Do you slouch, cross your arms in front of your body or fidget? When is the last time you caught yourself waving your hands or making exaggerated gestures in a conversation? Your understanding body language (aka nonverbal communication) sends messages to those around you—whether you intend to send them or not.
Read this list of common Understanding Body Language and see what messages you’ve been sending.
Do you lean forward or to one side? Are your shoulders typically hunched over, or do you stand up straight?
According to Forbes, slouching or having bad posture can give those around you the impression that you have minimal self-esteem or are apathetic to situations and conversations.
Conversely, leaning forward while seated in conversation can indicate that you’re really interested in what is being said. When standing, keeping your back straight gives an authoritative impression and can indicate confidence.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What do I do with my hands?” Well, it matters.
Pointing and making fists when talking, even if unintentional, sends aggressive signals. If you communicate with your palms up, though, you are seen as an approachable peacemaker who may also have an open mind in difficult situations.
Crossing your arms in front of you can appear standoffish while keeping your hands in fists down at your sides in conversation can indicate either ambivalence to the subject matter or hostility.
Obviously, there’s plenty of “don’ts,” so what are you actually supposed to do? Try keeping your hands at your sides with palms open to send the best body language message. Don’t refrain from making hand gestures as you speak—just keep them natural.
Maybe it’s for a job interview or a meeting (or good-bye) with a person you’re uncomfortable hugging. Or, perhaps you’re a bit old fashioned and it’s your nonverbal greeting of choice. Either way, the way you shake hands says a lot about you.
A palm-down handshake can show confidence and authority because, by default, the other person must shake with their hand up—a more submissive position.
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Keeping your palm vertical during a handshake and squeezing firmly yet with minimal force (recommended) means that you respect your handshake counterpart and expect the same in return. When in doubt, go this route.
Your boss calls you into his office with something to discuss, and you find yourself sitting across the desk from him. Where are your eyes going? Are they glazing over the bookshelf behind him, or are they meeting his gaze? Often times, you think you look people in the eye when you really end up looking elsewhere unconsciously.
In social situations, looking away from those you’re talking to indicates either shyness or lack of respect. Conversely, keeping your head and eyes up indicates confidence and that you are receptive to what is being said.
Make an effort to look everyone in the eye when speaking, as this small gesture may improve the quality of your interactions and help you stay focused.
Do you put your hands in and out of your pockets? Play with your hair? Hold books or papers in front of you defensively and shift side to side? Tap your foot on the floor continuously?
Acts of fidgeting like those described above generally indicate boredom or discomfort, even if you’re not really bored or uncomfortable. (If you are genuinely uncomfortable, try removing yourself from the situation and revisiting it when you’re better prepared.)
Pay close attention throughout the day to how much you actually fidget and make an extra effort to reduce those actions that could cause those you’re communicating with to feel that you’re not invested in the conversation.
Your Understanding Body Language says a lot about how you’re feeling, even when you aren’t saying anything out loud. Make sure the nonverbal messages you are sending are the ones you intend by being mindful of your understanding body language.
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