How To Read The Body Language Of Other People

Things to be Aware of That Will Improve Your Communication Skills

It’s widely accepted that communication is more than just the words we say or write. Communication also involves verbal and nonverbal cues.

From previous studies, there has been a popular belief, that in communication:

  • 55% is our body language.
  • 38% is the tone of our voice (our tonality).
  • 7% is the words we use.

Whether this breakdown is still relevant today is debatable, however the important thing to know is that our body language plays a major part in how we communicate to others.

Our nonverbal signals, our body language, tells a lot about who we are to others. If we exhibit good nonverbal communication skills, it can inform others that we are confident and trustworthy.

Similarly, if we display poor nonverbal communication skills, we can come across as being insecure, disinterested or even untrustworthy.

The better we understand different aspects of how we communicate with our bodies, the better we’ll be able to relate to others and influence them so that it’s beneficial to everyone involved.

Body language techniques and how to use them

Most people aren’t consciously aware of the nonverbal signals they give off, which results in poor body language. By becoming aware of some common body language mistakes, we’ll have a better understanding of the messages we are giving, which can then help us make any necessary adjustments we want to.

Here are seven common body language mistakes we tend to make, what messages we are giving when we make those mistakes, and what we should do instead.

Common Body Language MistakeWhat Message Does It GiveWhat To Do Instead
No eye contactWe tend to avoid eye contact when we are figuring out what to say next. We can come across as being insecure or untrustworthy.Have a short pause if you need to look away and gather your thoughts. Then make eye contact before you resume speaking.
Crossing your armsComes across as being defensive, we’re protecting ourselves, or we don’t want to engage in a conversation.Keep your hands in front of you and position your arms in an open, relaxed manner. If tempted to cross your arms, reach for a pen or have a drink.
FidgetingIt can mean we’re nervous or stressed. We can also come across as someone insecure or lacking sincerity.If you catch yourself fidgeting, calm yourself by focusing on your breath and gently place your hands on your lap or on the desk.
Poor PosturePoor posture demonstrated by slouching or slumping down can mean we are insecure and lack confidence. Posture can be improved if you have your shoulders back, head held high and having your body more upright.
Using grand gesturesIt can mean we’re out of control and it’ll be harder for people to trust our authority.Keep movements subtle or smaller most times. Use open arms as much as possible and practice showing your palms when speaking.
FrowningThis creates separation and we can be perceived as being cold, lack empathy, insincere and closed off.There is only one remedy — smile! The more you practice smiling when communicating, the more you come across as friendly, warm and sincere.
Bad HandshakeA very strong handshake can mean we’re a dominant type of person. A weak handshake demonstrates lack of confidence and that we’re untrustworthy.Handshakes should be firm but not aggressive. Handshakes should have palm to palm contact where the web of your hand meets the web of the other person’s hand.

Something as simple as how we use our bodies everyday communicates so much about us to others. The better we know how we come across to others through the use of our bodies, the better our chances of applying good body language techniques. Getting this wrong consistently can cost us relationally and financially which is why it’s important we pay attention to how we communicate via our body language.

Action Step: Next time you’re in a conversation with someone, pay closer attention to your body language. Notice if you’re making any of the mistakes above. If you are, make the effort to change what you’re doing so that you give out better nonverbal signals.

Question: What is another body language mistake we need to be aware of and how can we overcome it?

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