We’ve all heard of the many benefits of controlling your body language. It’s been flaunted as one of the many ways to move up through your company, get that girl or guy you’ve been eyeing from across the room, and just increase your overall mood.
What body language really comes down to though, is communication. Sure there are many other benefits of understanding and controlling your body language, but at their hearts, the benefits come from good communication.
This can be attributed to Albert Mehrabian’s 7%-38%-55% Rule of communication. In this rule, words account for 7%, tone of voice counts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55%. 55%! That means that more than half of communication is done through body language!
Here are my favorite tips to enhance the control of your body language and be a better communicator:
- Eye Contact – To write about all the subtleties and benefits of good eye contact would be enough for its own post entirely. For now, keep in mind the basics: maintain eye contact, but do not stare. This may seem difficult or peculiar at first, but after a few days of consistency, you’ll realize your eyes are one of the best ways to convey emotion, feeling, and to communicate effectively.
- Arms – Arms are clues to how receptive a person currently is to interaction. Let your arms rest at your sides or move them behind you. Try to refrain from crossing your arm as this is usually perceived as a defensive sign. However, arms work both ways. If you are talking with someone who just said the wrong thing, don’t hesitate to cross your arms and let them know.
- Hands – Keep your palms face up. Open palms are seen as receptive to interaction and friendly. Hand gestures with you palms facing down can be seen as dominant and perhaps aggressive. Instead of fidgeting with your hands, use your hands to describe something as you talk about it.
- Legs – For many people, legs are the hardest part of our bodies to control. Be aware of their movement. They have a propensity to move around when we are stressed or nervous, next time you feel your legs moving, make an effort to keep them still. As with arms, crossing your legs matters. There are many ways to cross your legs and although legs have less importance in determining the receptiveness of a person, be aware that the “Figure-Four”, which is bringing up your leg to rest on the knee of the other, is the most defensive stance.
- Posture – Be sure to stand up straight. Keep your shoulders back and head up. Your spine doesn’t stop at your neck, it travels up and through your head, so be sure to keep your head straight too. Slouching not only makes you appear shorter, but it also portrays you as a person with low self-esteem.
- Dedicate Attention – As a kind of catch-all, if you are seriously interested in what someone has to say, your body language will project that you are. To really get a grip on your listening skills, check out 11 Tips to Be a Better Listener.
- Get the Angles – Angles are everything. Be aware that one’s body in relation to another’s is an indicator of one’s feelings about those others. We tend to angle towards people we find attractive, interesting, friendly, and fun, and we angle ourselves away from those we do not. A subset of angles is leaning. Whenever seating restrictions, like stadium seating in a classroom, hinders traditional angling, leaning can be seen amongst a crowd with the same conditions as angling.
- Smile – Smile frequently, but not constantly. Smile especially when you are introduced to someone, but if you keep that smile on your face for too long, you’ll seem artificial. Laugh frequently, but try to refrain from laughing at yourself. Laughing at oneself is often seen as a nervous maneuver. Be aware of other mouth movements. We often tighten our lips or tilt them to one side when we are thinking. This same pursing of the lips is used when we are trying to hold back a nasty comment. Be aware of this because it will be picked up by others and they will get the feeling you are not happy.
- Watch Your Distance – Create your own personal space. Let other people know that you have your own personal space and be careful not to invade theirs. Standing either too close or too far from a person is not a good thing. Before you make a decision, observe the average distance between others in the room and pick a distance accordingly.
- Proactive Mirroring – When two people are talking and getting along with each other, they often begin to unconsciously mirror each other’s body language. You can use this to your advantage by pro-actively mirroring a person to induce a “getting along” situation. For example, if the other person leans forward slightly, you lean forward slightly. If the other person places one hand on her lap, you would do well to do the same. However, give ample time before imitating and don’t be an exact mirror, let some changes in their body language go un-mirrored.
Over all, remember to be patient. Learning and employing these tips successfully and integrating them all to work together will take time. Be patient, practice each one in its own time. Be aware that every person has their own “perfect ratio” of which tips to rely on more, and which to push to the back burner. Practice, practice, practice, and find out which is best for you.
Image by Glenn Loos-Austin