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The 17 Secrets to Improve Body Language

The 17 Secrets to Improve Body Language

Some of us do not naturally possess the personality or body language that is required for making a good impression on others. Body language is the first thing that people notice about you, so do yourself (and those around you) a favor and learn what your body says about you. This can help you in every aspect of your life—from friendships to important job interviews—so check out these tips.

1. Smile.

Most people do not realize that their “neutral” face is more of a scowl, which is an obvious turn-off. You do not need to be beaming from ear to ear 24/7; however, it is a good idea to remind yourself to turn up the corners of your mouth a bit.

You may also be interested in 11 Facts About Smiling.

2. Uncross your arms.

Having your arms crossed signals that you want to be left alone or that you are upset. Uncrossing your arms will signal to others (and yourself) that you are at ease in the situation. Even though I have known this trick for years, I still catch myself crossing my arms. It is natural habit, but necessary to break if you are trying to make a positive impression on those around you.

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3. Use proper eye contact.

Try to maintain a balance between staring into a person’s soul and appearing to not pay attention.

4. Sit or stand up straight.

Hunching over is another signal to others that you are protecting yourself. You may feel uncomfortable in the situation, but by using proper posture you will appear (and feel) more confident.

5. Relax your shoulders.

There is a balance with the shoulders: shoulders too high will make you appear nervous, but slumped shoulders give off a sad or self-conscious vibe. Try to work somewhere in the middle, your shoulders falling to a natural and comfortable height.

6. Straighten your entire spine—including your neck.

Even if your back is straight, you can blow others’ perception by craning your neck forward. Unless you are looking at someone who is shorter than you, your entire spine should be straight. Try to remind yourself to keep your “chin up” and your neck will straighten out in a positively confident manner.

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7. Claim your space.

Those with a small frame naturally take up less space and appear timid. A way to counter this is to imagine that you are claiming your space on the floor. Stand with feet apart; not together. Place one hand (or both) on the hip for visual trickery, making you appear to take up more space than you actually do. This will show others that although you are small, you are self-assured.

8. Mirror the person with whom you are speaking.

People like to see their body language mirrored since it makes them feel as though the other person can empathize or has similar ideas.

9. Do not stare at the floor.

Unless you are checking out the new carpeting or someone’s sparkly shoes, your eyes should be close to others’ eye level.

10. Slow down your speech.

I can attest to the fact that when I am nervous, I start talking like someone hit the fast forward button on my mouth. This is one way people can see right through to how nervous you really are.

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11. Take a deep breath.

This is one surefire way to calm your nerves and make your whole person more relaxed.

12. Do not touch your neck or face.

This is a signal to others that you are protecting yourself or are nervous.

13. Nod when someone is talking to you.

This is a positive form of body language that will let others know you are listening and engaged in the conversation. It can also give them a boost of confidence, and who doesn’t like to be around someone who makes us feel good?

14. Point your feet.

No, not like a ballerina. Point your feet in the direction of the person with whom you are speaking.

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15. Lower your voice.

Studies show that those with deeper voices are taken more seriously.

16. Steeple your hands. Or don’t.

This is something that I found to be somewhat controversial. The hand steeple is where you touch all of your fingers together to form a sort of “steeple.” This action is taught by some body language coaches in order to appear more confident or commanding, but others find this to be unnatural. What do you think? It should also be noted that you need to have proper posture when “steepling” so you do not look like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.

17. Maintain proper distance.

This one is in the gray area as well, since some are more comfortable with close talkers, but the main point is to pay attention to those around you. Do they have to lean in to hear you? Move closer. Are people backing away from you? For heaven’s sake, do not keep moving closer as they inch away!

Body language is the biggest way that others perceive you. Overall, you should appear relaxed, confident and engaging in order to attract the positive attention you want. Try some of these out today!

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Amanda DeWitt

Writer. Photographer. Instagrammer. Future Educator.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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