Research shows that when we speak, only 7% of our impact comes from the actual words we speak.
What makes up the other 93%? Our nonverbal communication! Our facial expressions, gestures, voice tone, posture, movements, etc.
Why does this happen?
Because our words are processed by the cognitive part of the listener’s brains. But our body language talks to them on a primitive, emotional level. They don’t even realize this is happening. In fact, we can make an impression on people even without saying a word – just with our body language!
By using powerful body language, we can communicate more effectively. And we can also get people to perceive us as being confident and capable.
So what is powerful body language? And what are the traits of weak body language?
Everything – from how much eye contact we make, to how often we smile, to how much space we take – influences the impression we make on other people.
- Constricted, closed-in postures indicate weak body language, while
- Open body postures with confident, bold gestures indicate powerful body language.
Weak body language
Weak body language communicates to people that we’re tentative, nervous, anxious or lack confidence.
- Slumped body posture with slouched shoulders and a hunched back.
- Taking up little space and shrinking further into a smaller space.
- Frequently smiling, laughing or chuckling.
- Rarely maintaining eye contact, with eyes generally cast down.
- Leaning forward when listening.
- Nodding frequently to indicate attentiveness.
- Playing with papers, pen, watch, jewelry, etc.
- Clenching fists, wringing hands or rubbing hands together.
- Adjusting or touching clothes.
- Biting or picking at nails.
- Twisting, pushing back, tossing, flipping or adjusting hair.
- Gripping notes tightly with both hands.
- Holding papers or laptop tightly across the chest.
- Crossing arms tightly across the chest with shoulders slumped and head bowed.
- Speaking in a soft, inaudible voice.
- Hesitating while speaking.
- Using frequent filler words such as “umm”, “perhaps”, “uh-huh” or “don’t you think”.
Powerful body language
Body language that indicates power and authority includes:
- Maintaining an open body posture with arms apart.
- Sitting or standing with shoulders lifted up and a straight back.
- Gesturing in a calm and controlled but expansive manner.
- Taking up plenty of space by placing arms firmly on table or on the sides of the chair.
- Making minimal leg and foot movements.
- Maintaining moderately high eye contact.
- Holding a relatively neutral facial expression with the head still.
- Leaning back while listening.
- Nodding occasionally only to show agreement.
- Speaking in a firm tone of voice with few hesitations or pitch variations.
Domineering body language
There is a third type of body language that is the opposite of weak behavior, but not positive or pleasant. A domineering style conveys neither competence nor likability. It can make us seem ill tempered, or even out of control. It involves:
- Open body posture (notice how one behavior by itself could be powerful or domineering).
- Aggressive gestures, such as pointing a finger directly at another person.
- Speaking in a loud, angry voice.
- Maintaining constant and challenging eye contact.
- Having a stern facial expression.
- Making abrupt movements or gestures.
- Maintaining an indirect body orientation.
You can modify your body language based on the situation
You can turn up or turn down the power of your body language depending on the impact you want to have in different situations.
For example, say you’re struggling to get your point across in a meeting. You can amplify your body language a few notches by standing up to get a glass of water or to stretch. Then, take up space around your chair with an expansive posture, put your hand on your chair and start talking. Getting a drink or stretching is an excuse for standing up, and once you are standing you will command more attention from the audience.
On the other hand, if you unintentionally seem intimidating, turn down your body language to indicate warmth, if that’s the image you want to project.
The idea is to experiment with different styles to see what works for you. Every time you meet someone, think of it as an opportunity to experiment! Modify specific parts of your body language. See how the other person reacts. And see how it makes you feel too.
The world is your lab and every day is a day to experiment and get a little better! Have fun!
Coming up next
Tomorrow we’ll dig a little deeper into the image you want to project for yourself.
- Powerful body language consists of open body postures with confident, bold gestures.
An expansive body posture taking up space, with a straight back, a neutral facial expression, and controlled gestures with minimal body movements indicates powerful body language. Constricted, closed-in postures indicate weak body language.
- You can modify your body language based on the situation.
You can turn up or turn down the power of your body language if the situation demands it by tweaking individual components.
- Do your daily Rekindle routine.
Take one action to make your body language a little more powerful today.
Use every interaction as an opportunity to experiment with your body language. See how the other person responds and modify it to project the image you want. Today, observe how you move your hands when you speak. Try making outward gestures to take up space. Keep experimenting and having fun!
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