“An ounce of behaviour is worth a pound of words.” This advice comes from one of the great acting teachers of the 20th century, Sanford Meisner. The reason he says this is because we as people take most of our cues for understanding each other from our body language. It is sometimes easy to forget that when we are in a social situation our body language is communicating far more than our words. People’s first impressions of us are almost entirely based on our body language. In this article, I want to give you some tips to help you feel more confident socially by understanding what your body language is conveying to a room of people.
The first thing to note is that when people are communicating with their body language they communicate in gesture clusters. This means that the majority of the time people are usually still or in an automatic state where they’ll be nodding along or just listening. However, now and again, they will display a series of physical movements that indicate how they are feeling. If you are unsure as to how you are being received, look for these clusters and you will get a rough idea of how the other person or people are feeling.
People’s clothing plays a big part in how people communicate with their body language. Generally, people dress the way they see themselves more so than the way they want to be perceived. This means you can get a rough idea of how someone is feeling by looking at what they are wearing. If you want to make someone’s day complement their clothing. It’s a very charming thing to do as it is in extension complimenting how they feel about themselves. On the flip side, if people are nervous, anxious or uncomfortable in a social situation they will often self groom. You’ll see them playing this their clothing or adjusting it to look better. In these situations, it’s best to try and put the person at their ease.
You can judge the relationship between two people based on their proximity to one another. People like, if they can, to keep strangers further away and have friends closer. We have different zones that we allow people to come into depending on their relationship with us. With strangers, it’s over 10 feet, with people we know it’s 4 feet, friends 2 – 4 feet and intimate partners 0 – 2 feet.
You should aim to always stand up straight with your shoulders back. This is because the gesture of holding yourself with your chest exposed is a subconscious sign of social health throughout the animal kingdom. If someone is standing with their arms crossed in front of them it subconsciously indicates that they are defending themself and are harder to communicate with so if you want to look friendly and approachable you should stand with your arms by your side.
Your hands are one of the most expressive parts of your body. Second only to your face. An open hand indicates that you harbour no intention to harm and indicates that you are trustworthy. A closed fist or hands hidden behind your back give people the signals that you are hiding something or even potentially violent. This is why we wave to people with an open palm and shake each other’s hands. It indicates that we have nothing to hide and builds trust with the person we are communicating with.