Know Your Non-Verbal Cues
Most of us have heard of the more common body language tells, such as keeping your arms uncrossed, keeping your shoulders unslouched, and maintaining eye contact. These forms of non-verbal communication show openness, a sense of confidence, and a genuine interest in the other person. However, there are some lesser-known non-verbal signals that you’re giving others every day, which play a major part in how you communicate your intentions. Learning some of these body language clues can help you recognize them in others, and at the same time, exercise control over displaying them yourself.
The Congenial Mirror
This is a method of non-verbal communication that everyone falls into at some point in conversations, consciously or otherwise. Mirroring how a person is sitting, where they place their hands, etc. communicates that you are attracted to other person, or trying to make them comfortable with you. You are displaying your desire to establish a connection and put them at ease.
This is rarely a positive form of non-verbal communication, even if you think you are exhibiting yourself as a “roll-with-the-punches” type of person. It actually shows a sign of passivity—portraying yourself as submissive, non-interested, or defeated. The shrugging shoulders movement is apt to be interpreted as a sign of an indifference or indecision, and invites others to take advantage of you; it can also suggest that you are being disrespectful or just don’t care.
Sizing Up or Sizing Down?
You’ve probably caught yourself doing this at some point when approaching another person. You either look at them from top to bottom—sizing them “down,” or from the feet up to the face, sizing them “up.” This can happen so fast that you complete the task before you even realize that you’ve just done it. The top-to-bottom size-down has a tendency to look like you have bedroom eyes or you are “checking them out.” When sexuality isn’t an issue, it is actually considered a show of dominance. If you size them up, or start at their feet and work up to their face, it can have a more submissive tone and is good to use when first meeting someone you do not wish to intimidate.
Texting With Tact
In the new technological rage of smartphones with texting and e-mailing capabilities, it has become almost commonplace for a person to be anywhere, and with just about anyone, when a text message arrives. Responding while in mid-conversation is essentially telling the other person that the conversation you are holding with the texter is of more importance than the one you are currently having with them. If something is so important that you must take and respond to the message right away, then the best move is to apologize for the interruption and quickly finish the secondary conversation.
When you are nervous or restless, facial ticks or other observable behaviors can easily give you away, and will serve only to make the other person just as uncomfortable as you are. Chewing your fingernails may look neurotic or make you appear distant, while picking lint off your shirt or pants can suggest boredom, even if these were both gestures derived from a sense of nervousness.
Using Objects as Barriers
This may seem like an obvious behavior to avoid, but it can easily be an unconscious maneuver. When you run into a familiar face on the street or in the office, you are likely to be carrying something in your hands at the time. Making sure that you hold objects to your side instead of in front of you—and between you and the other person—may require more conscious action than anticipated. Holding objects between you and them exposes you as resistant and closed off, or distrustful.
Proving the adage “actions speak louder than words,” nonverbal communication makes the largest impact upon those with whom we interact. It is disadvantageous to spend all of your time putting together exactly the right words to express yourself, only to sabotage your presentation by discounting your body’s distinct and expressive communication. In order to be clearly understood by those around you, you must make a conscious effort to master the unspoken language of your very busy body.