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Ten Ways to Improve your Body Language

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Posted 18 November 2014 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with your Nonverbal Communication skills training.

10 Ways To Improve Your Body Language

You communicate primarily by means of four channels. Your four channels of communication are:

  1. Spoken language.
  2. Written language.
  3. Voice tones.
  4. Body language.

Body language is an important component of your total communication. The body language component of your communication carries a lot of information.

Think about it for a moment; in a glance, someone could instantly tell whether you were angry, or happy: if you were tired or energised: if you were bored or interested: if you were sick or well, just by noticing HOW YOU LOOK.

How you look at any given moment is a major component of your communication.

If you want to improve your communication, then strive to improve your understanding of body language.

How can you improve your understanding of body language?

You can improve your understanding of body language by recognising that your body language is not one thing, but is composed of many subset elements.

The subset elements of body language are as follows.

  1. Body posture.
  2. Dress code.
  3. The amount and the way that you touch other people.
  4. Facial expression.
  5. Eye contact.
  6. Hand and arm gestures.
  7. Orientation.
  8. Proximity.
  9. Scent.
  10. Accessories.

Let us say a word about each one, in turn.

1. Your body posture

Your body posture means, in effect, how you use your spine. Do you stand and sit up straight, or do you tend to slouch? Generally, don't slouch. Instead, try to sit or stand up straight. It is good for the spine to keep its natural shape, and it looks better.

Don't slouch. It is bad for the back and makes you look lazy.

2. Your dress code

How you dress is important. But how you dress is contextual. It is impossible to give advice on exactly how you would dress because the context changes. If the context is "on the farm" then you should dress for being on the farm. If the context is "in a business meeting", then you should dress for a business meeting. But the point is, if you are going to a business meeting at the bank, then don't go in your farmers wellies.

Dress in such a manner that is likely to create a positive emotional response in the minds of the other people, in that context.

My way of expressing that idea is to dress so that you are "functionally tidy".

3. Touch

The amount and the way that you touch other people. This includes your handshake. Give firm, brief and dry handshakes. Don't give long duration, wet and limp handshakes.

4. Facial expression

Every face tells a story.

In general, the best thing to do is to try to smile; especially when you are meeting someone.

Smile on meeting and smile on departing.

Smile; and the world smiles with you.

Don't spend your whole day frowning. It makes you look as if everything is going wrong and therefore that you are ineffective and lacking in confidence.

Look carefully at people like Richard Branson and you will find he smiles a lot.

5. Eye contact

The eyes are the windows to the soul.

My advice for eye contact is this:

Give other people the same amount of eye contact that they are giving to you.

If the other person is looking into your eyes, then hold his eye contact.

If the other person tends to avoid eye contact with you, then don't stare at him, her.

6. Hand and arm gestures

In relation to hand and arm gestures, here is my advice:

NEVER point at people.

Don't point your finger. Don't point your pen.

Pointing is the most common error in hand gestures.

Keep your hands down, and under the eye line.

Use an open hand, palms down, and open fingers hand gesture with which to gesticulate.

7. Orientation

The orientation is the angle at which you stand or sit relative to the other person. Here is the advice: Don't stand or sit square on to the other person.

Position yourself so that you are slightly at an angle.

Square on orientation is aggressive or sexually suggestive, depending on the context.

In work, keep the angle.

8. Proximity

Proximity refers to how close or how far away you are.

The advice here is to NOT invade the others space. (Unless the context is a in a lift or on the tube, etc.).

Don't get too close.

Generally keep at least one arm's length away from others.

If you come in too close you will come across as being creepy. Or aggressive. Or intimidating. Or sexually suggestive.

When at work, literally, keep your distance.

9. Scent

Scent refers to how you smell. The advice is either don't smell at all, or smell nicely.

Make sure you don't smell badly.

B.O. is a NO-NO.

Cigarette smell is not much better.

Too much perfume is also, not good.

Pay attention to scent, because it could cost you, if you get it wrong.

10. Accessories

An accessory refers to your stuff: the phone you have, the car you drive, the quality of the laptop you have: Your stuff.

If your stuff is of good quality and in good order, that says something about you.

If your stuff is broken and dirty, that says something else.

Try to have your stuff as good as you can make it.

Subliminal messages

Most body language messages are subliminal; meaning that most body language messages operate at a level below conscious awareness.

That is why you don't think much about your body language. And it is also why you should.

Don't let your subliminal messages be negative.

Make your subliminal body language messages positive.

Strive to have:

  • A good, straight body posture.
  • A functional and tidy dress code.
  • A firm brief and dry handshake.
  • Happy facial expression.
  • Sufficient and direct eye contact.
  • Expressive hand and arm gestures. (No pointing).
  • A 45 degree orientation.
  • Not too close proximity.
  • A nice scent.
  • Tidy and clean accessories that are in good order.

If you did all that, then you would "come-across" really well.

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