10 Ways To Improve Your Body Language

10 Ways To Improve Your Body Language

What we say verbally is just the tip of the iceberg – most of what we really mean comes through in how we hold ourselves. Good body language can convey to others that we’re confident, honest and engaging, so it’s little wonder it often significantly impacts our personal and professional life. Here, SL contributor Nina Bertok shares her top ten tips for sending the right message…

1. Be Aware

The first step to better body language is simply becoming aware of it, so start by consciously paying attention to everything you do, how you do it and when you do it. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your body is going to communicate with other people, so it’s worth taking the time to notice what it’s saying to others and making sure that your words and demeanour are sending out the same message. If you find that people are often ‘misreading’ your true intentions, it could just be that your words are saying one thing while your body language is screaming something else.

2. Stand Tall

How we feel on the inside comes through in our posture, so standing tall with an elongated neck and chest slightly protruding is a great way to demonstrate confidence. A solid posture has been shown to change the chemicals in our brain and to make us feel stronger and appear more credible, happy and powerful. Researchers at Harvard have shown that simply holding your body in a ‘high-power’ pose (standing with your legs and arms stretched out) for just a couple of minutes can stimulate higher testosterone levels, which are linked to power and dominance. This pose also lowers cortisol, which is the stress hormone, so check your posture and be sure to stand up like a winner.

3. Stop Fidgeting

Studies show that, in the business world, it’s small gestures that demonstrate the biggest points, so put an end to fidgeting and big hand movements when communicating. Powerful people tend to demonstrate authority through subtle hand movements, while fidgeting or using your fingers to play with your face or hair can be viewed as having a lack of self-control and a possible signal that you’re untruthful. Next time you find yourself shaking your leg, tapping your fingers on the desk, or shifting around in your chair, it may suggest to others you’re impatient or nervous, so try to consciously work on overcoming all forms of needless fidgeting.

4. Make Eye Contact

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, so what are yours telling the world? You can learn a lot about a person by noticing how they use their eyes. Strong but friendly eye contact (no staring!) conveys authority and confidence, and studies have shown that holding eye contact while speaking to someone has a big impact on our ability to persuade others, as well as showing them we’re genuinely interested in what they have to say. And while weak eye contact can communicate insecurity or even deception, avoiding eye contact altogether or looking downward can indicate feelings of defensiveness.

5. Nail Your Handshake

While most people don’t give much thought to it, getting a handshake wrong can have lasting negative effects. When you shake hands with someone for the first time, ensure it’s a firm shake without being crushing – this will make the other person feel like they can trust you. Making eye contact while shaking hands usually sets the tone for the rest of the conversation, so lock eyes and radiate confidence. According to a study on handshakes by the Income Centre for Trade Shows, people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them, so it’s important to get this one right.

6. Lower Your Tone

 While intonation isn’t considered ‘body language’, it’s part of the way we send subconscious messages to people. Always remember that it’s not so much what we say to others as how we say it, so your intonation should be warm and friendly. Keep the pitch of your voice more on the lower scale, rather than high, as research shows high-pitched voices can come across as argumentative or emotional, while lower pitches can sound calmer and more self-assured. To help get it right, start by taking a deep breath, and speak slowly and clearly.

7. Mirror People’s Gestures

By copying the actions of the person you’re talking to, you can make them feel more connected to you. One of the most effective ways to build rapport with someone, mirroring shows that you’re in agreement and that you like the person you’re communicating with. If you’re sitting or standing next to someone, try to mirror their body position, match the tone of their voice and carry the same pace of their speech while making it look as natural as possible. Even subtle mirroring can create a strong connection as it tends to make people feel at ease.

8. Uncross Your Limbs

By keeping your arms relaxed and just loosely at your sides, you can demonstrate that you’re open to what someone else is saying, as opposed to being perceived as disinterested or defensive. In fact, keeping your arms and legs uncrossed during a conversation allows you to absorb more of what’s being said – one study showed when a group of volunteers attended a lecture and sat with unfolded arms and legs, they remembered 38% more than the group who crossed their limbs.

9. Respect Personal Space

Be aware of invading another person’s personal space by treating it like a layer around them which others shouldn’t enter. Personal space also depends largely on culture – someone from a densely populated city may have a narrower sense of personal space than someone from a small, quiet town. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to try and keep a reasonable distance to allow for personal space, with general consensus being somewhere from 18 inches up to 48 inches.

10. If In Doubt, Smile

A smile can light up a room. It also conveys that a person doesn’t take themselves too seriously and that they’re quite relaxed, so smile and have a laugh when you can – especially at yourself –  and it will do wonders for the way others perceive you. A genuine smile stimulates our own sense of well-being but also tells others that we’re cooperative, trustworthy and approachable. The way to spot a genuine smile is to look for it coming on slowly, crinkling the eyes and generally lighting up the face, then fading away slowly. Nine out of ten times, smiling at someone else will get you a smile in return, which can change your own emotional state in a positive way.

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