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How to improve your body language

Darlings, it’s time to talk body language. No, not how to improve your love life with all that fluttering of eyelashes, flicking of hair and coy smiles, but how to improve every aspect of your life.

Has it ever occurred to you how much you are saying even when you’re not speaking? Unless you are a master of disguise, you are constantly sending messages about your true thoughts and feelings whether you’re using words, or not. Yes, I’m talking ‘resting b*tch face’ here, among other things.

After all, according to body language experts, it’s not what you say but how you say it. In fact, there’s a general rule that only 7% of the meaning of what you are trying to convey comes from the words you use. 93% is how you say it, that is the tone of your voice (38%) and your body language (55%).

Let’s take a moment for that to sink in.

That means that people can see what you are not saying, so if your body language and tone of voice doesn’t match the words, you are simply wasting your time. Fact!

What is body language?

The science of body language first came to prominence following the publication of Julius Fast’s book ‘Body Language’ in 1970, where he talked about a new science called Kinesics. Today, body language is known as an important aspect of communication.

It’s essentially the unspoken, or non-verbal, mode of communication that we do every single time we interact with another person.

It’s like a mirror that can show us what the other person thinks and feels in response to our words or actions. Body language involves gestures, mannerisms and other bodily signs such as sweating, smiling, etc.

This ability of ours to use body language positively and read other people’s minds can be a powerful tool in our overall personality development, where we can create a great impression at work, in business and love just by being knowledgeable about body language. It can be the unspoken tool for a successful life!

Do you know what messages are you conveying?

Your body language consists of many key ingredients, but the five areas that are considered the most important are your face, eyes, hands, posture and spatial awareness.

Would you know if your body language was encouraging people to approach you, or warning them to stay away?

Take a moment to think about how you usually stand or sit when you are with other people. What are you doing with your hands? Where are you looking with your eyes?

Does your face express interest in the people you are with or does your face portray a tense, stony mask?

Even your breath can affect how you are perceived? And by breath, darling, I don’t mean if it’s gross or sweet-smelling, but how you are breathing? If you are feeling anxious, your breathing becomes shallow and jerky, which can add to your appearance of nervousness.

No matter how desperately you want to make a good impression, if your body language projects awkwardness or disinterest, it’s highly unlikely you will.

However, just as somebody language signals can frighten people away, some signals are both open and non-threatening that will help you become more approachable.

What steps can I take to improve my body language?

Face

Your face is the most expressive part of your entire body, however, if you feel nervous your face may give that away with an expression that looks aloof or even unfriendly.

The best way to remove anyone’s doubts about you is simply to smile.

A smile sends a positive message to all around you and is the simplest and easiest thing to do. Not only that, but smiling is contagious, puts everyone at ease and adds a nice upbeat inflexion to your voice. (True story – one of my first jobs was at a customer service centre, and there was a poster on the wall that said: “Smile when you’re on the phone, customers will hear it in your voice!” Never was a truer word spoken, or in this case written. So why not try smiling next time you’re on the phone?)

A smile makes others more receptive to you as it adds warmth and openness, and gives you an aura of confidence.

However, beware of a smile that never fades or softens, as it can look forced and portray nervousness.

Eyes

They say your eyes are the windows to your soul and they can certainly give away a lot about how you are feeling.

By looking at the person you are talking to emits confidence on your part, and also tells the other person that you are interested in what they have to say. Failing to make eye contact tells the other person that they are of no importance to you.

However, some people find making eye contact difficult and sometimes uncomfortable, so here’s a little hack for you. Next time you are talking to someone concentrate on the tip of their nose, this will help alleviate your discomfort, but at the same time make the person you are talking to think you are looking in their eyes.

Additionally, aim to keep the contact for 60% of the time to make you look interested but not aggressive.

Hands

This can be split into two categories; handshakes and hand gestures.

Handshakes

How’s your handshake? On a scale of one to ten would you say it was limp lettuce (1), or firm to the point of painful (10)?

I’m sorry to say, that if there’s one thing I hate it’s a wet, limp handshake. It’s a huge no from me, and when I was a consultant in my pre-writing life, I would actually turn down consulting jobs if the manager had a limp handshake. Silly I know, but a limp handshake signifies weakness.

But what makes a great handshake?

Ideally, a great handshake should rate about seven or eight. You should grasp the other person’s hand firmly, but not too firmly, and give no less than three good ‘pumps’, with a smile on your face. This will indicate that you are genuinely happy to meet the other person and that you are a confident person.

Hands, arms and hand gestures

When it comes to body language, your arms and hands can sometimes have a life of their own, and whatever you do can feel wrong.

Like everything, the focus is on being open and approachable, so a good rule of thumb is to keep your arms by your sides, or you can put one hand in your pocket (fairly difficult for us selfish darlings as the majority of dresses are pocket-free!) If you must carry something, like a clutch bag, or god-forbid your phone, keep that hand at the side of your body, never in front of you. Holding your arm in front of people, like crossing arms your arms closes you off and sends out a ‘keep away’ signal.

Open hand gestures generally make you appear honest, but they can also be a bit of a hit and miss scenario. Too many can make you look either enthusiastic or uncertain and immature, depending on the point of view of the person you are talking to. Whilst wring your hands can make you look as dishonest as Uriah Heap in David Copperfield or nervous.

I’m a firm believer in doing what comes naturally. There’s no sense forcing yourself to stick your hands by your side when you are naturally gesticular (I think that’s a word, if not, I’ve just made a new one up) If you do this, you will feel uncomfortable and stifled, and this will be portrayed in other aspects of your body language.

So, do what feels right to you.

Posture

Don’t slouch! Stand up straight, shoulders down, chest out, chin up – you know the drill.

Silly as that phrase sounds in the 21st century when it comes to body language, posture is important.

If you want to be taken seriously then it’s important to sit or stand up straight.

Not only does it exude an air of confidence, but it also speaks volumes about your personality, making you look alert and enthusiastic. When you lean against a wall or slump in your chair, it makes you look tired, bored and potentially, especially in the workplace, a slacker, and someone who would prefer to be somewhere else, doing anything than being where you are right now.

Keep your distance

Social distancing is not a new thing, especially when it comes to body language, although two metres might be seen as too far under normal circumstances. In these times of COVID, two metres is the minimum you should be, even with your mask on.

The distance you keep from others is crucial if you want to establish a good rapport. Standing too close, or being ‘in someone’s face’ will mark you as pushy. Positioning yourself too far away will make you seem standoffish.

So it’s important to find a happy medium.

Do what makes the other person comfortable. If, when in conversation the person you are speaking with keeps backing away, stop moving towards them. It’s an unconscious signal to you that you are too close. Well, either that or you need some mouthwash!

Conclusion

In conclusion, we now know that:

  • Other people can see what we’re not saying
  • Being aware of body language can be a powerful tool for us to use
  • We need to take stock of what our body language is currently saying and then take steps to make improvements where needed
  • Tops tips for positive body language:
    • Smile
    • Maintain eye contact for 60% of the time (look at the tip of someone’s nose, if you find eye contact uncomfortable)
    • A good handshake is firm (but not too firm) and has three good ‘pumps’, and don’t forget to smile
    • When it comes to hand gestures, do what comes naturally to you
    • Stand up straight
    • Maintain a comfortable distance with the person you are speaking with

 

You may not be aware of what you are saying with your body, but others will get the message. Let’s make sure it’s the one you want to send.

Until next time darlings.

xx

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