Imagine that you’re in a room with two strangers. One of them is sitting up straight with hands on his lap and a slight smile on his face. The other is slouched in his chair with arms and legs crossed and a furrowed brow. Now, which one would you rather talk to?
Whether it’s personal or professional, all good relationships thrive on healthy communication. To avoid misunderstandings, we do our best to choose our words carefully, but sometimes we unknowingly say volumes without even making a sound!
Being aware of body language and self-presentation is a huge help for our interpersonal skills. Communication is much more complex than the words that come out of our mouths. Despite our best efforts to say just the right thing, nonverbal cues will say more about us and our personalities than anything else. When we interact with others, things like facial expressions, posture or eye contact can express emotions, show our level of interest and even define a relationship – whether we intend them to or not! When we’re tired, we slouch and therefore seem bored. When we’re upset, we cross our arms and distance ourselves from others. These are all natural reactions to what we’re feeling in the moment, but that doesn’t always reflect the beauty of who we really are. It’s easy to get caught up in our emotions and allow them to guide our actions. But if we truly want to get our message across and be taken seriously, we must be more aware of how we present ourselves.
But does this mean that we have to sacrifice being comfortable and relaxed? Not necessarily! The most important thing to remember in any social interaction is to be yourself. When people talk to you, they want to hear the real you – not someone you’re pretending to be. Think carefully about what you’re saying and use the right gestures to match. If you’re pleased, smile. If you’re interested, nod your head and keep eye contact. Be confident in who you are and what you’re saying and it’ll show! Honesty and consistency in our body language and speech will only build up trust and improve the quality of our relationships. But if we allow our desire for comfort to overcome our true message, the chance of misunderstandings becomes much greater.
So while it may not be our first instinct, taking the effort to stand up straight, make eye contact and keep our arms by our side can really spruce up our image and make us appear more approachable. Allowing our inner beauty to shine through our actions will only make what we say more valuable, meaningful and true to who we were made to be.
Body Language/Gestures Around the World:
We all know that actions have meaning and can add a great deal to what we say. But, did you know that body language and gestures have different meanings depending on where you are in the world?
- Making eye contact in the U.S. and Western Europe is considered polite and mature, but in places like Africa, Japan or Latin America, it’s respectful to avoid eye contact.
- Having your legs crossed is a popular way to sit in western cultures, but in countries like Ghana and Turkey, it’s considered offensive.
- We like to have our personal space here in the US, but in Africa or South America, people are much more comfortable with being close to one another.
- Greeting each other with a big hug and kiss is popular in many European countries like Italy, but in many Asian cultures, a distant bow is more than enough.
- Putting your hands in your pocket is an easy way to show comfort and relaxation, but in certain places in Eastern Europe, it’s very disrespectful.