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.
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.
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.
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!).
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