Body language isn’t a mere set of “techniques” or a show to put on for others. It is how you move in this world, and how you move, in many ways, dictates how you feel, what you say, what you strive for and what you allow to escape your grasp. Just as form follows function, so does your inner life — your emotional state, your confidence, your vivacity — follow what your body is doing.
Contrary to what many articles on the internet claim, body language can’t be boiled down to a mere set of ‘techniques’ or just a temporary act you can put on to impress someone. Body language is actually comprised of how you move through the world, which actually dictates how you feel, what you say, how high of goals you set for yourself, and what you fail to accomplish.
Just as form follows function, so does your inner life. Your emotional state, confidence, vivacity — follow the lead your body is setting.
Ever notice how when you hold your body in a pose of confidence, you will actually feel more confident? Not to mention you are in a far more healthy pose for your neck, shoulders, and spine… but that is an entirely new topic. IF you find that you slump your shoulders and are looking at the ground rather than at the faces you pass, your brain will interpret that as sadness and depression, and consequently you will feel sadder and like lesser being.
Research has proven that your body language is the most instant and visceral way that people assess who you “really” are.
A weak handshake also conveys to another person that you are ineffectual, unconfident, and untrustworthy. On the flip side, you do not want to crush the persons hand in an attempt to make a strong first impression and hope the other will cower from your power. People find that those with an overpowering handshake are truly deeply insecure and overcompensating. You cannot blame that other person though, since that is there subconscious at work, just like when you become depressed from walking around staring at the the floor.
How you move your body is a language of its own, and one that is interpreted by others non-stop. And whether you seek more influence and power in your professional life, or more intimacy and clarity in your personal or intimate life, self-awareness in your body language is crucial.
As someone who has coached hundreds of people in personal and professional success, let me give you five of the most important body language “expressions,” so that you can more easily live the life you desire.
1. Are you an open or closed book?
In my work around dating and intimacy, I begin by moving people away from the language of right and wrong, and more into the language of “open and closed.” For example, does what you say or do “open” the other person’s heart or close it.
Similarly, your body language signals to anybody you encounter whether your heart or being feels open and receptive, or closed and anxious, judgmental, or afraid. “Open” body language signals trust, warmth, solidity, and comfort in being yourself and it feels inviting to others. “Closed” body language, by contrast, signals coldness, insecurity, isolation, and it makes the other person feel outside your sphere, pushed-away and unaccepted.
So, what are some ways you can start to cultivate open body language?
A. Do your eyes say “Welcome!” or “GET AWAY!”?
Oftentimes the first form of connection with another person will be through your eye contact. Clearly, squinting suspiciously will convey that you are initially closed to another. By contrast, warm, relaxed eyes, and an easy slow smile when you encounter someone, will make them feel welcome and accepted.
B. Is your chest open to who you are talking to or closed off?
Think about a person with arms crossed tightly over their chest. Do they feel warm, receptive and friendly? Or guarded and judgmental?
Uncrossing your arms, and not holding anything in front of you (like a drink, or books or folders) signals that you’re open to interact with people and ready to face what the world brings, whatever it brings. However, when you block your chest (your heart) with folded arms or objects, it may seem like you’re trying to protect yourself from something consciously or not.
C. How Do You Hold Your Posture?
Think military posture. Think an invisibly thin steel cable from the crown of your head straight up to heaven. Think a straight spine. Think eye-level. Think feet planted solidly on the ground, with your weight evenly distributed. This kind of posture conveys strength, solidity, alertness and confidence. By contrast, if you hunch your shoulders and head is drooping down, if if you’re weight is uneven, you convey a lack of sureness, a lack of solidity.
2. What is your voice saying?
Even though language is 93% non-verbal, what you say and how you say it is very important. The tone which you use is what this is all dependent on. I had an entire relationship crumble because the other could not ever talk in a sincere voice during important conversations, rather this person turned to a robotic voice and tone. In workshops, students of body language are taught to say “I love you” like a toddler, a murderer, a lovesick schoolboy, and a dying wife after 50 years of marriage. How you say it matters just as much as what you are saying.
