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Body Language Basics: The Importance of Open Body Language

Body Language Basics: The Importance of Open Body Language
This post is part of the “Body Language Basics Series” where I take a look at basic body language techniques, how to be open with people, how to spot a liar and more. You can view the introduction and see links to all posts in this series here.

We discussed in the Introduction To Body Language the fact that our body language can form up to 55% of our first impressions of someone so being as welcoming as possible is key to getting off on the right foot – along with a great greeting of course!

In order to make a good first impression you need to be warm and welcoming to the individual you’re communicating with. This isn’t just about smiling or hugging, it’s more subtle than that – plus a smile or especially a hug may not be appropriate in all situations.

Along with a smile, the following traits show open and welcoming body language:

Shoulders Back, Chin Up

This is a positive pose and whilst being assertive it shows confidence rather than dominance which is important when meeting someone for the first time.

Arms Open

I’m not saying you need to be wildly gesticulating but arms that are crossed in front of you closes you off from the person you are trying to connect with, putting up a subconscious barrier and reducing the power of communication between you.

Palms Up

Showing your palms is a sign a sign of “submissiveness”. This shows that you are being non-threatening and are open to communication.

Legs Open

If you’re seated (as if you’re standing this could look really odd!) your legs should be slightly apart and your feet should be planted firmly on the floor. Leg crossing is another subconscious barrier you’re placing between yourself and the other person.

Head Tilt/Turn

You head should be slightly angled towards the other person – be careful not to look like a puppet who has had a string cut though, make sure that the angles are natural and more importantly comfortable

Body Lean

Again, as with the head tilt, this is a subtle move – you’re not trying to look like a drunk leaning tower of Pisa! Be careful you don’t lean so much that you invade the other person’s personal space though as all of your hard work will be undone. Everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to body space so watch for signs when you get too close.

Things To Avoid

Just as there are things you should do, there are most definitely things you shouldn’t do when it comes to being warm and welcoming with your body language:

Touching Your Face

This can see to others that you’re hiding something. If you cover your mouth this can seem like you’re trying to stifle a yawn and aren’t interested in the other person. Touching your hair can indicate that you’re self-absorbed.

Arm/Leg Crossing

The is the opposite of an open posture. It’s putting up a defined barrier between you and the person you’re communicating with.

Repetitive Movements

One word on this: ANNOYING! Whether this be tapping your foot, finger or fiddling with the coins in your pocket. It’s showing that you’re not really paying attention to the conversation and would rather be somewhere else.

Hands On Hips

Only parents use this pose when they want to tell you off. You’re trying to be dominant but you’re just coming across as being arrogant.

Over Extending

If you place your hands behind your head showing your arm pits and/or stretch out your legs to their full length you’re trying to assert your dominance over the situation. This isn’t a good technique for two-way conversation, plus you run the risk of showing off your sweaty arm pits!

Pointing

Unless you’re pointing at a white board, there is no excuse for jabbing your finger in someone’s direction. Calling them by name and maintaining eye contact is enough of an indicator you are talking to them.

Resting Bitch Face

Apparently Resting Bitch Face is now a thing (so at least I have an excuse!) Try to make sure your neutral face is, well, neutral and not a scowl or a frown or you may look stand-offish without even realising it. This may take some practice – especially if you don’t want to look like a comatose automaton!

Over To You

What other habits are there for good open and honest communication.

More importantly, what are the worst body language habit we have?

Let us know in the comments!

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