As we looked at in our Introduction To Body Language, Verbal communication only makes up 7% of how we truly converse with someone. Open body language helps to build rapport with others and it is also a key component in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (affiliate link), specifically “Habit 5 – Seek first to understand then to be understood” and “Habit 4 – Think Win/Win“.
Using the correct body language can show the person you’re communicating with that you understand what they’re saying, what point they are trying to get across and that you’re open to their ideas and communicating with them. Open body language helps you to build a rapport with the other person and you will be seen to be “on their side”.
Using this rapport you’re more likely to achieve Covey’s Win/Win situation or, at the very least, achieve a mutually agreeable compromise.
The more open you are, the better able you are to communicate with others, better able to get what they want to achieve out of them, and better able to get them to listen to your point of view. This is the ultimate goal of any type of discussion so, how do we achieve this open communication? Along with the basic tips from our “The Importance of Open Body Language” you can use the following techniques to help you with good body language that make communicating with others easier.
Start With A Great Handshake
There are plenty of videos around that Show you how to give a great handshake but the important points to note are:
- Keep It Firm – No one likes to feel as if they’re shaking hands with a limp squid
- Keep It Short – The shake should last 3-5 seconds, any longer and it’ll start to feel weird and you’ll look like the Banzai Mr Shake Hands Man
- Keep Eye Contact – This is important to set-up the fact that you’re an honest person, just be careful not to stare too much or you’ll look like a psycho!
- Avoid Sweaty Palms – Subtly wipe your hand when the other person isn’t looking, or prior to meeting spray your hand with antiperspirant. Sweaty palms is a big no-no when it comes to handshakes.
A smile breaks down barriers and, as we’ll see later can be contagious. Just make sure that your smile is genuine, not smiling with your eyes makes you look deceitful.
Mind Your Posture
Stand tall with your shoulders back. Slouching makes you seem like you have something to hide. It also shows that if you’re not interested in how you look, you’re not going to be interested in other people.
There are certain aspects of body language that are almost subconscious such as yawning or smiling; If one person does it, it’s pretty difficult not to copy them. Mirroring helps build an affinity with the person that you are conversing with and helps you build a mutual trust. Be careful you don’t make it too obvious though as it could be perceived as strange!
Maintain Personal Space
Being too close to someone can make them feel anxious, this will cause their anxiety levels to rise and they won’t focus on what you’re saying, only on how close you are. According to research, personal space starts from 18 inches to 4 feet for close friends and 4 to 12 feet for new acquaintances and larger social gatherings. Try to figure out the comfort zone of the person you’re dealing with and stick to an acceptable distance – too close and you’ll freak them out, too far away and you’ll seem distant and aloof.
Face The Person You’re Talking To
Stand straight on to them. Angling your body shows that your attention is else where and you’re preparing to make a quick getaway.
Don’t hold anything between you and the person you’re dealing with. Just as crossed arms are a barrier to communication, a simple item like a coffee cup held up in front of you can act as a barrier to trust too.
Touching your face makes it look like you have something to hide, twirling your hair can make you seem nervous, tapping or shaking your feet shows that you’re bored and want to hot-foot it (get it!) out of there. Any signals like these indicate you’re not fully paying attention.
Mind Your Attitude
You will subconsciously reflect what you’re thinking and feeling so try an maintain a positive attitude. If you modify the way that you think, you will start to act that way too – think happy, act happy!
Over To You
Are there any tips I’ve missed? What about your pet peeves when it comes to body language when you’re trying to talk to people? Mine is when they’re not making proper eye contact and standing at and angle – I know they’re not interested in me or what I’m saying… but then again, maybe I’m just boring!