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7 Things You Need to Know about Body Language

What people say could often be very different from what they're thinking or feeling. Fortunately, there's a proven way to accurately see people's thoughts, emotions or mood - and that's by reading their body language.

Office Health By Ariba Khaliq / Feb 18, 2015

Arms Akimbo v/s Arms behind the Back

While the first one establishes dominance, the other one says “don’t draw near.” If you would ever get a chance to attend a media training workshop, you would be shocked to learn how much you can say with your body language- and how little you know about what your body says. Being able to monitor your own body language—and read the body language of others—offers you great advantages as a communicator. Here are seven things you need to know about body language.

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You might be Overestimating Your Energy Levels

Imagine you have been mock-interviewed during a media training session and are finally asked to rate on a 10-scale how much energy you thought you had during the interview. “Oh, around a seven or eight,” you’ll guess. Most people do. But then, if other people in the room are asked to rate your energy, they will most probably give you a four or a five. Turns out, we’re lousy judges of how energetic we appear to others, and most people benefit from boosting their energy level 10 to 15 percent.

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Eye Contact isn’t as Obvious as You Think

When we speak, we maintain eye contact just 40 to 60 percent of the time. That’s because we’re busy trying to access information from our brains—depending on the type of information we’re trying to retrieve, we look to up to the left, up to the right, or down. But in the context of a media interview or speech, that lack of eye contact can signal nervousness or evasiveness. You can help maintain better eye contact if you pause briefly before answering a question, which will allow you to access the information you need before you begin speaking.

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Gestures Better Your Words

When a spokesperson is encouraged to incorporate gestures into their deliveries, it is constantly found that their words get better. The physical act of gesturing helps form clearer thoughts and speak in tighter sentences with more declarative language. So, the next time you give a speech or interview (or speak with your boss or a client), gesture as naturally as you typically would in everyday life. Your words will come to you more easily. Also and the words you use will be stronger.

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Defensiveness Makes You Remember Less

A fascinating finding from one of their studies has been reported by Allan and Barbara Pease, in their book “The Definitive Book of Body Language.” When a group of volunteers attended a lecture and sat with unfolded arms and legs, they remembered 38 percent more than a group that attended the same lecture and sat with folded arms and legs.  If you see your audience exhibiting defensive body language, change tactics—and don’t try to persuade them to your point-of-view until their body language opens up.

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Look at Your Feet

Your feet subconsciously tell you where you want to go. Next time you’re in the middle of a conversation you wish you could exit, look at your feet. You might be surprised to find that they’re not both pointing directly at the person with whom you’re speaking. The same is true for other people. So, if you’re not sure whether the person you’re speaking with is truly interested in your conversation, just look at his feet.

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Mirror Behaviour is Real

If you smile, they smile. It is because we subconsciously imitate the things we see. When you look at someone and smile, they tend to smile back. When you look at someone and nod, they tend to nod. Some neuroscientists say that type of mirroring behaviour is due to “mirror neurons.” That’s important information, because audiences that are smiling and nodding are more receptive to your ideas. So, smile and nod at appropriate moments, and you’ll be that much closer to accomplishing your goals.

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You can Read Body Language better than Experts

The truly good news is, for people you know, you are already more expert than the experts at reading this intent.  Think about it.  You know already, unless you’re completely clueless, when your spouse is ticked off, or your child is bored, or your boss wants something done, now!  With people we know, we’ve already amassed many hours of study, and we know the signs. Of course, even the people that we know best can deceive us, but not usually for long and not on the important stuff.

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