Improving Body Language



What is Body Language?

Body language or nonverbal communication is body movement, facial gestures, and vocal tones that further communicate through expression.  This can range from subtle movements of the eyebrows to the obvious changes in facial expressions or body stances.

There are basically 3 elements in face to face communication:  our words, our tone of voice, and our body language.  Nonverbal communication expresses, and sometimes betrays our feelings and attitudes.  If words and body language are incongruent (sending different messages) then people tend to believe the body language over the words we are speaking.

What’s happening here?  This sentence consists of only 3 words; nevertheless, you are able to express totally different meanings just by changing the tone, pitch and what part of the sentence you have stressed on.  So far you have only expressed it verbally, though you have managed to produce different meanings.  Imagine how many more meanings you can get if you were able to include hand gestures and other nonverbal signals.

The idea that we communicate not just through words but our entire body is called body language.  Body language consists of nonverbal communications including gestures, body posture, facial expressions, eye movements, touch, voice and physical space.

Advantages of Knowing Body Language

  • Allows people to develop a deeper understanding of others, which in turn allows them to strengthen their relationships.
  • Allows managers to better understand their staff and their needs even if employees are reluctant in sharing their views verbally.
  • Team members can read each other’s body language to understand what everyone is going through, who is under pressure and who needs support.
  • Body language can significantly help in negotiations as you can understand the other party’s thoughts on your position without relying only on what they say.
  • Allows you to avoid being deceived by experienced sales people who want to manipulate you into buying their products.
  • Knowledge of body language can help you to persuade others better.
  • Body language increases your confidence and self esteem as you become more aware of how others feel.
  • It can improve your presentation and public speaking skills as you understand the power of nonverbal signals and appear confident, convincing and entertaining.
  • By showing a different signal than the one you should be showing based on your current feelings, you could hide your emotions.
  • Knowing how to deceive helps you to know when you have been deceived by others
  • Body language increases your self awareness which can ultimately help you improve your emotional intelligence.
  • Body language helps you to empathise with others. Empathy is about understanding how others feel.

How Body Language is Used

There are 3 primary ways we use nonverbal messages to support or replace verbal messages when we communicate:

  • Reinforcing – with this technique you reinforce your verbal message with a non verbal one. An example is:  You say “No”, and show the palms of your hands at the same time.
  • Contradicting – you can also contradict what you say with your body language. You might do this intentionally or unconsciously.  An example is:  You say, “Okay, I’ll go get the coffee”, while rolling your eyes just after you say it, indicating that you are not really happy about doing this task even though verbally you’ve agreed to do it.
  • Complementing – with this technique your gestures and body language add more information to what you are saying. Inability to complement a verbal message with nonverbal signals can lead to misunderstanding.  An example is you add a smiley to a text message to simulate body language in the digital world, and ensure that the receiving person understands that you were joking.

Types of Body Language

How we interpret body language depends on our context:  the culture we are living in and our cultural background, the relationship we have to the person, and the circumstances, for example:  the physical and social environment where the communication takes place.

This is what is meant by body language and some of the ways it expresses attitudes and feelings:

  • Eye Contact – strong eye contact may indicate interest, concern, warmth, and credibility, or anger and suspicion. Faltering eye contact may indicate respect, fear, or disinterest.
  • Facial Expression – smiling may indicate happiness, friendliness, affiliation, or deference. Wincing may indicate fear or distaste.  Frowning may indicate seriousness, disapproval, or fear.
  • Gesture – waving hands may indicate trying to get someone’s attention or expressing shock. Pointing at someone may show disrespect or emphasis.  Gesturing with the fist or fingers may indicate anger.
  • Posture and Body Orientation – standing or sitting erect and leaning slightly forward may indicate interest. This posture may also make the person look more approachable.  Slouching, hands in pockets, and looking at the floor may show lack of confidence, hesitancy, or self consciousness, or it may be a deliberate pose to convey apathy.
  • Proximity – cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interactions (ie, how close together people typically stand or sit). Status, age, gender also affect norms for appropriate proximity.  Both cultural norms and personal preference influence how much touching and physical affection people like.
  • Paralanguage – this is the coal tone, pitch, rhythm, timbre, loudness, and inflection of your voice. A high loud voice might indicate the person is upset, surprised, or happy.  A low soft voice might indicate calm or discretion.

TIP – Job Interviews

Leaning back in the chair in a job interview can be more comfortable and even relaxing, but it encourages slouching.   In your next job interview, try sitting erect and leaning slightly forward.  This will show your interest and enthusiasm.

Improving Body Language Workbook

Continue with Improving Body Language by purchasing the full workbook on this topic. Learn how to interpret body language, body language myths, how to influence your emotional state, and reading body language. The workbook is packed with lots more tips, and activities to help you in your job interviews, and your everyday work and life. Sharpen your understanding of body language further by engaging your own private Coach.  Contact us!  In its original state the workbook can be used by facilitators for short workshop presentations.

Price:  $24.95           Add to Cart