Do you ever wonder why you didn’t get that job? Or, how about that loan at the bank? Do you want to have the hotty across the bar come up and talk to you, but struggle with how to make that happen? You may not realize that your body language could be playing a significant role in specific outcomes in your life. Your body language can convey a lot about you: your level of confidence, your level of interest in something or someone, and in turn it conveys what you want and deserve. Body language is an extremely powerful non-verbal form of communication, and has the ability to add on to and build up what you’re saying. At the same time, body language also has the power to detract from what you’re verbally saying. After reading this tip, you will know how to carry yourself to get what you want most out of a situation. Whether you are in a meeting, out with friends, or on a date with that special someone, through the use of eye contact and body positioning, you can feel assured that you are conveying the message you want.
Your head puts out a lot of signals to others. For starters, if you tilt your head up you’re showing interest or dominance. This is a slight tilt where you can still maintain eye contact. You may utilize this as you are talking to a love interest. If you tilt your head down, you’re showing submission, defenselessness, or guilt. You may want to tilt your head down as you are having a difficult conversation with someone to let them know you are not going to be defensive in the conversation, and you’re ready to talk. Or, if you’re admitting a wrong doing on your part.
Now add in eye contact. Your eyes hold a lot of power. Hold a gaze for too long, and you’ve intimidated a person. Hold a glance for too short and you could be perceived as fearful or shy. If held for the right amount of time, which is based on a gut feeling that comes from context, you can show interest or desire toward something. If you struggle to read your gut, try this rule of thumb: look for 3-seconds, look away, and then look again for 3-seconds. If they’re still looking at you the second time, you have their attention, and possibly their interest.
There is a difference in how you maintain eye contact, as well. You can have hard-eyes versus soft-eyes. With hard-eyes your brows might come down a bit, you may feel more tense, and your focus is on one specific item in front of you. Pick an object in the room. Focus solely on the object without paying attention to anything else around it. Did you feel your body tense up? Did any other part of your face change? Did your lips become tighter, or brows go down? Your eyes may have even squinted a bit. Soft-eyes on the other hand tend to focus more on the bigger picture. Pick the same object you used for hard-eyes. While looking at the object, now pay attention to what is around it. What is in your peripheral? Though you are paying attention to the main object you picked, you can also see everything else. Did your face and body relax? Your pupils may dilate. You may even notice a warm feeling coming over you. Hard-eyes can be used to tell a person you’re feeling tense or upset. You may use hard-eyes to let a person know they should approach with care. While soft-eyes are warm and inviting. Use soft-eyes to invite that cute person across the bar over to talk to you.
Studies show that your most trustworthy face is that of a slight smile, with slightly raised eyebrows. If your eyebrows are pushed down, you’re showing more dominance. If they are pushed up, your eyebrows may indicate submissiveness or surprise. With a smile, you’re saying “I’m nice, definitely not a threat, so you should come talk to me.” If you part your lips, just slightly, you can come across as flirtatious. However, if you close and flatten your lips, you may be repressing the desire to speak.
Hair is another important factor of your head. Men don’t typically get too much flexibility in this category. However, a hand through your hair could be flirtatious. For women, a simple hair toss over the shoulder, or touching your hair can also be deemed as flirtatious. A hair toss once in awhile, or a simple twirl for women, and for men a hand through your hair, every once in awhile (at least 10-minutes in between) is fun and flirty. On the other hand, if you’re constantly touching your hair, you may come off as nervous or not confident. That is, if you’re twirling your hair the entire conversation, or flipping your hair over your shoulder just to bring it back to the front and flip it again, you’re going to come across as nervous, and possibly younger or immature.
Arms are a powerful indication of how open you are to conversation at that time. For instance, if your arms start to raise your hands parallel to the floor, along with eye-contact, most people understand that you’re coming in for a hug. Hugs represent a warm embrace and openness to that person. How you hug is also telling. If you’re just saying hello, the hug is usually short and less firm. There may be some space between your body and the other person’s. If you’re trying to give a supportive hug, or a hug to a potential lover, your hug should be a bit longer and tighter with less space between the two of you. If you’re not as into the hug or the person, but you know it’s rude to not hug, you may give a side hug.
Think about your most confident self. Where are your arms? Are they close to your side or loose and relaxed? Most likely, your arms are loose and relaxed. Having relaxed arms while you’re talking to your boss or that special someone will portray your conviction. When you’re less confident or comfortable in a situation, your arms tend to protect you and therefore stay closer to your body. Having your arms tight may represent to someone to tread lightly as they come up to talk to you, giving you the space and comfort you need in that moment.
In addition to how close your arms are, their positioning matters, too. If your arms are crossed, your shoulders are hunched, and your head is down with your eyes looking at the floor you’re conveying a meek, less confident person. If your arms are crossed, your shoulders are back, and your head is high with your eyes looking at the person you are interacting with you’re conveying a confident, strong person (think of Mr. Clean taking on tough stains). Take this stance at work in order to come off as poised. If your arms are crossed, shoulders are normal, head is high with a scowl or judging facial expression you are going to be interpreted as closed off.
