What Is Body Language?
By Elena Solomon
Those days everybody talks about body language - performance experts, life coaches, gossip columnists and dating gurus.
But do you know what body language is?
The dictionary gives this definition to 'body language': "The gestures, postures, and facial expressions by which a person manifests various physical, mental, or emotional states and communicates nonverbally with others."
I have been interested in body language for years, and after reading a few dozens of books, all you need to know can be summarized in 4 simple points:
1. Body Language Is A Form Of Communication
Whether you realize it or not, your body sends unmistakable signals to people around you. You DO communicate VOLUMES of information about yourself with your posture, face expression and position of your arms and legs. You do it ALL THE TIME.
In other words, before you even open your mouth, the people around you have already made a certain opinion about you - and as you know, first impressions last.
Body language accounts for 55% of your communication with the people you actually talk to (and nearly 100% of your communication with the people you don't know yet). The other 45% of your interactive communication is the VOICE TONE and ACTUAL WORDS. The words themselves account for only 7% of your communication.
All in all, your body language and the tone of your voice make up a whopping 93% of your communication with other people!
This means that HOW you say it is 13 times MORE important than WHAT you say.
Most people are spending all their time thinking of WHAT to say. While they could have learned only once HOW to say it - and say nearly anything with grandiose success.
What to know how?
2. There Is OPEN Body Language and CLOSED Body Language
The definitions are transparent: 'open' body language makes you look like an open, accepting and friendly person, and 'closed' body language makes you look reserved, distant and unwelcoming.
When you want people to be attracted to you, use open body language. When you want people to go away, use closed body language.
It's THAT simple.
3. OPEN Body Language Means NO Crossing, Covering or Hiding
Open body language is easy to master: look them in the eyes, don't cross your arms or legs, don't cover your body, and don't hide your palms and eyes.
This is not too complicated, is it?
Let me break it down into pieces for you:
- LOOK THEM IN THE EYES: maintain eye contact at all times during your conversation.
Looking people in the eyes is the most important part of the open body language. It has been scientifically proven that long gazes evoke the release of the same hormones that are produced when we are in love - they will feel attracted to you and won't even know why.
- KEEP YOUR PALMS OPEN: Keep your hands on the sides of your body; don't hide your hands in your pockets and don't sit on them.
Don't fold your arms or clench your fists. Don't cover your body with your arms. Don't grab a drink or handbag with both hands. Don't touch your face, ears or neck - this shows insecurity and anxiety.
If you need to hold something in your hands, hold it with ONE hand only and keep it to the side, so your arm doesn't cover your body. If the conversation is going to be longer than a couple of replicas, put down anything you hold. Get a shoulder bag to keep your hands free at all times.
- KEEP YOUR LEGS UNCROSSED: Don't cross your legs on any level. Keep them apart.
- TURN YOUR BODY TOWARDS THEM: Turn your whole body to face them. Point your feet towards them; turn your torso face-to-face, so the angle between you and them is minimal.
- STAND TALL: You appear more confident and assured when you do.
- REMOVE BARRIERS BETWEEN YOU AND THEM: Don't put chairs, or glasses, or anything else between you and the person you are talking to. Keep it open.
- SMILE EASILY: There is a world of difference between smiling easily and smiling all the time.
Smiling all the time means you are feeling tense and trying to cover it up. Smiling easily means you feel comfortable and can open up into smile any time you want.
If you tend to smile all the time when meeting strangers, try to deliberately DON'T smile. Look them in the eyes, and keep a friendly, tall, and open posture - but DON'T SMILE. When you master that, start smiling after a minute or two in your conversation.
Start practicing open body language with shop assistants and bank tellers: they are PAID to be nice to you. Notice what a difference it has on your communication.
4. CLOSED Body Language Means Crossing, Covering or Hiding
Sometimes you don't want to attract certain people; this is what you need to do in such cases:
- Don't look them in the eyes;
- Fold your arms or hide your hands in the pockets;
- Turn your body away from them;
- Cross your legs and point your feet away from them;
- Put barriers between you and them;
- Frown, or smile all the time a strained smile.
This will make them feel uncomfortable and they will try to avoid you.
You see, body language is not complicated at all.
In any social situation, you can see how the people around you feel. Most of them will display 'closed' body language - and you know what does it mean, they feel uncomfortable and apprehensive.
Which means that if you display the 'open' body language, you will be irresistibly attractive. They won't know why but feel drawn to you. People usually describe it as, "You have something special about you", or "a presence".
If you start consciously 'open' yourself to other people, you will notice the change in your communication almost immediately. Open body language makes you appear more approachable and trustworthy. It will also make you feel more comfortable and relaxed in any situation.
Remember, your body language tells MORE about you than your words.
Use it to your advantage!
Copyright (C) 2006 Elena Solomon, author of 12 Simple Rules.