More than words
Body language is an essential part of how we communicate with others, and in some situations, it can be even more important than our words. Understanding this unspoken language is largely an automatic and unconscious process, and it’s often the thing that gives people a “gut feeling” about you before you’ve even uttered a word. And it can either build trust and bolster your relationships or do the exact opposite. That’s why it’s so important to get right.
Most body language problems stem from one basic issue: incongruity. When your body language is out of alignment with what you’re saying, it sends mixed messages about your genuine feeling, according to body language expert, Dr Carol Kinsey Goman. This can make you look weak, insincere, or even devious. To help you avoid these kinds of misunderstandings, we asked experts to share the most common body language mistakes they see and how to fix them. Making these simple tweaks can go a long way toward changing how people perceive you and how you feel about your interactions at work and in social settings.
‘Shrinking’ your body
Standing with rounded shoulders, contracting your chest, and keeping your elbows tucked in close to your side may be your effort to look smaller or less intimidating, or it may just be poor posture. However, this stance makes you look weak and vulnerable, Goman says. How can you fix this? Don’t be afraid to take up space! “Keeping your posture erect, your shoulders back, and your head held high makes you look confident and powerful,” she explains.
Shifting your weight from foot to foot
No one expects you to stand like a statue, but if you’re constantly shifting your weight or dancing around, it makes you appear as if you’re anxious to leave, says professor of communication studies, Dr Cassandra LeClair. The first step to fixing this problem is to realise you’re doing it in the first place, since it can sometimes happen unconsciously. When you find yourself engaging in this shifty behaviour, LeClair advises taking a moment to centre yourself and be more present in all of your interactions. If you are doing it to relieve some physical discomfort, either adjust your position (say, take a seat) or explain to the other person what’s happening, she adds.