Let’s take your hands down to your side and talk about your Power Pose. Putting your hands on your hips can increase your own level of self-confidence. If you’re getting ready for that important meeting, or date, and feeling nervous, stand in front of your mirror with your hands on your hips, chest out, head high, legs shoulder width apart (think of the Brawny man) and tell yourself “I can do this.” Research has shown that standing in this position for two minutes can raise your confidence levels.
After you’ve done your power pose in the mirror for a few minutes, you’re feeling confident and ready to go for that interview, or to meet that special someone’s parent(s). How do you greet them? Your arms will come into play, as well as your eye contact. Your handshake should be firm where you shake twice in small motions, about an inch each up and down. Some people prefer to put their other hand on the back of the person’s hand they are shaking, this relates warmth. You can use both hands in settings you want to display extra warmth such as giving support to a friend. Sometimes a two handed handshake is gendered. If you choose not to hug the mother of your significant other, you may want to extend both hands for your handshake with her. Whereas the father will receive one hand. Keeping the handshake to just one hand is meant more for an interview or a first time meeting. Both types of handshakes also require eye contact. You will want to look down to find the person’s hand, and then look up to meet the person’s gaze. Once the handshake is over, you may break eye contact.
Depending on how your legs are, hands on the hips can come across as judgmental. If you’re leaning on one leg more than the other, and your face has a scowl with your hands on your hips you will be perceived as judging the situation. Possibly, you will be perceived as unhappy with the situation. Think about your mother’s stance when you were in trouble. On the other hand, this stance may serve you well at an art gallery, potentially opening up the conversation up for interpreting the art.
What happens if your hands are on your backside? You’re opening up your chest, which essentially makes you vulnerable. By putting your hands to your backside, maybe you’re hands are clasped to one another or you’re holding one arm with the other hand, you’re saying that you’re trustworthy and that you trust the other person. This is a stance you may take while having a friendly conversation with your neighbor.
Though you may think no one pays attention to legs because they’re not at eye level, legs are super important in conveying the message you’d like to. If you’re putting 50/50 weight on each leg, shoulder width apart you’re conveying confidence. As stated above, you may come off as judgmental or better than the other person if you lean to one side. If both legs are together, you are in a less confident stance and open to vulnerability, as you’re not as stable. Therefore, showing some level of anxiety. Lastly, if your legs are crossed you are working to protect yourself and will be portrayed as less certain.
When you are sitting, your legs can also send a big message. For both men and women, having your legs slightly apart from one another shows that you’re comfortable. Be mindful women, that if you have a skirt or dress on, you may give off a sexual connotation if your legs are slightly apart. If your legs are tightly together, maybe even feet apart pushing your knees into one another, shows anxiety.
Legs crossed send out important messages, as well. Your back posture is important to pay attention to while crossing your legs. For women, if your legs are crossed at the ankle and your back is straight (like how you should sit in an interview) you are coming across as confident and knowledgeable. Men typically would keep both feet on the ground with a straight back to attain the same look of confidence and knowledge. Crossing your legs at the knees may appear as more anxious, especially if your back is straight to leaning forward. When crossing your legs at the knees, you should have a slight lean back to your posture in order to come across as put together and confident. Crossing your legs with your foot resting on your knee is a sign of comfort for both men and women. Crossing your foot under the knee may come across as anxious or hiding something.
Body positioning can vary depending on the country you find yourself in. For example, Americans like a little more space between one another than Italians do. Depending on which country and culture, you may come off as pushy or standoffish. If you’re traveling for business or for pleasure, be sure to read up on the country’s social norms. A good indicator for distance from the other person is if they move backwards or forward, depending on their level of comfort. Try to stay in the space that they’ve created if you’re trying to convey that you’re into the conversation.
In an interview, you want to be sure your body is facing toward the person you are speaking with. In a group setting, try to position yourself in a chair where you have easy eye contact with everyone. Do not move your entire body as you scan the room answering a question. The movement will distract from the information you are saying. Instead, move your head to face the person you are directly talking to, but also use eye contact to keep the others engaged.
Flirting can break some of the social norms, especially for a country that tends to like a lot of space between individuals. Flirting tends to happen with close bodies; sometimes your shoulders might rub together if you’re standing side-by-side. A person may reach their hand out and “love tap” you if you said something funny or interesting. This is not to be confused with if a person puts their hand on your shoulder to indicate that they are consoling you. If you are sitting next to each other, to indicate interest you should position your body to face the other person more, or lean in as the other person is talking. Be mindful that if you do not want to come off as flirtatious, you should keep more of a distance and stay parallel with their body.
Now that you have a better awareness for your body, try to get your needs met by just using your body language and not your verbal words. See if you can get that cute person to come talk to you by using your eye contact and your open chest. Does your confidence increase if you stand every morning with your hands on your hips for a few minutes? Start practicing your body positioning with friends to see if they respond differently to you. Understanding your body and how others view you is important to know going into that big meeting or hot date! Lastly, you do not want to be robotic in your movement because you’re thinking about everything you read in this article. Practice in settings that do not matter so that when it’s your turn to shine you will be smooth with your motions. Practicing will increase your confidence and allow you to be cool, calm and relaxed when it matters most.
To identify what your body language is saying we would encourage you to talk to a mindfulness therapists at The Center for Growth. 215 922 5683 x 100