Learning how to recognize and even analyze body language in others and control your own body language is a great way to improve your ability to communicate.
When we think about talking, it is easy to see it as a two-way street and although many people have to focus to listen, they do at least know that to listen is part of the equation. Body language is not given nearly as much conscious effort.
In Part One of this series, I provided some tips on how to display the proper body language in a business setting, and spoke of how developed self-control and engaged self-awareness are some of the most valuable skills a person can have. If you missed it, check it out here.
When most people take an interest in studying body language, they generally do it for analysis purposes. Let’s be honest, we aren’t nearly as concerned with what our bodies have to say as we are with what other people have to say with theirs. We all know why this is the case and it extends far beyond our uses in business –just sayin’, but hey, don’t just take it from me, this stuff is scientifically backed and if you just take a minute to consider this, your own experience will validate this.
Body messaging can be broad and somewhat obvious, like the vibe a person puts off or how through sitting or standing they convey a particular message. If you take a minute to think about it, you are already probably quite capable of reading what others have to say with their bodies without even realizing it. It is often just as innate for someone to pick up body language clues as it is for others to leave them.
Think about the indicators a person gives off while waiting for an appointment. How can you tell if they are nervous or relaxed? Perhaps he/she is having difficulty sitting still, is fidgeting, tapping their pen, or frequently touching their face or hair. These behaviors speak volumes and say that they are not just nervous, but lack the self-awareness to keep these indicators in check.
Now for the fun part, let’s discuss some non-verbal cues that say whether someone is interested in what you have to say or offer –or maybe that they are simply interested in you. An interest in what you have to say might invoke them to raise their eyebrows or tilt their head, mirroring yours when you talk. They will present an engaged expression and their arms will remain open and relaxed. If they really —like really— like you, they will sit disproportionately close to you, their pupils will dilate and they will give you their full attention and direct focus. You may feel as though they are hanging on your every word or they might periodically touch your arm or knee –and if they cross their legs, it will be towards you, not away.
Whether you are in a business setting, or a personal one, the key is to recognize that your body and the bodies of others are indeed a large part of the communication process. The more aware you can become of what sentiments are being reflected through the body language of others (in various settings) the more capable you will become at perceiving important details about them. This, combined with learning to manage the non-verbal cues your own body presents will go a long way in aiding you to become a better and more effective communicator.
Engaged practice is the very best way to develop any particular skill. I challenge you to take the time to focus, and really pay attention to your surroundings. Tune-in to the people around you and work to develop your non-verbal communication skills.