 17-year-old and getting angry because he’s left his mug on the floor, says Steph. Instead, ask, ‘Is there a reason you’ve left your mug there, Simon?’ ‘Do you think you could put it in the dishwasher?’ All communication should be in a compassionate tone.

She’s seen mothers in tears at seminars because their three-year-old has been asked to describe a parent and they’ve said, ‘She’s a shoutie mum’, or ‘He’s a shoutie dad.”“I find with parents they want a quick fix – something that’ll get them over the moment in a nanosecond, but if you deal with issues when they’re young then you’re leaving a legacy for their future relationships with their employer, life partner and then when they’re parents themselves.”Originally a secondary school teacher and university lecturer in England and New Zealand, Steph has been working in her new field since 2009. She often helps community groups and charities to fundraise, speaking for free, but her main work internationally is corporate, using compassionate assertiveness and body language tips to improve communication. “It’s all about never getting angry with people but always getting results,” she says.

Known as a ‘corporate trouble-shooter’, Steph goes in to workplaces to restore harmony and heal communication dysfunction, retraining and reprogramming how people communicate. Words and listening make up only seven percent of body language, says Steph. The other 93 percent is non-verbal communication and of that 38 percent is tone and volume, with the rest coming from our gestures, such as what we do with our arms and legs.

For further tips on kids, couples, singles and information about upcoming workshops see: www.elementalpotential.com


  • People fiddling with their hair or jewellery are self-soothing (usually feeling uncomfortable or nervous).
  • People rubbing/patting their hands or knee are self-hugging, assuring themselves, “It’ll be all over soon. I’m ok”.
  • People touching the top of their ear or scratching behind it don’t want to listen.
  • Check the direction where a person’s foot and furthest away shoulder is facing while they’re talking and that’s where they want to be.
  • A normal everyday gaze is usually held for 4.5 seconds. In a romantic situation, if a person holds your gaze for 8.2 seconds without looking away there’s usually an attraction.
  • If a person has their feet in a V-shape, they’re making space for you to walk in with no barrier.
  • Women send 52 signals of attraction, whereas men only send 10, meaning men are usually easier to decipher than women.