The cliché ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,’ might be old, but it is still true. For that reason, body language is pivotal in communication. It can completely change the meaning of what you say. At the same time, body language habits have been proven to be very difficult to change.
When you become so much used to averting your eyes, folding your arms, or slouching, you hardly notice when it is happening. If you are able to stop bad body language habits, it will boost how you present yourself. It is quite a difficult task, but the results are worth it.
These bad habits include:
1. Dead Fish Handshake
There are people who believe weak handshakes are given by weak personalities. Your fingers need to fall over the respondent’s hand edge, while the crease found between your forefinger and thumb lock with the same part of their hand. Make the grip tight enough that you can feel the other person’s hand bones pressing your skin slightly. Read more about a proper handshake here.
2. Looking Distracted
It is disrespectful and annoying talking to someone who is clearly not paying attention. Some people find it extremely difficult to avoid checking their phones, or looking at everything going on around them. It is good manners to give your whole attention to people trying to make conversation with you, otherwise you will be seen as someone who is uncaring and rude.
Catherine New, writing for 'Psychology Today', says that slouching will damage your back in the long run. You will maintain a strong, healthy back and a good image of yourself if you learn to stand straight. This might prove to be challenging, especially if you spend the better part of your day sitting in front of your computer.
4. Personal Space
Increasing the distance between yourself and the person you are speaking to indicates you are not interested in the conversation. This might come in terms of leaning back on your seat, or positioning your body at an angle. At the same time, being too close to someone might make them quite uncomfortable. You will need to lean in to show you are interested in what someone is saying, while respecting socially acceptable personal space. This space varies from country to country.
5. Mismatching Non-verbal and Verbal Communication
People may get irritated if your words do not complement your body language. Non-verbal signals carry most weight in the message you are trying to deliver. This is according to Sacred Heart University researchers, who used married couples as their subjects, though the results were quite universal.
People will always pay closer attention to your gestures, body postures and facial expressions than the words out of your mouth. It is therefore important to ensure that the two match, to avoid confusion.
6. Playing with Your Hair
ABC reported that playing with your hair can damage it over time. You would do better to play with a stress ball than your hair, because this habit is distracting. When you keep twirling and running fingers through your hair, it will annoy people.
According to Tonya Reiman, author of ‘The Power of Body Language,’ fidgeting depicts a lack of power, anxiety, and nervousness. It is important that one strives to get out of this habit, although it might prove quite difficult.
8. Forgetting to Smile
Reiman tells the 'Business Insider' that when you smile, it depicts you as a warm-hearted, confident, open and energetic individual. The smile also triggers the mirror neurons in your listeners, making them smile back. Failure to smile while speaking to someone makes you look lonely and grim. You can always use that smile to disarm people.
9. Adopting a Defensive Pose
Patti Wood is the writer of SNAP: Making Most of First Impressions. Body Language and Charisma,’ available online here. He says most people cannot find an appropriate place to keep their hands, especially when speaking before a group of people. Do your best to avoid hunching over, or crossing your arms. Some people end up pocketing their hands, which make them look like timid schoolkids. Such a posture will make you appear untrustworthy, defensive and uncomfortable.
A listener will begin wondering what you could be hiding if they cannot see your hands. According to Patti Wood, your hands need to remain visible to your listener whenever you talk.
10. Aggressive or Non-Existent Eye Contact
Maintaining effective eye contact requires moderation. If you stare at your listener intensively, it might get uncomfortable. Taking long glances at your listener is the most suitable way of keeping eye contact. On the other hand, constantly averting your eyes will be interpreted as lack of confidence or disgust.
11. Shuffling Instead of Walking
Human beings are a very judgmental species, who will judge someone even from the way they walk. The BBC reports the manner with which someone walks might influence their risk of being mugged.
There are unfortunate individuals who seem to be repeatedly targeted by criminals. This has a significant correlation with their way of walking, according to Morris Stein and Betty Grayson. The duo were psychology researchers who wanted to find out ˜what criminals look for in potential victims’ in the 80’s. They filmed random people walking along New York’s streets. The video clips were shown to criminals jailed in East Coast Prison, and they were asked how likely they were to pick each pedestrian. Sampled prisoners included murderers, and those who had committed assaults.
Although it is difficult to change this habit once you get used to it, it is important to commit yourself to ditching poor deportment and adopting a coordinated and confident walk. It might save you from being an easy target.
12. Being too Still
It is not recommended to be extremely calm during a conversation, because someone may decide you are not interested in the conversation. You will need to copy some of the expressions and gestures of the person you are holding a conversation with - in moderation. Try to mirror them without mimicking, or they may feel offended.
13. Doing Weird Things with Your Hands
Vanessa Van Edwards, a behavioral consultant, says using hand gestures is an effective way of expressing yourself. However, you need not to exaggerate the gestures or become extremely choreographed.
Good communication skills will go a long way to:
Help you win contracts
Get you hired for a job
Convince investors to pump money into your business idea
Win you more friends
Improve your relationship with family members
It is worth your time, energy and attention. It is good to pay special attention to your body language in an attempt to improve it, as it is very important when you are speaking.
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