If you've ever wondered if it's possible to win people over, there are certain tricks that can make a great first impression a lot easier. By being aware of your body language, and using a few simple body language techniques perfected by the experts, you can certainly connect with people in a more meaningful way, and thus stick out in their minds.
It may seem like magic, but it all boils down to how our brains work. "Humans 'read' body language with the limbic part of the brain. This connects to emotions and the 'fight or flight' response in the brain," body language expert Alison Henderson, founder and CEO of Moving Image Consulting, tells Bustle. "When we give likable body language, others perceive us as less threatening. It is as old as cavemen reading whether someone (or an animal) was friend or foe! This instinct is ages old and very powerful."
With just a few little tricks, like leaning forward slightly while you listen, or matching someone else's body language, you can make them feel more comfortable. And that's really what making a great first impression is about. Here are a few great tips from body language experts, and why you should give 'em a try.
Maintain That Eye Contact
While you don't want to stare someone down with unblinking eyes, it can help to maintain a comfortable level of eye contact. "It’s vital to look someone directly in the eyes when you’re interacting with them," Dudley says. "By doing so, you’re showing that you’re engaged in the conversation, you’re interested in what they’re saying, you’re confident about what you’re saying, and you’re an open, friendly person."
To do it correctly, look into their eyes, and then remember to look away. "It’s ... important to break eye contact, just a tiny bit, as you’re talking to someone, or you’ll look intimidating and aggressive," says Dudley. "So ideal, assertive eye contact involves looking directly at the person (mostly) and breaking eye contact (just a little)." This way you appear engaged in the conversation.
Lean Forward Ever So Slightly
The next time you'd like to win someone over, it might help to lean toward them slightly — versus leaning away or kicking back in a chair — in order to show that you're truly present. "This signals to the other person that you’re interested, engaged, and actively listening to them," Dudley says. And as a result, you're likely to stick out in their mind.
Go For An "Open" Facial Expression
An "open" facial expression simply means appearing interested. "It means that you deliberately look as if you’re giving your undivided attention to the person you’re talking to, that you’re taking in what they’re saying, and that you are not making any dismissive judgments as you’re listening — even if you plan to disagree after they’re finished," Dudley says.
To achieve this look, practice in the mirror. "Why do I recommend this? Because some people unconsciously frown or look worried as they’re talking to someone, which can shut down communication," she says. "By cultivating an open facial expression, people are much more relaxed and receptive to you — and you become more likable."
Push Your Shoulders Back
If you have a tendency to hunch, as so many of us do, try pushing your shoulders back. "Studies show that people with good posture are seen as more successful, harder working, and more reliable — all desirable traits if you want to be likable," says Dudley. "And putting your shoulders back signals that you’re comfortable with yourself, able to 'own your own space,' confident, and unafraid."
Let Your Arms Relax
Crossing your arms can send the signal that you're closed off or defensive. That's why, if you're in the mood to appear more open and approachable, you might want to let your arms dangle at your sides. As Dudley says, "If your arms are relaxed at your sides, rather than folded over your chest, you look open and non-judgmental, ready to receive the other person wholeheartedly."
Tilt Your Head To The Side
If you want to connect with someone, slightly tilt your head to the side as you listen. "This is often cited as a sign of interest," Henderson says. But put your body into it, too. "Add moving the chest to the side and make a longer diagonal line with the body from the head through the ribcage," Henderson adds. "This is perceived as even more in-tune and interested. If the head tilts with nothing else, it can be read as boredom or questioning."
Shake Hands With Flair
A proper handshake can come in handy (ha) in so many ways, including making a great first impression. Just be sure to do it correctly. "Putting the hand out and shaking up and down with no connection to the core is cold and uninviting," Henderson says. "Add a slight lean in with the torso to your handshake and you are instantly more likable." It's all about putting your whole body into it, and looking more engaged.
Be A Bit Vulnerable
"Closed body language projects the desire to shield and separate; it neither inspires trust nor suggests receptivity to building it," body language expert Maryann Karinch tells Bustle. "The body language of disgust, contempt, or other negative mental states and emotions will contain closed movements." So pay attention to your "closed" gestures, like clenching your fists, as they may not deliver the message you're trying to send.
And, while you're at it, try not to "shield" yourself, as that can seem closed off, too. For example, resist the urge to clutch your coat in front of you, or to stand slightly behind a chair when chatting with someone. These are things people do when they're nervous, and others might pick up on it and feel nervous, too.
Nod Your Head
Another easy way to show you're listening and engaged is by throwing in the occasional head nod. "A small nod of agreement/acknowledgment when you are in conversation goes a long way," relationship coach Ellen Bolin, who uses body language techniques with her clients, tells Bustle. "It makes the other person feel comfortable that you understand what they are saying and makes them feel that you are on the same page."
You certainly don't have to grin all day long, if you don't want to. But flashing a quick and kind smile, or going out of your way to be friendly can put people at ease. "It gives off positive energy and people like to be around that," Bolin says. And that can make someone remember you instantly.
Keep in mind, though, that these tricks won't work on everyone. And that's OK. Not everyone will respond the way you may want them to, but with these body language techniques experts say you're more likely to make a good impression. So the next time you're out networking, give 'em a try. You might notice a big difference in how others interact with you.