You’ve probably heard the expressions before.. “Chin up, shoulders back,” “Keep your distance,” “Feet on the ground,” “Pain in the neck.” But have you ever wondered how they came about? It all has to do with Body Language.
Simply put, body language is the unspoken communication we all use in every face-to-face encounter with other human beings. You could say it’s more powerful than anything said aloud. Ninety-three per cent of our everyday communications is non-verbal. Only 7% has to do with words at all. You could be telling that other person much more with your body language than you would ever say in words. Your body language can either have a positive or negative influence in the way people treat you, so you have to ensure you’re speaking the right body language.
Determining and regulating your own body language could well mean the difference when it comes to job interviews, networking meetings, banquets and business dinners, or even a social occasion, such as a date. Even trickier is learning to read and understand the other person’s body language.
So, you’re probably asking yourself, “How do I regulate my body language to give a true representation of how I feel when I interact with others?”
Start with the distance between you and the person with whom you’re speaking. If you get too close, people feel you’re in their face, or too pushy. Too far away, and you could be seen as standoffish.
The angle of your body is a dead giveaway to others. We tend to angle our body towards those people we find friendly or interesting, and angle away from those we feel are cold or unfriendly. Crossing your arms over your chest shows defensiveness. This posture says, “I’m closed off and keeping you out.”
Eye Contact is one of the most important ways to communicate with others. Looking them in the eye shows respect and interest. We’ve all experienced the person who looks constantly at their watch, or seems to be far away and not listening to us. Their body language says, “I have other places to be and other more interesting people to talk to than you.” Or the person that you know is not listening to what you’re saying, but instead is busy deciding what he/she will say next. Someone whose eyes are downcast, not looking you in the eye could be exhibiting signs of shyness, or it could be deceit. Someone who is lying to you will not look you in the eye.
The head position also says a lot. To show confidence or authority, simply keep your head level. This says, “Take me seriously, my words are important.” To show friendliness and interest in what the other person is saying, tilt your head slightly to one side or the other.
Mouth movements are easy clues to what the other person may be feeling. If they purse their lips or twist them, they could be thinking carefully about what you just said, or disagreeing with you, but holding back comment. You can certainly tell when someone is not pleased.
The handshake is extremely important in the communication with others. No one wants to shake a hand like a wet noodle; at the same time, a handshake needn’t be a contest of strength. It’s a handshake, not arm wrestling. Many people also don’t quite know what to do with their hands after the handshake, especially when meeting someone new. They tend to clasp their hands together, nervously, or fiddle with their jewelry.
Since we’re constantly sending out these powerful messages, it’s clear we should make an effort to learn more about what our bodies say to others. And learning what others are really saying to us is of paramount importance in our day-to-day communications.
So, chin up, shoulders back, keep your distance, head up, eyes sharp, don’t be pushy or standoffish, smile and shake that hand. You too can learn to speak fluent body language.