A UCLA study revealed that 93% of communication is non-verbal. Counter-intuitively, we spend much more time focused on the words we say than the ways we say them or on what our bodies are saying.
Don’t be fooled – actions speak louder than words every time. Outside of body language, the truth is revealed in what people do (or don’t do), not by what they say matters to them. Actions reflect our real interests and priorities because we give time and attention to the people, events and circumstances that nurture, support and feed our souls.
As far as body language goes, when you’re talking to someone and they have their arms crossed or they are looking away from your face, they aren’t listening to you. When someone’s interesting to you and making you feel good you’ll automatically lean into him or her without realizing it.
The person with the strongest presence will naturally influence the energy of the room and the conversations people have. When you’re on the phone or in a conversation the same is true. It’s good to remember this in situations like dating or high-level business meetings where you may start to doubt yourself.
You are influencing others and being influenced by these unconscious factors all the time. So why not make them conscious? In every interaction you have with another human being you are telling them how to treat you. They learn by:
How you dress
How you carry yourself
How authentically confident or insecure you act
The quality of people you surround yourself with
How you set boundaries
How well groomed you are
How you talk about other people
How you handle stressful situations
How strong or weak your voice is
How busy or bored you seem to be
Whether you generally seem to get results more than have excuses
How interesting the content of your conversations are
How you talk about the world and other people
Whether they feel better or worse after interacting with you
…and a myriad of other factors.
These assessments are part of our hard wiring. It’s how we inform ourselves about how safe we feel in environments and how much we trust and like people.
There are many excellent books to go deeper into these subjects, but here are some highlights you can use immediately to be more conscious of how you influence and how you are influenced.
Influential Confident Body Language
• Posture – (Your mom probably told you these thing a million times.) Pretend there is a string on the top of your head being pulled up. Drop the tension in your shoulders and pull them back so that your chest moves forward. Straighten your back.
• Presence – Lean back and take up space. This is how people who are strong, in control, confident and happy naturally carry themselves.
• Face - Smile. You’ll look and feel better and you’ll be more inviting to people. Drop the tension in your jaw. Most people clench their jaw most of their waking hours without knowing it.
• Eye contact – Look people in the eye, but not in a creepy way. No staring contests unless you want to give off a stalker vibe. When you make eye contact you make a deep connection and take in deeper levels of people’s personalities.
• Arms and hands – Crossing your arms and legs don’t necessarily mean you’re closed off, but if that’s your usual way of holding yourself it’s not good. Keep your hands out of your pockets unless you want to be weak and submissive.
• Leg Stance – Stand in a manner that’s open with your weight on one leg. This stance communicates that you are both confident and approachable.
• Tone – Deep voices command attention more easily. Soft voices are harder to hear though they also cause the listener to work harder to hear you, which makes the listener more attentive.
• Pacing – Speaking slowly has a similar affect to speaking softly and shows that you’re centered and calm. Speaking fast conveys feeling off-center and reactive to outer circumstances.
All of these suggestions begin with your attitude. If you have a positive, passionate, confident, happy attitude your physical attributes will reflect those characteristics. Ditto for a mindset that’s depressed and complaining.
Don’t get it backwards though. Your physiology is MUCH stronger in informing your attitude and moods than the other way around. So even if you don’t feel great, take on some of the body language above and watch how it shifts how you feel.