You probably already knew this, at least on a subconscious level, but body language is incredibly important when it comes to communicating. How you stand, how you enter a room, and even how you sit sends a silent message about who you are and what you're all about. And that's why, if you know just how to harness it, you can totally use body language to your advantage to feel more confident, get your point across, and maybe even win somebody over.
"Body language ... accounts for 80 percent of our communication," dance movement therapist and clinical counselor Erica Hornthal tells Bustle. "This means people are making judgments and assumptions about us that we might not even be aware of, just because of the way we present ourselves through our bodies." In other words, standing with your arms crossed might not seem like a big deal, but to everyone else's brain, it's an entirely different story.
It's important to be aware of how you hold yourself, especially in situations where you're trying to appear confident and make a good first impression. In fact, there seems to be no end to all the ways changing your body language can come in handy. So do yourself a favor and read on for a few tricks you can use every day.
1. Try What's Known As A "Power Pose" To Increase Your Energy
People swear by this move, which involves standing up straight, putting your hands on your hips, and pushing your chest out like Wonder Woman. "It raises ... your mood, your intensity, and your physical energy," yoga instructor Nancy Gerstein tells Bustle. "It makes you feel more confident and less stressed," all thanks to the stance's mind/body connection. "[It] immediately changes your body chemistry, bringing up testosterone and lowering cortisol, the stress hormone." Pretty cool, right?
2. Take Up Plenty Of Space When You Sit Down
If you're in the habit of staying small and "out of the way," try taking up more space, especially when you sit down, body language expert Patti Wood, MA tells me. By confidently taking up space — to a reasonable degree, of course — you're sending the message that you're allowed to be right where you are. No questions asked.
3. Put Your Hand Out First For A Handshake
When meeting someone new, be that awesome, outgoing person who takes a step forward and extends their hand first for a handshake. As Wood says, "This makes you look confident and ensures you make significant eye contact." Which is another thing you should always keep in mind. (See # 8 below.)
4. Don't Put Your Hands In Your Pockets
Shy folks have a tendency to shove their hands in their pockets. But this can send the wrong message. "Hiding your hands, regardless of the reason, makes people wonder if you have something to hide," says psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport. So keep your hands comfortably at your sides, if possible.
5. Do Rest Your Hands On The Table
Keep your hands at your sides if you're standing. Or, if you're sitting down, keep those mitts of your on the table. This is, again, about appearing more open and trustworthy. "When a listener can’t see your hands, they wonder what you are hiding," Wood says. "To look honest and credible, show your hands."
6. Use Gestures When You're Feeling Nervous
Hand gestures can help get your point across by emphasizing certain words and creating a more compelling story. But they can also help mask nervousness, should you have any. "Talking with your hands not only aids in creativity and imagination, but it also allows movement through the body," Hornthal says. "In order to lessen the look of anxiety or nerves or discomfort, allow your arms to do the talking and let your hands dispel some of that nervous tension."
7. Project More Confidence With Your Posture
Poor posture can make you appear unconfident, even if that's totally not the case. So remember to stand with your head up and shoulders back. "Posture not only exudes confidence and says that you are present, but it reinforces your own connection to yourself," Hornthal says. "With your chin slightly lifted, your shoulders down, and your chest open you exude confidence and positive self-esteem to yourself and to the people you come in contact with."
8. Remember To Make Eye Contact
As I said above, eye contact is everything. "Making eye contact shows that you are invested in somebody else and that you see them for who they are," Hornthal says. "Likewise, it tells the other person that you matter and that you have value and that you want to connect with them."
9. Resist The Urge To Cross Your Arms
So many people stand with their arms crossed in front of them, usually because it's more comfortable. But, to our body language-evaluating brains, this stance looks super standoffish. "It can signal that you are closed off or not interested in what [someone has] to say," Hornthal says. "Exposing the chest by uncrossing the arms leads to a sense of vulnerability. Although this can be scary for some, it shows intimacy and interest in others."
10. Hold Your Ground
The next time you need to make a point or win an argument, remember to hold your ground. "Do not lean backward — lean in or upright," says body language specialist Patricia Stark. "Keep your head up straight, not tilted to the left or right. This will literally show you’ve 'got your head on straight' ... Maintain eye contact after you state your case or ask a question, until the other person responds — no matter how long it takes."
11. Let Your Bodies Line Up
When building rapport with someone, pay attention to the direction your body is pointing. As Stark says, "Let them know you care by making sure your toes, belly button, and eyes are lined up and pointing in their direction. By aligning these three things in the direction of another person, you are making it clear that your sole focus is on them and the conversation, and that they have your full undivided attention."
It all sounds so simple, and yet these little moves can make a big difference when projecting confidence, winning an argument, and making a great first impression. So, keep 'em in the back of your brain, and use them whenever possible.
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