The saying “Actions speak louder than words” applies to everyone universally.
Subconsciously or consciously, we project emotions and responses when we’re communicating. And we read the body language of the other person, who is also doing the same thing.
There’s an entire field of science that’s dedicated to reading people’s body language. It’s called kinesics, and it’s used everywhere, from the playground to the interrogation room by an FBI agent.
You, too, can learn about body language and what you’re saying to others. By doing this, you can begin to adjust the little telltale signs that are giving away what you’re thinking.
This comes in handy in conversations with others where you want to make sure your actions and words are meshing. It’s also a coveted skill to have in many careers, such as healthcare professionals and law enforcement.
You could take some courses and become an expert in kinesics. But if you’d rather have the basics fast, here are four tips that will help you improve your body language immediately.
Unless you’re purposely paying close attention to what you’re doing, you’re going to send out unconscious signals.
Spend a few days consciously being aware of your movements when you’re talking to people. Are there any small actions you do when you’re relaxed? Stressed?
As an example, people with longer hair tend to twirl a few strands when they’re excited or nervous. You might pull on your ear, tap your fingers, or have another, almost unnoticeable, quirk.
Once you find yours, you can start to control when you do it.
In self-defense classes, one of the first things instructors teach is how to stand confidently. Attackers watch how a potential victim moves, and they prefer to prey on those who look weak, with their shoulders slumped and eyes cast down.
By forcing yourself into a confident pose as your default stance, you will eventually do this naturally. Stand with your shoulders straight and eyes up. If you’re not walking, keep your hands on your hips. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with people around you.
Even if you’re self-conscious, when you are purposely moving this way, you might find yourself gradually becoming more confident.
This one depends on the culture of the person you’re dealing with. Many East Asian people, for example, consider direct eye contact to be disrespectful.
However, among Western Europeans, eye contact is seen as something you do to show people, you’re paying attention to them.
Looking at someone’s eyes tells you a lot about what they’re thinking, too. The way their pupils dilate, how much or how little eye contact they make with you, and other signals speak volumes when you know what to look for.
This small action means a lot when you’re in a doctor’s role, for instance. You can be more cognizant of the way you handle your bedside manner.
And in important transactions, such as agreeing on a contract, you’ll be able to read the other party more clearly. This is one of the things contract lawyers do, which is why many physicians have their lawyers with them when drawing up a contract.
As natural of action as it is, it’s actually difficult for many people to force themselves to smile. But when you smile in a conversation, it produces a chemical reaction that sends cortisol throughout your body. This feel-good hormone relaxes you.
Even better, it’s almost a guarantee that the other person will smile, too. Human behavior shows that we tend to mirror the people around us. If they’re stressed, our stress level rises. But if they’re relaxed, we begin to chill out, too.
A smile is an easy way to reduce the tension level in a room, and a frown will increase it. Pay attention to what your facial expressions are saying and use them to your advantage.
Your body language is often the deciding point when others are on the fence about how to respond to you. You can say all the educated or pretty words you want. But if your actions are in contrast to your words, you won’t make the sale, get the job, or land whatever else you’re trying to do.
As you’re getting to know your body language and what it’s saying, start with these four basic tips. You’ll begin to read other people more clearly, and you’ll realize what you might be subconsciously saying.
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