Body language is just as important as words or facial expressions when interacting with others and accounts for more than 50 percent of our non-verbal communications. This makes understanding what our bodies are revealing very important when talking to someone.
At first glance, what do you think people see when talking to you? Do you appear to be confident or uneasy? Do you look bored with the conversation or show a genuine interest? Are you relaxed or tense? If you are aware of the message you may be unintentionally conveying through body language, you will be able to communicate a more positive impression.
HAND GESTURES are probably one of the most direct ways of communicating non-verbally. A clinched fist usually signifies anger unless your fist is punching the air which indicates excitement or solidarity. A thumbs up or thumbs down is an obvious gesture, as is the “okay” sign. Another common gesture is tapping your fingers which usually implies boredom or frustration.
Our POSTURE can quickly reveal how we are feeling about ourselves and even give away personality characteristics. If you are standing or sitting up straight, this generally indicates you are confident, focused and paying attention. Likewise, if you are slouching or hunched forward, this may suggest you are submissive, anxious, or unfriendly.
Even our arms ARMS AND LEGS subtly reveal information about ourselves. For example, crossed arms usually means a person is feeling defensive or closed off. Crossing your legs and turning them away from someone may indicate your discomfort or dislike. Putting your hands behind your back sometimes means that you are bored or uncertain; whereas, putting your hands on your hips often signals that you are feeling in control.
People can make others feel uncomfortable by violating their PERSONAL SPACE. What this means is standing closer to someone when conversing than is socially acceptable. Typically, the standard distance when talking to someone you know is 4-10 feet. Of course, you can close the gap with a family member or loved one. However, if you are talking to someone you don’t know well, such as the delivery guy, a space of 10 feet or more is generally preferred.
There are many other types of body language that may indicate you are feeling uncomfortable or stressed such as biting your nails or fidgeting with your hair or clothes. Understanding how your body language influences what others may be thinking about you is important because it can have positive or negative applications in your daily life.
While generally it is recommended that you try to relax and be yourself, there will be times when you may not want to reveal what you are feeling – especially in a social situation or work environment. If you find that it’s difficult to suppress or control your emotions, talk to a mental health professional who can help you analyze your feelings and develop appropriate responses.