What is your body language saying about you?
Our body language speaks volumes about us. People tend to judge us far more on our physical appearance, including our mannerisms, than by what comes out of our mouths. So what do our body movements, gestures, expressions, tone and volume of voice, and posture have to say about us in our working and personal lives?
To give the right impression, it's important to understand what we are conveying non-verbally and how our unconscious signals are being received by the people we interact with. Understanding our own body language gives us clues in self-awareness. Body language can be a powerful tool if you can use it with control.
The power of a smile
Smiling is a powerful tool in your body language arsenal. Perhaps you smile a lot in the hope of appearing friendly - just be aware this can lead people to take you less seriously in the workplace. In some Asian cultures, smiling too much is seen as a signal that you're not a serious person and may lose you some respect. Too much smiling appears fake and can betray nervousness.
If you're trying to hide nervousness avoid blinking too much, biting or sucking your lip. Also be aware that nervous people often hug themselves, rub their earlobes or forehead, and shift their body weight from one foot to another to create a slight rocking motion.
If you're trying to show that you are listening sympathetically to what someone has to say, try tilting your head slightly and nodding very slightly. This gesture implies you are listening with interest. If you're talking to someone and a third person joins, tilt your body towards them slightly to include them and make them feel valued.
By contrast, if they are unwelcome, a failure to angle your body towards them is a strong gesture that they are not welcome to join the group. A single nod of the head also implies coolness when listening to another person.
Showing respect or asking for empathy
In a workplace situation it quite usual to see people come slightly to attention and square their chest when speaking to a superior member of staff. If you're looking for support and empathy, try using the lowered gaze. Lowering our eyes is a bid for sympathy that tends to elicit a motherly response in other adults.
Adopting a similar stance to the person you are engaged with indicates your interest and helps develop trust. Use this with caution though - don't obviously copy your companion!
When we're interested in what people have to say, we use certain unconscious visual cues. We tend to position our body and feet toward the person of interest to us. Raised eyebrows are also a sign that we are taking interest in what is being discussed. We also tend to lean slightly towards people that we like. If you're on a date, lean in a little to show interest. But if they are leaning back, you may prefer not to seem too keen by leaning too closely to them.