Studies reveal that 93% of communication is perceived by what our eyes see – hand gestures, posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and mannerisms. Only a meager 7% are heard through actual conversation. What we see says it all.
As a business person, it is crucial to understand and be able to communicate at every level. Try it out, look up the body language influencers such as Vanessa Van Edwards or Patryk & Kasia Wezowski and learn how to be a communicator who excels in any situation.
BODY LANGUAGE is a window to what our subconscious thinks and feels. It makes us visible. It translates our emotions into visual cues so others may understand us better. Although most of our body gestures come from our subconscious, we still can control it to have the upper hand when relating with others or dealing with situations in society. Learning the tenets of body language is key to sales, relationships, and clarity in verbal communication. So start movin’ that body!
Who would have thought that wildlife will be the better teacher to help us understand body language! Animal’s simple gestures effectively tell us what they need. Don’t forget how your furry friend asks for a chunk of steak by staring and pointing her nose at your plate and back at you until your heart melts and you give in to those big innocent eyes. Animals point their noses toward their desire, while humans use their feet. When humans have a desire, unconsciously, our feet will point toward that desire. Uncomfortable at a networking meeting? Our feet will point towards the exit. Next time you’re with a crowd, take note of everyone’s feet! It’s fun to know ourselves this way. It can help you read the people you are speaking with and see if they are engaged in the conversation.
PERCEIVING BODY LANGUAGE
It’s hard to be accurate in reading body language, but here are some common and essential cues that could help us understand the communicator better:
- NOSE: Scratching of the nose means someone’s not telling the truth. Not 100% accurate but still an indicator.
- EYES: Looking up signifies remembering. Looking down could mean remorse or shame.
- FEET: A positive mood brings the toes up.
- HANDS: Open with palms exposed means truthfulness and openness.
- MIRRORING: Copying the actions or body positioning is a product of a good flow of conversation.
COMMUNICATING THROUGH BODY LANGUAGE
Our gestures will always be seen and will speak for us. We must keep track of our movement – think before we act! Here is a bit of advice on how to communicate better with your body:
- CONFIDENCE: Straighten your back, relax the shoulders and align with your hips, chin level- standing tall with a good posture, taking up space…all of these exude confidence!
- INTEREST: Lean toward the speaker a bit to show engagement.
- EMPATHY: Share your own stories that align. Nod. Keep eye contact during the most impactful moments of their story. Lean in. Do not judge; listen to understand. Remember their story. Acknowledge their experience. Touch hand or shoulder if appropriate. The higher the touch, the more intimate. Touch will not be appropriate with anyone with whom you work.
- ATTENTION: “Keep your eyes in contact with the other person to show attention, participation, and focus.” NO- be real. Staring someone down is uncomfortable. Don’t hold eyes for more than 5-7 seconds at a time. Look around or at another person in the conversation and then return eyes to the speaker again.
- HAPPINESS: Smile from your heart. A genuine smile engages the eyes. It’s always good to be with people who are happy where they are and who they are. Your smile will be contagious and will also attract other happy people.
- BE AN ALLY: Sit with a bit of an angle to show that you are taking someone’s side – like an ally or friend. Be wise in how you do so in order not to exclude anyone else.
- APPROVAL: Mirror some gestures of the other person, slightly nod, smile. These actions show your agreement and acceptance.
- DISAGREEMENT: Keep your hands off of your face if you don’t wish to imply you’re not with the flow. Touching your face tells the other that you are doubtful of what they are saying. Be wary of your body being closed and using your limbs or furniture to separate you from the speaker.
- CONTEMPT: Be careful of micro expressions. Often imperceptible, the mind will recognize the disagreement and judgment. Keep a smile or pleasant look, and be conscious that you do not raise or flex one side of your mouth.
- NERVOUSNESS: Nerves show up as fidgeting, talking too fast or too much, looking past and around the room rather than engaging eyes, biting own lips, shifting weight, and fast breathing. Take a moment, ground yourself and focus on the moment. We are all human. It’s ok, be you.
- IMPATIENCE/ANGER: Combinations of foot wagging, tight lips, little eye contact, silence, fists, digging fingers into the body, feet facing away from the speaker; interruption may be cues of discontent.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg regarding body language. The human mind is impressive and much more perceptive than we realize! For fun, try to read the body language of news interviews! Watch faces during Zoom meetings. Be aware and grow your skills!
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