Let me share a little secret with you.
Your body language speaks louder than the words you speak.
Don’t believe me?
What if you’re having a conversation with an old friend and you ask him how he’s doing. He says, “I’m fine” while shaking his head and looking down.
Do you believe him? Of course not, because body language is speaking louder than his words. We’ve all been in situations like this.
Another way to look at it is that it’s harder to lie with our body than with words. So whether we realise it or not, we tend to trust the body language we see more than the spoken words. . We take the information we gain from posture, gesture, and looks more seriously than that we get from the words others speak.
Most of the times it works out well for us, but when it comes to meeting other people and making sure we seem likable and approachable, it can backfire. This is particularly true when we’re feeling a little shy and vulnerable.
It is simply our human nature and instinct that tries to protect us from potential pain or harm. This means we use closed body language – such as crossing our legs or arms and hunching our shoulders.
The problem is however that this closed body language affects how other people see us, and it does not help win us friends and influence people.
So how can we learn to “overwrite” our automatic habits of using negative and closed body language?
Become aware of other’s body language
Its great to start by simply becoming aware of your own body language in general. Start to notice the body language being used by those around you – observe their posture and gestures and how they help or hinder communication. I love sitting in a shopping mall, a park or an airport when I have time to spare and “people-watching,” and paying particular attention to body language. They say a picture paints a thousand words – and it does. Try it sometime – you’ll learn a lot!
Become aware of your own body language
Next, practise becoming aware of your own body language. Do you cross you arms frequently, or play with your hair or look down at the floor or avoid eye contact? Start to recognise your own personal body language habits. You could even ask a friend for feedback to what he or she notices you doing a lot. And see it as constructive feedback, and not criticism.
Adjust your body language
Then make an effort to adjust your body language to be more open and inviting. Start by uncrossing your arms. This may feel uncomfortable and awkward at first, you may even feel like you don’t know what to do with them. But just continue to work on modifying this one behaviour and before long it will feel natural to be sitting or standing with them uncrossed. Be aware also of how it makes you feel, you will notice you feel more open and comfortable with communication.
Like so many other behavioral or habitual things, it takes time and conscious effort to change your body language, but it is something you can do with enough practice and persistence.