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14 Body Language Skills that make the Popular Popular

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14 Body Language Skills that make the Popular Popular

We’ve all heard the statistic that up to 90% of communication is non-verbal in nature. Body language is important. But what actually is “good” body language? How do we learn to “speak” body language? How do we understand and use this powerful method of communication for mutual benefit?
We all know popular people for whom this good body language seem to be effortless. Let’s discover more by taking a look at the secrets of body language masters.

1. They understand the importance of intention

Actions are generated by beliefs, thoughts, and feelings.

What are you doing and thinking before presentations or meeting new people? Worrying? Stressing? Replaying past failures? Imagining worst case scenarios? If so, you may need to do some inner work. Popular people often take the time to prepare for meetings and new engagements by visualising a happy, upbeat outcome. This sets their energy level and the tone for their body language.

2. They stand up straight, but not too straight

Do you enter meetings ramrod straight? Or hunched up and small in the hope no one pays you any attention? Popular people stand up straight, projecting confidence and competence. But they don’t overdo it; this would come across as stiff and unnatural.

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3. They relax their shoulders

Our shoulders can display the level of tension we are feeling. Have you noticed how relaxed the popular and socially confident look? If you want to appear more relaxed and confident to others, take the time to relax your shoulders and move them gently back and down. This will aid your whole body in achieving a relaxed and natural upright position.

4. They make eye contact, but not too much eye contact

Looking at the ground? Looking at the ceiling? Looking anywhere but into peoples’ eyes? Popular people make good steady eye contact, and in doing so connect with their audience and build trust. Good eye contact is foundational to good communication. But don’t lock on to conversation partners with a permanent stare; this goes beyond ‘building trust’ into ‘building fear’! When making eye contact, also be careful of the protocols of the culture of the person you are interacting with, as different cultures have different rules for how much eye contact is appropriate and non-threatening.

5. They are not afraid to take up space

Stood with legs pressed tightly together? Or sat with legs tightly crossed? Popular people tend to stand and sit with their legs gently apart; this makes them look open, relaxed, and interested in those around them.

6. They don’t turn away from those they are speaking to

Talking to the blackboard or powerpoint slides? Conversing with the wall rather than wannabe friends? You won’t see the charismatic making these mistakes. Facing your audience when speaking is very important in engaging them. Turning away not only muffles your speech but communicates a lack of interest in audience and confidence in self.

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7. They nod when listening

Staring? Frowning? Impassive? Silent? The popular instead communicate positive interest in those that are speaking by nodding and smiling, and occasionally feeding back by affirmative noises and supportive statements. An attentive listener is a good listener.

8. They smile and laugh, but not at their own jokes

Having a stone-like face communicates seriousness. The audience takes their cues from you. So the popular smile to communicate openness and friendliness, and laugh to relax and bond with their audience. Like the other skills in this list, this is a matter of degree; rictus-like grins are not in order, and being quick to laugh at your own jokes in the beginning can make you seem needy.

 
9. They scan the horizon, not the floor

Looking at the ground makes you seem lost or unconfident. Instead, notice how popular people keep their heads upright, even when not talking. Their attention is mostly either on the conversation, or on the horizon.

 
10. They take their time

Speeding up delivery to get through a public speaking engagement as quickly as possible doesn’t impress the audience. Rather, the socially skilled pace themselves and slow down both their movements and their rate of speech. Remember, when the attention is on you; relax, breathe deeply, and slow down.

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11. They gesture with their arms, but not like a duck!

Fidgeting with your hands makes you look distracted and unfocused. Moving just your lower arms from the elbow can make you seem uptight.

Popular people know how to use their whole arms to illustrate their points through gesture. They also know not to go overboard on the gesturing; this would distract from their speech and the impression they are making.

12. They focus their body on who they are talking to

Ever try to talk to someone who turned their head around to acknowledge you while their body continued to be focused on something else? It’s an off-putting barrier. Popular socializers understand the importance of turning not just their head but their whole body to engage the person they are speaking with. They also know to subtly point their arms and legs towards their conversation partner. Think of this as like engaging with a small child; when that small child runs towards you, you naturally want to turn your whole body, plus limbs, towards them (…to scoop them up for a hug)!

 
13. They mirror the language of their group, without mimicking like a parrot

Sitting cross-legged, cross-armed, and leaning back in a corner whilst the dinner party goes on round about? These are unlikely to be the actions of the most popular member of the group. Good conversations involve people mirroring and responding to one another’s body language in a subtle dance that develops mutual rapport. Remember, though, that mirroring isn’t about obsessive copying of every little thing, which comes across as insincere (and possibly creepy!).

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14. They have a firm handshake; not a vice, and not a noodle!

Don’t crush the hands of old ladies. No one wants to be hurt when making acquaintance, so regulate your handshake to the person you are meeting. Going too soft and limp associates one with a cold fish. Popular people know that “Just right” is a warm, steady and firm handshake that takes into the account the other person. When beginning and ending meetings, a good handshake along with a smile and eye contact is important in leaving a lasting impression.                                

Featured photo credit: www.flickr.com via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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