Did you know that your body language constitutes more than 50% of what you are communicating? It can tell if you’re bored, defensive, attentive, open, trustworthy, aggressive... even when you want to send a totally different message.
The problem is, we’re often unaware of the message our body is sending, so the first thing to do in order to improve it is to start paying attention.
How do you sit? How do you use your arms and legs, how do you walk, what kinds of facial expressions do you make when you’re feeling embarrassed or happy?
The mirror is your friend for this practice. Imagine having a conversation with your boss, for example; or meeting an interesting guy or girl, and play out the conversation in front of the mirror.
You’ll probably notice some things you don’t like, and the next time in such situation you’ll remember to change them.
But let’s see what are some common interpretations of of body language, and what you should pay attention to more.
Crossing your arms and legs?
You don’t want to look defensive and guarded? Then keep your arms and legs open. This one is simple.
Remember to relax your shoulders
This is something we do unconsciously: when we’re tense, it usually winds up as tension in the shoulders (you know, when they move up and forward a bit).
Whenever you feel your shoulders are tense, shake them a bit and move them back slightly. You don’t want the person you’re talking to to think they’re making you nervous, do you?
Taking up some space isn’t impolite
Not taking over the entire room, but standing with your legs a bit apart, for example, shows that you’re comfortable in your skin. It just signals a healthy level of self-confidence.
Leaning is also OK (sometimes)
Leaning towards the person you’re talking to shows them you’re interested in what they’re saying. Be careful tho, leaning in too much might make you look needy and desperate for approval, and that’s not a good statement to send no matter the situation.
Having an eye contact or staring?
No eye contact makes you seem insecure, but keeping too much eye contact might creep people out. Find the right balance, just remember to give some eye contact to everyone you’re talking to. It will help create a better connection and you’ll be able to check if they’re listening.
And don’t be scared by it – if you’re not used to keeping eye contact, just make yourself practice. It will get easier soon.
Touching your face? A big no-no
No quicker sign that you’re nervous, so whenever your hand comes close to your face, just remember to direct it towards a glass, for example.
Slow down, for God’s sake!
Are you walking too fast, do you snap your neck in the direction of the person who addresses you, do you talk too fast?
Nothing bad is going to happen if you slow down. Plus, you’ll seem more calm and confident.
Are you holding your drink in front of your chest?
Or anything else, for that matter?
When you hold something in front of your heart it makes you seem guarded and distant. Of course, this depends on the message you want to send across – if you’re stuck with an unwanted company, then...
OK, these were just some of the most common body language tell tell signs, there are a lot more of them.
But a good exercise, if you don’t want to be thinking about it too much, is this:
Think about the message you want to communicate. That you’re confident, open, relaxed.. whatever it is.
Then close your eyes and visualize how you would sit, stand, talk... if you were feeling that way. Imagine the way you behave with your best friend, for example.
See yourself move and talk like that version of yourself.
Then go out and just continue doing it :)