Human communication is complex and, as you may already know, it doesn’t concern exclusive words. Other than our voices, we communicate with our silence, our gestures, our posture, our position in the space, our eye contact… in one word, we communicate with our body language.
Unlike what most people are used to thinking, body language is an important and big part of our communication: our body is responsible for what we are communicating far more than the words we pronounce. It’s just that the majority of people – those who speak and those who listen – are completely unaware of that (of both the existence of body language and its importance).
In this article, we’d like to make our readers aware of it. Being aware of body language can make us better listeners, observers, and better communicators.
As we’ve mentioned in our introduction, we humans communicate both verbally and non-verbally. When we speak of body language we are of course focusing on nonverbal communication. We send messages even when we are not using words, spoken or written. However, our body language keeps on sending messages (that is, communicating) even while we are using words: while we speak, we move our hands, we look somewhere, we can cross our legs or our arms, we can stand in a corner on in the center of a room…
Types of Body Language
So, what is body language made of?
Nonverbal communication is made of:
- Posture: the way we hold our body to communicate a message to people. If you are leaning towards a person while she speaks communicates interest.
- Eye Contact: the amount of time we look our interlocutor in the eye can communicate interest, disinterest, nervousness, shyness, and more…
- Facial expressions: our expressions often communicate our emotions.
- Gestures: the movements we make with our hands are part of the conversation. In some cultures, precise hand gestures have precise meanings.
- Space: how close or far away we stand from a person is part of our conversation.
- Touch: touching an interlocutor and the way we touch them can communicate a lot of things during a conversation.
Why is body language important?
Body language has been studied since Classical times. For example, in the fourth century BC Greece, walking straight and making long strides was considered a sign of leisure. This way, upper-class men could distinguish themselves by workers and women.
During the Renaissance, a lot of European writers published tons of works about body language. The main subject of these studies was finding an answer to the following question: is body language universal?
Scholars began observing body language in different cultures to find out whether a smile communicated joy in every culture, whether speaking loudly was a sign of aggressiveness in every culture, and so on…
Today, the academic community shares the opinion that, while hand gestures aren’t universal (not every culture in the world waves goodbye the same way, for example) other elements of body language (like facial expressions, for example) can be considered universal.
Today, there is also another piece of data at our disposal that is hugely important: body language is not a little, minor, less significant part of our communication. On the contrary, our nonverbal communication is from 65% to 93% more significant than our verbal communication. In other words, we communicate far more with our body language than with our voices!
How To Improve Communication Skills and Body Language
Knowing all these aspects of nonverbal communication is more important than what you may think. The thing is that we can have some control over our body language once we are aware of it. Controlling our nonverbal communication makes us better communicators: it could give some of us a great advantage during interviews, presentations, first dates, and other occasions.
It’s now time to explore some tips and tricks about body language!
Body Language Tricks For Attraction/Dating
If you want somebody to like you, you want to appear confident (but not too much), vulnerable (but not much), you want to be open and you want the other person to feel like she or he is in the presence of someone who can listen.
“Hello, I’m confident and I’m someone who can listen!” Do you think that if you use these words your date is going to go well? Of course not. This is just a simple joke to let you understand how body language is important: you need to communicate all the above things nonverbally. How?
1. Tips to communicate confidence
Avoid sitting positions like crossing your legs, sliding into your chair, crossing your fingers behind your back: these are all sense of confidence, but they are too much: you are communicating arrogance.
Your posture here is key: an up straight posture, slightly leaning forward toward the other person will communicate that you feel comfortable and that you are interested in the other person.
2. Tips to communicate openness
Avoid any shield between you and the other person. This means that you should avoid covering your mouth while you speak or listen, don’t hide behind sunglasses, don’t hold drinks in front of your face or theirs…
3. Tips to communicate interest
Leaning towards the other person, looking them in the eye, nodding… this is all body language that communicates that you are listening to the other person and that you’re interested.
Body Language Tips for Interviews
One of the most stressful situations we can find ourselves in is job interviews. The stress is even bigger because we don’t want to show ourselves stressed! Body language can become very helpful in this case. So, here are some body language tips for job interviews.
