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Home » Body Language, Effective Communication Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Most Recent Articles, Today's Feature Article

Four Suggestions for Better Body Language

by Laurie Wilhelm
Body language tends to be one of those ‘things’ that just ‘happen.’ You are who you are and all that. Yes, while this is true, sometimes your body language unintentionally communicates something you had no idea you were ‘saying.’ Take an inventory of how you express yourself physically and how it influences others. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Be Aware of Your Facial Expressions

If you are not paying attention to your facial expressions – ‘the look on your face’ – you may well miscommunicate what you’re thinking without ever knowing it. You could have been trying to solve a difficult problem right before the conversation started, so you have your “problem solving face on.” This may set up the tone for the new conversation – and set it up badly. Be aware of what the person you’re speaking to sees on your face. This will also help them communicate more effectively with you.

2. Physically Proximity – Near or Far?

Proximity varies according to the relationship we have with the person with whom we’re speaking. With friends, we tend to have less space between us than we have with our work colleagues. But, some of us like to get close when we speak. We invade personal space. Once we do that, the person listening will be more focused on being uncomfortable than they will be on what we’re saying. Pay attention to their body language and if it looks like they’re becoming uncomfortable or tense, you may well be in their personal space. Simply take a step back and give them more room. Then they’ll be able to better hear what you have to say.

3. Be Physically Confident

“Physically confident” sounds odd to me, but it’s a really important part of effective body language. Take a mental scan of how you’re standing or sitting right now. Are you standing tall? Sitting upright? Or are you slouched over, you’re holding your head in your hands, or you’re trying to be as small as possible on your chair? These may be small subconscious body movements, but they have a big impact on others who are observing your physical cues. Stand tall, sit up straight, take up a bit more space – these all add to your image of self-confidence…and self-worth. People pick up on these and add them to their overall impression of you.

4. Maintaining Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact doesn’t mean having a staring contest. Not maintaining eye contact or looking here, there, and everywhere is distracting to the person you’re speaking to. Also, it can be interpreted as you’re not listening, you’re not interested, or you’re looking for someone better to talk to. If you really are listening and interested, show you are by looking at their eyes, or even top of their nose (bridge) if the eyes are too much for you. If you’re not listening or interested, it’s time for you to wrap up the conversation and move on. You’re not being kind or polite by pretending you’re paying attention when, obviously, you’re not listening or paying attention. And, if you really are looking for someone else to talk to – just excuse yourself and move on.

These were just a few suggestions but there are a lot more. Stay tuned – more will come in future articles!

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