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