Today, I want to get into body language and posture and how this can help our work days on sets and meeting clients, as well as our everyday lives.
Like with most of the lifestyle topics that I cover here, you’ll find that these pointers can be useful in all aspects of your life. 🙂
THE DIFFERENCE THAT BODY LANGUAGE MAKES
Roughly 80% of communication is transmitted non-verbally.
This may surprise some people.
Words are really only a small proportion of the overall picture in communication. If you want to get good with business (and life), then mastering your body language, gestures and facial expressions is a huge step in the right direction.
As well as developing and furthering your own use of body language, you can train yourself to notice the body language of others.
When you learn to see through the nonverbal cues that other people transmit, you can unlock secrets that people don’t want you to know. You become a sort of covert codebreaker, cracking the processes going on in other people’s bodies.
Here’s a great way that you can become aware of, and thus start improving, your own body language right now:
1. Set up a webcam, so that there’s a screen open of you (full body shot, if possible) all the time whilst you’re on your computer.
2. Become aware of your own body language through the image of yourself on the screen. Watch how you naturally move and improve various aspects of yourself as you watch.
3. Whilst you can’t become aware of every body language issue this way, due to the limited nature of poses and angles, you will become aware of how you move and you can take control of yourself.
How was that?
If that’s a little too daunting or “in your face” right now, try this:
1. Wherever you go, imagine that you’re in some kind of crazy reality TV show.
2. As you walk around the street, go to work, hang with friends, etc…imagine cameras are watching you at all times.
3. Pay special attention to how you believe you’re being portrayed on the reality show, and improve your body language and sense of movement as you become more aware of your body and the way you present yourself to the world.
This isn’t intended to make you feel self-consciously – no one else but you knows about the cameras. Start to move at all times in the way you’d like to be seen.
How would you like to be presented on TV with millions watching?
GOOD AND BAD BODY LANGUAGE
Bad body language is always more visible than good body language.
Because good body language operates positively on an unconcious level. Bad body language just sticks out like a sore thumb. Your unconscious mind rejects it.
Things like, looking down whilst talking to people, leaning in to conversations, slumped posture, head down, fidgety hands are all clear cut examples of bad body language.
We’ll talk about body language and posture a fair bit in this post, but, and this may seem slightly counter-intuitive considering everything I’ve said; it’s still important not to get too caught up and obsessed with your body language and the way you present yourself to the world.
Body language is a big part of what we’re trying to do here, and it really does show off the finished product effectively, but don’t become a robot.
There are a lot of bones (206) and muscles (639, by most estimates) in the human body to try and focus on every single one at all times.
In the post, I’ll instruct you to “always pay attention to your body language” and phrases like that. However, this is only really when you’re learning this stuff. A point comes where you’ve unconciously mastered this area, and then the constant focusing on parts of your anatomy becomes a detriment rather than a legitimate part of the process.
When this point is reached, focus on your anatomy should be shifted.
HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE RIGHT NOW
An important paradigm to consider when it comes to posture is to imagine yourself at all times as upright as possible. It may seem simple, but it’s a hugely useful technique, no matter whether you’re sitting or standing this is an important distinction to keep in mind.
- Envision a long piece of string teaching throughout your body from he very top of your head right down to your heels.
- Keeping this part of your body as straight as possible, especially your lumbar spine (the largest segment of your spine) is very important as a way to communicate your confidence to others.
- You may have everything down correctly in your mind, but presenting that confidence to the world through your body really is the cherry on top.
- You body projects your reality. Slumped posture with head down and shoulders rolled forwards suggests timidity and nervousness, just an all round terrible way to present yourself to the world.
- Instead, keep your head raised up high, shoulders back and chest thrust forward like you mean business.
A good tip I got from Rob Brinded, body language and posture expert, is great for solving the slouched shoulders/head sticking out forwards posture that so many people seem to have.
Brinded mentions your posture being like a garden – if you don’t tend it regularly, the weeds start growing and before too long, it looks downright terrible.
The exercise he describes goes like this:
1. Lean back onto a wall from a standing position. Keep your head as flush to the wall as possible without forcing anything.
2. Now inhale deeply and strongly.
3. Next, slowly ease yourself down, with hands and arms flopping out in front, until you’re bent down and almost touching the floor. Ensure you go down slowly, segment by segment. This is important – no rushing allowed.
4. Hold the position for a few seconds and then gradually move your way back up to the start position.
This is a great way of maintaining good posture by tending your garden.
Unfortunately, years of sedentary lifestyle (as we discovered in the series of posts on Health + Fitness) has created series postural issues in our society.
For fending off posture blues, squats and deadlifts, in particular, will become your closest allies.
As well as those exercises, general strength improvement (as discussed in the Health and Fitness posts), weight lifting in general, as well as improvement of the quality of food you’re putting into your body, will render a lot of these complaints and imperfections obsolete.
