Every single day our bodies give indications on what our thoughts and emotions are. The way we use our bodies is very important. Some people can disguise their emotions and thoughts much better than others can, hence the saying ‘You wear your heart on your sleeve’. All of us are different and therefor there is no specific advice on how to use your body language, but being more aware of the influence body language has, can open many doors for you.
The environment of where you are and who you are talking to has a big influence on the interpretation of what you do. The body language you display when you are talking to your boss is probably different than when you are talking to someone you are interested in romantically. Here are some common interpretations of body language and some tips on how to communicate more effectively with your body.
In order to change your body language, you must be aware of it. Take note of how you sit, walk and stand, how you use your hands and legs, and what you do while talking to someone.
One of the best ways to become aware of what your body language looks like is to stand in front of a mirror. You can play around in your room when no one is watching you, and even record a video of yourself to view and reflect on your behaviour more objectively. Videos are normally a good way to give you feedback of how you look to people. Remember to be yourself so that you get a true reflection of your behaviour. Practice how you would like your body language to be so that when you are back in the world you are comfortable and can own it.
Visualisation is also a good way to figure out how you would like to stand and sit to feel confident, relaxed, open and inviting or whatever you would like to communicate. There is a saying that embodies this, “Visualise your highest self, then start showing up as them”.
One of my favourite ways to improve my body language is to observe people. I observe friends, celebrities or role models whom I look up to, and I take tips from them. So, observe what other people do differently to what you do. Don’t imitate them exactly, (that would just be weird and a little stalkerish!) but embody the body language ideas you learn from them. Confidence is inviting and inspiring. The world is at your feet, but you need to walk in confidence to get it.
Change can be difficult in the beginning but is always worth it in the end. Even if you have to fake it at first to get past the weird or unfamiliar feeling, faking it helps you to grow into the new version of who you want to be. Most of the time the way you feel reflects back to you in life. If you are sad and depressed constantly, your day would probably reflect the same type of outcome. You need to be conscious of your emotions and adjust if need be. When you smile more, you become happier and the world views you as a happy person. If you sit up straight you will feel more confident and your breathing will be better and deeper. When you want to be calmer, slow down and stay in control of your movements. Your feelings and new behaviour will reinforce each other, and the awkward or uncomfortable feelings of your new behaviour will soon go away.
We always feel that people are watching our every move and will notice if we sit up straight where we would normally slouch a bit, but as a matter of fact, people don’t look as much as we think. They are usually more focused on themselves and their own problems. They might feel your presence is stronger, and that’s a good thing. Play around with the new behaviours you want to portray, practice until it becomes comfortable to you and monitor your improvement. It is always encouraging when you see how far you’ve come. Keep these things in mind when you are observing or working on your body language.
- Don’t cross your arms or legs– Even though we might feel ‘comfortable’ when our arms or legs are crossed, it might make you seem defensive or guarded. Keep your arms and legs open so that communication can flow freely to and from you.
- Maintain good eye contact– Eye contact can be intimidating sometimes, but it shows respect to the people you are talking to. The key is not to stare. If you are talking to a couple of people give eye contact to all of them so that you can create a better connection, keep them engaged in the conversation and to see if they are listening. If you keep too much eye-contact that can make people feel uncomfortable and if you avoid making eye-contact, that can make you seem insecure. If you are not used to maintaining eye-contact, keep working on it, after a while it won’t feel so intimidating or scary anymore.
- Stand your ground– This means you can take up space where you stand or sit. Have a bit of space between your legs so that you signal self-confidence and that you are comfortable with yourself in your own skin.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed– Sometimes when we feel uncomfortable or feel tense, we end up pushing our shoulders up and/or forward. Relax and loosen your shoulders. This will also enhance your breathing capability. Drop your shoulders and move them back slightly.
- Nod to acknowledge– When you nod your head every now and again (you don’t want to overdo this though), it shows that you are paying attention to what the person is saying to you and that you are following the conversation.
- Sit up straight– Be relaxed but don’t slouch. When you sit up straight it shows confidence.
- Lean in a bit in conversation–To show that you are interested in what someone is saying, when you lean in a bit you show that you are engaged. If you want to show that you are relaxed and confident in yourself, you can lean back a bit.
- Smile and laugh– Someone who is comfortable in their skin won’t take themselves too seriously. Smile and laugh when someone says something funny. When you are a positive person, people are inclined to listen to you more than if you are negative all the time. Smile when you are introduced to someone, give a firm handshake or nod, look them in the eye and stay relaxed. Don’t keep a smile on your face like it is plastered there, that can seem disingenuous.
- Don’t touch your face– Most people who are nervous will fidget with something. It can be their face, hair, earlobe etc. This can be distracting to the listeners or the people in the conversation.
- Chin up, buttercup– Having your head up is much better than looking down all the time. You don’t want to seem insecure or a bit lost if you are not. Keep your eyes horizontal and you head held high.
- Go slow and steady– Slowing things down in today’s busy lifestyle can be a bit challenging at the beginning, but to feel less stressed and calmer, slowing things down is crucial. Remind yourself not to walk fast, grab everything you need or snapping your neck around when someone calls your name. Take it easy and move slower.
- Reduce fidgety movements– Fidgeting with a pen, shaking your leg or tapping your fingers on a table can make it seem that you are bored, annoyed, nervous or worried. It is quite distracting if someone is always fidgeting. Focus on your behavioural movements to ensure you decrease unnecessary movements that can send a message that you don’t actually want.
- Use your hands– For most of us hand movements come naturally when we explain or tell a story. Use your hands confidently, not for fidgeting with your clothes or face. Hand movements can add more definition to the point you are trying to make. Be careful not to overuse them and variate your movements, don’t just point the whole time when you are talking, use open and closed hand movements. Control is key.
- Lower your drink– We don’t always realise where we hold our drink. When we hold it in front of our chest it can seem that you are guarded or distant. Rather hold it beside your leg or on the side of your chest.
- Keep personal space in mind– When someone is standing too close to you when you talk to them it can get very weird and uncomfortable. Don’t invade people’s personal space.
- Keep a good attitude– Above all else, keep a good, positive, relaxed and comfortable attitude. Your attitude and mood will come through in your body language.
Remember to give yourself time to adjust and improve your body language. It can make a big difference in your relationships and confidence. Try not to work on too many aspects at one time. Celebrate small victories and keep learning about yourself and other people every single day.