What you say when you don’t say anything
EDMONTON - Most people don’t realize how much their body language conveys to others and the impact it has on their own emotions.
“Non-verbal makes up most of our communication. A lot of people have no idea that just by changing their posture they can positively influence somebody else and positively influence themselves,” says Kate Andrews, an instructor in NAIT’s Personal Fitness program, who also teaches non-verbal communication awareness to staff.
If a person’s body language is interpreted as hostile, it can leave others feeling angry or defensive, she says.
While body language speaks volumes to others, it also impacts the emotions of the person who is sending the cues. “We are influenced by our non-verbals,” says Andrews, who during her session has participants practice positive signals, such as smiling, and then negative non-verbals, such as a furrowed brow, on strangers they encounter. Sending more positive messages, such as smiling at others, can actually help improve your mood, she says.
It’s important to be aware that gender plays a role in non-verbal communication.
“In general, men tend to portray more dominant and powerful non-verbals,” says Andrews. “Men tend to have upright postures and wide positions while walking, standing and sitting. Women tend to do the opposite: cross their legs, put elbows on the table or hunch into themselves.
Women take smaller steps while walking and swing their hips. A man’s walk is more firm and they swing their arms more.”
Here are tips that can help set a positive tone:
Lighten your face by keeping a soft smile and ensure that your eyebrows are in a neutral or mildly uplifted position. “Eyebrows are probably the most expressive facial element we have,” says Andrews. “You can go from happy to surprised to mad in very small movements.”
Positive posture means sitting tall with the chest slightly up. Slouching can signal disinterest while sitting hunched over can show a lack of confidence.
This is a gesture that can be misinterpreted so be aware of your facial cues and posture. If your arms are crossed and you’re leaning forward with a neutral mouth, it may be interpreted that you’re bored or angry. If you’re wanting to signal that you’re relaxed, then sit with good posture and have a smile on your face as your arms are crossed.
This signals you’re listening and engaged.
Hands while standing
Keep your arms folded in front of you. Putting your hands in your pockets is for a more relaxed environment. Placing your hands on your hips is a power position, sometimes called the Wonder Woman pose, so you want to think carefully before using this position.
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