Not so long time ago, I decided to improve my social skills. And while those involve a lot of public speaking, they also involve being able to better deliver our ideas in non-verbal ways. In other words, speaking and understanding body language is crucial.
I have always known that body language plays quite a significant role in communication, but because I have never really had any reason to analyse it any deeper, I knew nothing of the actual techniques and methods. Long story short, I bought a small book from Amazon on the subject of understanding body language that did a pretty good job in teaching some of the basics. As a result, in this post I want to share some of the key points that I picked up from the book.
To begin with, understanding body language can be divided into two main categories. The first category includes the ability to use body language to help create a desired outcome. The second category includes the ability to read signs coming off of other people to also get an advantage over some situation. This is the reason why the internet is packed with topics, such as “how to use body language in dating.” And while that is an interesting subject, I agree, I think that understanding body language has a wider spectrum of use.
Understanding body language and signs coming off of others
Let’s say that you have come to a job interview. You know your stuff, and you think you can make a good impression. But so can a hundred other people! You need to be able to stand out from the crowd. You need to be able to make the interviewer be interested in you and fascinated by you! With the ability to read and understand body language, you have an advantage that others don’t. If you see the interviewer not very interested in what you are saying or doing, you can quickly change your attitude, and therefore have a higher chance of being likeable. Remember, body language is not something that is instantly obvious in other people, but rather something very subtle that you have to carefully look for.
In the case of a job interview (you can apply anything that you want here), if you see the interviewer doing one of the following, that means you are on the right track:
- The person is looking you in the eyes.
- They will slightly tilt their head forward while listening to you.
- Them nodding their head as you speak shows their interest in you.
- They will turn their feet pointing to your direction.
- They will smile (it should be a genuine smile though, not one of those awkward moment smiles).
In addition to the given signs, these are some of the signs that indicate that the person is interested in your ideas:
- If there is a table in front of the person, they will lean forward and place their hands on it.
- They will open up their palms.
- They will stroke their chin while thinking.
- Their whole body will be tilted forward.
- Legs will be spread wide apart.
- They will unbutton their jacket if they are wearing one. This is a sign of friendliness and acceptance (of ideas).
- Placing their hand on the chest represents honestly and openness as well. Though women can place a hand on their chest if they are surprised.
Let’s now pretend that you have grabbed your interviewer’s, business partner’s, or anyone else’s for that matter, attention. They are considering your ideas, proposals, etc. In other words, they are interested and are contemplating. Some of the things that they might be doing are:
- Stroking the chin – evaluating pros and cons.
- Removing eyeglasses to either clean them, or put one of the frames into their mouth – deeper analysis, and maybe the need for you to give more details.
- Closing eyes and squeezing the nose’s bridge section in the middle – deeper analysis, having troubles to decide.
- Putting their chin into their palm, so that the index finger goes along the cheek. Other fingers are under the mouth – the person may be criticizing your ideas.
- Walking around with hands behind their back – having a hard time to decide, looking for other ways to solve the problem.
Some of the signs that indicate a negative outcome:
- They will kick the floor, air or the dust around.
- They will be scratching the top or back of the head.
As you can see, understanding body language can make a difference. If you see these signs, you can quickly switch around the situation by taking a new approach.
Changing your own body language to look more confident
Body language is something that has been forming in us for thousands and thousands of years. Its benefits are countless. I can’t in any way mantion all of them here, but I will still share some of the things that you can do to avoid looking nervous or unsure in a difficult situation.
Any employer or business partner is looking for confidence. Therefore, if you are nervous, it is important to hide the signs that you may be unconsciously making visible. The other person may be unconciosly reading them!
- Don’t lock your ankles together.
- Try to look the other person into the eyes.
- Have a strong handshake, and don’t have your palms facing upwards.
- Don’t cross your legs while you stand.
- Don’t cross your arms and hold on to your biceps.
- Avoid placing the hands behind your back, holding with one hand the wrist of the other.
- Avoid clearing your throat multiple times, especially in a loud way.
- Definitely don’t begin whistling, even quietly. (Probably not that common, but nevertheless.)
- Be sure to talk in a slow and steady way, where all your words sound loud enough and clear.
- Don’t press your hands together in a “praying” fashion.
- Dont clench your fists.
Also, sometimes you may feel that you are on shaky ground, and that you are unsure of the correct answer. While you want to “pull it off” anyway, you definitely don’t want to look like you don’t know the right answer, or even worse – look like you are lying. In order to avoid that, don’t do the following:
- Don’t throw quick glances to the sides.
- Don’t let yourself dry out from nervousness and be completely transparent; pause and drink some water. You can also buy yourself some time this way.
- Talk slowly.
- Don’t avoid eye contact.
- Try not to blink all the time. From my experience, this one is especially obvious.
- Don’t rub your neck.
- Don’t touch different parts of your face.
- Don’t tap your feet or your hands.
- Don’t have a closed posture. Open up.
- Don’t look down.
- Don’t be changing your pose all the time, as if you are uncomfortable, or need to go to the bathroom.
A lot to think about, right?
Being able to master these skills takes time. However, I am positive that when you do so, you can look genuine even in the most bizarre and uncomfortable situations. Also, being able to understand whether others are interested in you, dislike you, or want more input from you, may be crucial to getting a new job offer, or simply having a good conversation.
In any case, these were some of the things that I took from this Body Language book. There were more topics discussed, but this is nevertheless what I wanted to share here with you. Understanding body language is actually a pretty large field of study that definitely requires a lot of time to study and master.
I hope this was somewhat informative. If you liked it, I have another post that you will find interesting: How to Write the Perfect CV. Looking good at a job interview is very important, but often we struggle to get those interviews. In that post I describe some of the CV-writing tips that have helped me to get more job interviews and finally get the job that I really wanted.
Thank you for reading this post, and feel free to share your body language tips with me. I am curious. 🙂