YOUTH

Even when you aren’t saying a thing, the way you stand, your expression, and your movements are telling others around you how you feel. That’s called body language, and it’s your non-verbal voice.

What does your body language say about you? Does it pull people towards you or push them away? In the previous blog, we discussed the importance of learning to communicate verbally, but messages you communicate non-verbally impact your relationships, too.  People notice body language (whether they are trying to or not), and they make assumptions based on your cues and movements.

A better understanding of your own body language can let people know when you’re serious, or prevent you from seeming standoffish or bored when, in fact, you’re interested. Don’t camouflage your intentions with confusing and misguided body language. Here are some steps that can help you learn to communicate more effectively through your body language:

Step 1 Acknowledge that your body language speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself and others without you uttering a word.

Step 2 Consciously consider those head-to-toe movements that send messages to others.

Step 3 Replace unintentional, inaccurate messages with more deliberate, accurate messages about how you genuinely feel about people and situations.

 

Let’s take it from head to toe:

Do you make direct eye contact or avoid it by shifting your gaze, looking around the room, or looking at your phone? When you look people in the eye, you appear more confident and sure of yourself. Even if you’re not feeling confident, you can still practice looking people in the eye – and it can actually help your confidence grow.

Are you criticizing someone with your eyes by staring or giving them a glance-over or are you supporting them as you look at them with a warmer expression? A side-glance (looking out of the corners of your eyes instead of directly at someone) tends to send a disapproving or negative message, even when you may not mean to look that way.

Is your mouth making an expression that’s closer to a smile, a smirk, or a stink-face? Try making all of those faces in a mirror or with your friend, and see how they can change your expression drastically.

Is your stance opened or closed off? Hint: Uncross your arms if you want to seem relaxed and interested. Lean forward if you’re really interested. Crossed arms and legs tell others you are not really open to what they are saying – sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it may not be what you want to express.

Are you facing the person with relative stillness or fidgeting as if you’re bored or ready to bolt? If someone really captures your attention, you tend to stay still and focused. If you’re interested, make a point to stop other movements and really give the other person your undivided attention.

Are you slouching and slumping or sitting up straight and relaxed? Again, slouching or slumping may be a natural posture for you, but it tells others you aren’t very interested. Good posture also sends a message of confidence.

Is your phone constantly in your hand or put away and out of sight? This is a big one. Glancing at your phone or worse, messing with your phone, while you are listening to someone or talking with them sends a signal that you’re really not interested. Don’t let yourself be controlled by your phone – it’s distracting and rude. Instead, put your phone away when you’re in a conversation or you’re interested in what others have to say. Those texts, snapchats, and videos will still be there when you are finished having real face to face time with your friends.

 

You’ve been expressing yourself through your body language all your life, and I bet you never really thought about it. But now that you are more aware of it, pay attention and see if it’s communicating what you want to communicate. Your VOICE is the ultimate communicator, but body language says alot, too. Being a good friend involves paying attention and being present in the moment. Remember, you can make a positive (or negative) statement without saying a single word. 

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

by Dr. Allison Conner, Psychologist in Fresno, CA and member of the Girlology Expert Panel

Tags: 
body language, communication, friendships

Comments (2)

  • anon

    I am 13 years old. my head tilts down because I had a tendon cut in the back of my neck in a bike accident. my parents could not afford to have it fixed. I can lift my head but to do so is very painful. If I use both hands I can hold it up with slight pain. My voice is funny because my neck is folded most of the time. my friends all laugh at me but i hold back the tears. Some times I get so mad I could take a bat and hit them in the neck or head! what should I do?

    Oct 25, 2017
  • anon

    Your courageous reply to my blog sparked many thoughts I’d like to share with you. Growing up is tough and asking for advice and support from (trusted) others can help. Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story with me. After reading your words, your deep hurt and pain seemed as obvious and real as your bravery and grit. Many teenagers struggle with finding the right words to say to someone suffering from difficult circumstances that they’ve never experienced, and often resort to humor as a way to cover up their own anxieties and discomfort about another’s pain. Instead of assuming that your friends are trying to hurt you, consider that maybe they’re unsure about what to say or do with your pain. What if you didn’t try to hide from the remarks and instead shared with your true friends your true feelings about coping with your health? True friends would obviously want to know if their words are hurtful, and those that aren’t true friends don’t deserve space in your inner circle, anyway. Perhaps it’s time to transform your anger into truths about your story. Own your story. Stop your instincts to shut down and instead use your fearless energy to tell people how you actually feel. Your boundaries may help teach your friends important lessons about tolerance and grace. Most girls have a struggle that makes them feel different than their friends. Although the severity of these struggles can vary in intensity, to each girl the part of her that is perceived as different feels huge and glaring. Each one of you could benefit from focusing less on how you might be different and instead embrace ways you might be similar. At your core, each of you experiences hurt, disappointment, joy, and love. Let’s talk about the parts of you that aren’t related to your health. What do you enjoy in your life? How does the joyful and curious YOU find comfort? What soothes your thoughts and helps you to remember to talk nicely to yourself about the person you’re becoming? Try to find ways to nurture your own sweet, lovable self by discovering what excites and energizes you. Remember how good it feels to smile and laugh. Search for your laughter. Regarding your physical pain, I hope that the adults in your life continue to search for resources in the medical community that might help decrease your discomfort and improve your quality of life. We all feel the power of hope when we have options. May your journey lead you towards healthy relationships and options for healing. You deserve life and light. Thanks again for sharing your story… it helped other girls wrestling with similar feelings and struggles.

    Nov 05, 2017

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