It’s the same with daily expressions such as “No,” or “I disagree.” If you try saying these phrases in varying emotions, you will see just how important tonality is. If you wish to convey authority, practice with common expressions. If you are known to come off as a cold person, work at conveying warmth, empathy, and compassion.Try it with multiple emotions, and you’ll see how important tonality is. If you want to convey authority, practice that with common expressions. If you are known as the debby-downer, then learn how to inject more positive words, remarks, and small talk into your daily interactions.
Start noticing the tonality of your voice and others and the social dynamics in your life will start shifting. Importantly, those with whom you interact will notice too. This article on Vixen Daily shows you how to use body language to become more well liked by everyone around you.
3. Let’s Get Physical
People communicate out of a desire to connect with one another, even if it only lasts for a few moments. That is why it’s so important to add your own personal touch. To raise the level of connection others feel when they meet you, begin establishing touch. There are many kinds of touch, some of which can feel unwelcome. I think we can all remember George W. Bush’s unwelcome massaging of Angela Merkel’s shoulders… if not, have a watch below:
Start slow when adding a personal touch. A simple high-five shows that you are in agreement with whoever you are speaking with, and it gives them an opportunity to have a choice in whether or not they want to reciprocate. During a moment of laughter or mutual understanding, briefly touching someones upper arm is another way to ease in. Simple gestures like this can quickly deepen the connection that you’re having with the individual and create a raised level of trust.
Studies show that simple touch increases feelings of good will — something that every savvy restaurant server knows. That touch on the shoulder along with the check? It adds between 19–28 percent great tip, according to some studies. For insight into the best body language for negotiating with people, check out this article.
4. What distance is appropriate?
Whether you know it or not, the physical distance that you’re close or far away from a person influences the kind of impact you have on them. The closer you are to a person when you’re communicating, the deeper the connection will be felt between the both of you. If you’re farther away, the lesser the connection will be.
Of course, the “Seinfeld Rule” holds true here — which is that an overly “close talker” can feel inappropriately intrusive. Try modulating your physical distance and see for yourself. Speak to a friend then get up and slowly distance yourself from your friend as you’re speaking. You’ll feel a psychological difference, and they will too.
Here’s another spatial-intimacy trick of the trade. Instead of standing directly opposite someone, which can create a primal “confrontation” feeling (especially if you physically larger), try standing to a person’s side and speaking with them, which half-looking out at the world together. It’ll have the both of you feel as if you’re a team.
This article has great body language tips to apply to your life.
5. “Oh! We are alike!”
In our brains, we have what we now know as “mirror neurons.” These mirror neurons help us understand one another and the gestures we make to each other. Simply put, mirror neurons induce us to “mirror back” speech patterns or physical gestures as an unconscious was to create a sense of “tribe” or likeness.
So how can you use them to your advantage to create a sense of connection? Simply mimic the gestures, key words, vocal tonality, and pace of speech of the person you’re talking to. Doing this will deepen the connection level between you two because we all have a similarity bias, which means that we tend to like people whom we find our similar to us.
If the person to whom you’re speaking speaks quickly, try matching that pace. If they use an unusual word like “indubitably,” find a way to work that into your vocabulary while talking with them. If they pound the table while enjoying a joke, do the same. If they lean in to listen closely, then you lean in to listen closely to them.
These may seem like insignificant gestures, but they create a tremendous amount of familiarity and comfort — which is a way of saying primal safety. You may convey all kinds of messages with the words you speak — when you speak — but your body always broadcasts frequencies of information about you twenty-four-seven.
What you need to put thought into is what type of message do you want to send? Whether it is that you a friendly, safe to be around, genuine, authoritative, or submissive — these five body language techniques which many hold as their secrets to success will bring your goals within reach must sooner than you ever dreamed.