We all know how important communication is, and if you’ve ever had a conversation where the person you’re talking to has their arms crossed, poor eye contact, and is tapping their feet – it doesn’t matter what they say, you know they’d rather be somewhere else. Body language is a powerful means of communication. Let’s explore how different parts of your body communicate to others and what you can learn about someone else’s internal state from their body language.
There are the obvious signals that your facial features will communicate, however there are other messages your head sends as well. Your hair, for example can convey your mood or self-confidence. When you’re stressed, for example, you may forget to brush your frazzled hair, but when it’s groomed, others know that you’re in control of the way your day is developing and take pride in yourself.
First and foremost, convey strong eye contact to connect and build trust with the person. Always remember though that too much can make the other person uncomfortable; whereas too little makes you seem disinterested. A good general rule to go by is to maintain more eye contact when listening than talking to avoid staring. Your eyes also tell a lot about your inner state, so be aware of what you’re communicating through your eyes. A sarcastic eye roll can be insulting, a friendly twinkle puts people at ease when talking to you, and a lack of wrinkles around the eyes when smiling signals a fake or forced smile.
Use your torso to project confidence and control over your feelings. Use your neck to hold your head high, while looking straight ahead. If you’re slouched, it sends the message that you don’t feel very good about yourself.
When you fidget with your hands, it subconsciously communicates that you are feeling anxious or bored. If you cross your arms tightly, it show you are closed off or even angry. Strangely, if your arms are by your side, you can unintentionally look arrogant. Open palms convey openness and trust, so aim for keeping palms open and hands out. If you struggle with keeping your hands still, a great way to stay neutral is to fold your hands, or if you’re standing, let them rest comfortably either at your sides or on some other convenient resting place.
Your legs are the largest part of your body, and therefore play a large role in what and how you might communicate. If you cross your legs tightly while sitting in a chair, you’re communicating a “closed” view of yourself to others. You want to seem open, relaxed, and comfortable, but not so much that you look sloppy and so relaxed that you’re ready to fall asleep.
Be aware that unconscious leg-shaking or foot-tapping communicates anxiety, irritation or both. Crossing your legs at the ankles is the equivalent to folding your hands in your lap and doing both at the same time will greatly settle your feelings while it ramps up your poise factor.
Notice what you do with your feet. Tapping your toes is one way to show that you’re in a hurry and anxious to get going, or you may tap your toes if you’re trying to get someone’s attention and don’t want to say something rude. But, it’s likely best to communicate directly.
Finally, your communicate confidence or fear by how your stride, which should be strong with a steady gait. Good posture shows a self-confident manner. On the other hand, slouching, slumping, or skulking makes you seem afraid of where you’re heading.
Raising your awareness of how your body language communicates your inner state to others and also what you can learn about how they’re feeling will help you build your own confidence, instill trust in others and allow you to communicate more effectively to build strong relationships.