Dr. Shveata Misra
Every Body has a language that speaks louder than words. Body language defines a person without being vocal just through the first expression or appearance. It’s similar to the perfume of a flower what body language actually is, to us.
Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech and apparently 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through body and not through words.
There is no specific formula on how to use your body language according to the situation and occasion. It’s all about your ability, that how better understanding of the surrounding and environment you have around you. What you do might be interpreted and perceived in several ways, depending on the situation and to whom you are talking to. You’ll probably want to use your body language differently when talking to your boss compared to when you talk to someone you love. Thus to use your body language in a more effective ways to communicate, there are some common interpretation of the body language that could be kept in mind. Observe yourself first, the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you use your hands and your bodily expressions. Observing yourself will help you a lot to improve. Some of these tips might seem like you are faking something. But fake it till you make it, is a useful way to learn something new. If you smile a bit more you will feel happier. If you will sit up straight you will feel more energetic and in control. If you slow down your movements you’ll feel calmer. Your feelings will actually reinforce your new behaviours and feelings of weirdness will dissipate.
In the beginning you might feel tensed and stressed out while improving your postures and your body language. You might sit with your legs almost ridiculously far apart or sit up straight in a tense pose all the time. That’s ok ! and people aren’t looking as much as you think. They are worrying about their own problems. Just play around a bit, practice and monitor yourself to find a comfortable balance.
Don’t be a Cross – You have probably already heard you shouldn’t cross your arms as it might make you seem defensive or guarded. This goes for your legs too. Keep your arms and legs open.
Don’t Stare but have an Eye Contact – If there are several people you are talking to, give them all some eye contact to create a better connection and see if they are listening. Keeping too much eye-contact might creep people out. Giving no eye-contact might make you seem insecure. If you are not used to keeping eye-contact it might feel a little hard or scary in the beginning but keep working on it and you’ll get used to it.
Take up some space, don’t be afraid – Taking up space by for example sitting or standing with your legs apart a bit signals self-confidence and that you are comfortable in your own skin.
Relax your shoulders – When you feel tense it’s easily winds up as tension in your shoulders. They might move up and forward a bit. Try to relax. Try to loosen up by shaking the shoulders a bit and move them back slightly.
Nod when they are talking – nod once in a while to signal that you are listening. But don’t overdo it and peck like Woody Woodpecker.
Don’t slouch, sit up straight – but in a relaxed way, not in a too tense manner.
Lean, but not too much – If you want to show that you are interested in what someone is saying, lean toward the person talking. If you want to show that you’re confident in yourself and relaxed lean back a bit. But don’t lean in too much or you might seem needy and desperate for some approval. Or lean back too much or you might seem arrogant and distant.
Smile and laugh – lighten up, don’t take yourself too seriously. Relax a bit, smile and laugh when someone says something funny. People will be a lot more inclined to listen to you if you seem to be a positive person. But don’t be the first to laugh at your own jokes, it makes you seem nervous and needy. Smile when you are introduced to someone but don’t keep a smile plastered on your face, you’ll seem insincere.
Don’t touch your face – it might make you seem nervous and can be distracting for the listeners or the people in the conversation.
Keep your head up – Don’t keep your eyes on the ground, it might make you seem insecure and a bit lost. Keep your head up straight and your eyes towards the horizon.
Slow down a bit – this goes for many things. Walking slower not only makes you seem more calm and confident, it will also make you feel less stressed. If someone addresses you, don’t snap your neck in their direction, turn it a bit more slowly instead.
Don’t fidget and try to avoid, phase out or transform fidgety movement and nervous ticks such as shaking your leg or tapping your fingers against the table rapidly. You’ll seem nervous and fidgeting can be a distracting when you try to get something across. Declutter your movements if you are all over the place. Try to relax, slow down and focus your movements.
Use your hands more confidently instead of fidgeting with your hands and scratching your face use them to communicate what you are trying to say. Use your hands to describe something or to add weight to a point you are trying to make. But don’t use them to much or it might become distracting. And don’t let your hands flail around, use them with some control.
Lower your drink. Don’t hold your drink in front of your chest. In fact, don’t hold anything in front of your heart as it will make you seem guarded and distant. Lower it and hold it beside your leg instead.
Realise where your spine ends – many people (including me until recently) might sit or stand with a straight back in a good posture. However, they might think that the spine ends where the neck begins and therefore crane the neck forward in a Montgomery Burns-pose. Your spine ends in the back of your head. Keep you whole spine straight and aligned for better posture.
Don’t stand too close -one of the things we learned from Seinfeld is that everybody gets weirded out by a close-talker. Let people have their personal space, don’t invade it.
Mirror – Often when you get along with a person, when the two of you get a good connection, you will start to mirror each other unconsciously. That means that you mirror the other person’s body language a bit. To make the connection better you can try a bit of proactive mirroring. If he leans forward, you might lean forward. If she holds her hands on her thighs, you might do the same. But don’t react instantly and don’t mirror every change in body language. Then weirdness will ensue.
Keep a good attitude – last but not least, keep a positive, open and relaxed attitude. How you feel will come through in your body language and can make a major difference.
‘If you want to find the truth do not listen to the words coming to you rather see the body language of the speaker; it speaks the fact not audible’.
(The author is Music Psychologist and Personality and Behaviour Analyst)