“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whether you’re giving (or receiving) feedback, confronting a colleague, having a collaborative meeting, or just engaging in casual conversation, your body language matters.
Body language alone can make or break a conversation. According to Psychologist World, human communication is 20% verbal and 80% non-verbal. Body language that doesn’t coincide with the message we intend to send can therefore lead to relationship ruptures, misunderstandings, and unwanted outcomes.
Body language is the primary language of emotion, and how others perceive our emotion influences how our communication lands for them. A study by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at New York University and Princeton revealed that body language is an even more accurate determiner of judging emotion than facial expressions. In short, your body language plays a significant role in how successful your conversation is on an emotional level.
Although what we say verbally is important, our nonverbal expression can greatly influence whether our message is communicated effectively.
The outcome of a conversation can vary greatly depending on the type of body language you’re using. Ask yourself: how do I want the other person to feel when I’m speaking to them? What outcome do I hope to achieve from this conversation, and is my body language of reflection of that? If your objective is to strengthen the relationship, then being aware of your body language can help achieve this objective.
Two key words to consider when it comes to your body language are intention and accuracy. Honesty plays a role—the point is not to smile when you feel like frowning or pretend to be relaxed when you’re upset. The point is to let others know how you really feel while keeping your intended outcome or objective in mind.
That said, here are a few body language cues via lifehacker that may be interpreted as “uninviting,” unproductive, or misleading:
• Arms folded across the chest
• Crinkled eyebrows that create a scowl
• Excessive fidgeting
• Not making eye contact
• Appearing “dominant” in posture
To create warmer body language and what will likely be a more connecting conversation, try instead:
• Opening your arms – having an “open” chest
• Relaxing your shoulders
• Making eye contact
• Nodding to show understanding
• Being present/avoiding distractions
• Slightly mirroring the other person’s gestures
• Being at eye level to the other person
During your next conversation, pay close attention to your body language. What are you noticing? How can you be more intentional with your body language to improve the quality of your conversations?