1. Make a confident entrance
The way we come into a room is part of our nonverbal communication. So, when you have an interview, make sure you enter the room with confidence: walk straight without hesitating at the door, smile, and don’t sit down until someone invites you to.
2. Avoid hand gestures
Interviews are stressful situations and you don’t want anyone to notice your nervousness. For this reason, avoid anything that could give away your actual state of mind: avoid hand gestures so that you don’t end up fidgeting, touching your nose, biting your nails, and things like that.
3. Firm handshake
A firm handshake is a sign of confidence. On the contrary, a weak one will make you look shy and nervous even before you start speaking.
Public Speaking Body Language Tips
Public speaking is a real trauma for a lot of people! It’s extremely easy to make the audience see that you are nervous and shy. However, even those who are most used to it may appreciate some tips on how to have more charisma on the stage. So, here are some body language tips for public speaking.
1. Look at the audience
If you need to read a speech or some notes, and even if you’ve learned your speech by heart, make sure you look at the audience. Don’t look at the floor, don’t look far away in the distance, look at the audience. You don’t have to look at someone in particular: just make sure that your gaze falls on the area where the audience sits. If you need to read, lift up your gaze every once in a while (at the end of your sentences is the simplest way!).
2. Hand gestures
If they are not shaking, use your hands. Hand gestures can highlight and empathize parts of the speech. However, if you are too nervous and you have a podium, you can hide your hands by resting them on the podium so that anyone will notice they are shaking. If you don’t have a podium: use them – just use them, don’t put them in your pockets, don’t hide them behind your back, don’t let them fall down unmoved – use your hands!
Body Language Tips for Workplace Communication
Everybody has a different comfort level with closeness. Some people feel very uncomfortable when you get too close to them when you need to speak to them or make them sign some papers at work for example. Try to never cross that line that separates effective communication from an uncomfortable one.
A high volume when you speak is considered aggressive, even when you are not mad at all. If your voice is naturally high, work on it and try to lower your volume. This will make your communication more effective and will make everybody in the workplace comfortable.
How can You Improve Communication Skills and Body Language?
We’ve spoken about body language tips but is it actually possible to become better communicators by improving our body language?
The good news is that it’s even easier than you may think. Being aware of body language and what the different postures, hand gestures, and sounds communicate is the first big step of the process. With this article, we’ve just covered this part.
Now, it’s up to you. If awareness is the first step to improving your body language, now you have two more:
- Become aware of your body language. All it takes is a bit of attention: how do you sit in a chair? How do you walk? How loud do you speak? How close do you get to people when you speak or work with them? Observe yourself in all the different aspects of nonverbal communication that we’ve described above.
- The final step is to make changes. Start small with your posture both when you are sitting and standing. Then, move on to hand and head gestures. Third, try to find an equilibrated ton of voice. And finally, you can take care of the most difficult aspects of all: eye contact! Shy people can struggle to watch other people in the eye, but you need to make an effort. Not only it will make you look more confident, but it will also make you feel confident… which is always a good sensation!
Expert analysis of celebrities using body language
1. Harry and Megan
When Harry and Megan appear in public, they are often hand in hand. This is a clear and intentional message that they want to send. They are communicating that they are united, despite anything around them, all the voices and the gossip.
2. Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon
These two celebrities have recently created a show together (The Morning Show). There have been voices of a feud between the two but they wanted to put the voices down. During the most recent public events, the two actresses were constantly touching and hugging one another. This not only communicates that they are not in a fight, but that they are friends other than colleagues, they have intimacy with one another.
3. Donald and Ivanka Trump
These two are supposed to be a happy couple but their body language, especially hers, communicates to the world that she can’t stand him. She is always avoiding touching him, she never smiles, she looks down… these are all signs of unhappiness that she shows only when she’s close to him.
You may agree with the three statements above, but don’t get too subjective. In fact, they all might be wrong, since public figures train such things a lot. Our perception is way more limited than what we believe. Always have a backup opinion when analyzing the body language.
Now that you are well aware of how body language works, you can become a better listener and a better communicator!