Further, if as research indicates, the sedentary work lifestyle (9-5 all day sat at a computer), combined with bad dietry habits, terrible breathing techniques and just an overall stressed aura is to blame for posture issues and well-being dysfunctions, maybe it’s time to change your lifestyle.
Yes, that means cutting down on TV and computer time. More exercise, adding sport and better food in your life, as well as getting free of the sedentary job (if you can).
We don’t have to revert back to caveman times, but it’s time to live free, live upright and live with our chins out of our chests!
This is also a good point to recommend another great trainer, Scott Sonnon. Sonnon is a fitness trainer and speaker, as well as a martial artist who trains lots of top athletes and organizations.
Checking out his Intu-Fow program, especially if you have pain, mobility issues or sports injury problems, is one of the smartest things you can do for your body.
THE EYES DON’T LIE: BODY LANGUAGE CUES & TELLS, SO THAT YOU CAN AVOID THEM
It’s interesting to note that women are much more attuned to body language than men are. They are, after all, much more socially aware than men.
Not only are they much more versed in their own body language, but they also more readily pick up on the body language and unconcious signals of other people.
Have you ever noticed groups of girls giving each other “the look” when they all suddenly realize someone is emotionally hurt and in need of attention?
There are many theories out there as to why this is true. Some scientists postulate that it’s predominately an evolutionary trait, due to women evolving as the more relationship focused gender.
Others go a step further and deign it to be a symptom of nursing babies. Women become more versed in body language due to the need to quickly evaluate a crying baby’s needs based on nothing more than variences in cries and any one of thousands of unique combinations of pint-sized body language cues. It’s a code.
Before going any further, I want to give you something that changed my social interactions and turned them on their head forever – totally changed overnight for the better. It’s one of my best tricks and you can go out and use it right now, or just stay where you’re sat and try it on the next person who walks into the room.
I learned this technique from the well known hypnotherapist and all around social expert, Igor Ledowchowski. Here you go:
When you meet someone, especially for the first time, raise one of your eyebrows just ever so slightly whilst shaking their hands and making eye contact.
It’s a subtle raise and I prefer to use the right eyebrow.
Deceptively simple yet awesomely powerful. This works as it’s an ancient evolutionary greeting dating back to tribal times. People unconciously react to this subtle eyebrow raise as it says simply, “I’m one of you, I mean no harm.”
Try it as soon as you can. Notice people’s reactions. Maybe even discuss it with them afterwards, if that’s possible.
It’s interesting because people can’t really sum up why it works, they just know that they feel a sense of ease and acceptance. This is a great rapport builder and quick trust getter.
Use it wisely.
HOW TO READ SOMEONE LIKE AN OPEN BOOK
Here are some quick and dirty body language pointers. Use this as a sort of cheat-sheet and have some fun looking for these in other people that you interact with or even just see about on the street, at parties, etc:
- Anything open is good.
- If a person presents themselves to you (feet facing, palms open, arms not guarding in front of them, etc) this is a big sign that you two have good rapport.
- Likewise, if you want to present yourself as approachable and friendly, show open body language to the world. Open yourself up.
- Anything closed off is defensive – glass clutched out in front, arms crosssed, turned away positioning, etc.
- Defensive body language is often a symptom of environment and people’s general awkwardness and nervous vibe. It might not be anything to do with you.
- Lead with strong, open body language, especially when talking to clients you’re trying to close. Most people are looking for someone to follow. You can pace and lead with body language, just like you can with other aspects of your social toolkit.
- Represent trust and comfort by leading someone with your open and confident body language.
- Steady hands and feet. Don’t go fidgeting everywhere with your limbs like you have something to hide.
- It all comes from a place of respect and trust – show if off through your body language.
Avoid getting too analytical with this information you now possess.
I debated whether I should give so many body language pointers at the risk of some people developing that annoying antisocial robotic thing where they’re not really listening to the person.
These are just quick tips and getting too focused on them and over analysing everything about the interaction is a fast way to get stuck in your head.
Once you’ve observed them enough, and the knowledge becomes unconscious, maybe the best way of using these body language pointers, once you’ve mastered them, is as conversation pieces.
Here are some Action Steps:
Action #1 – Go out and practice the ultimate body language. Whenever you’re out and about anywhere, practice this stuff!
You can start small (maybe at work) and then scale up from there!
Practice is perfect!
Action #2 – Go out to cafes/bookshops/shopping malls/etc and watch people. It goes without saying that you don’t want to be creepy with this!
Pay attention to peoples body language and how that enables them to interact with other people efectively or ineffectively. Be subtle. Have some fun with friends, too – try to make stories up about people based on their body language, gestures and facial expressions. This is a great one if you’re on a first date with someone.
From observing people, you can construct whole stories about people you obverse and their lives. As a creative, you can have great fun with this! Screenwriters should be especially well practised in this.
If this has helped you at all, I’d really appreciating you writing a comment in the comments section below. Thanks for the reading!