You may not know it but you might be saying more about yourself with your body language than you are with your words. You may think only psychologists pick up on what body language means but research has shown that subconsciously we all pick up on even the subtlest of body language and allow it to inform our opinions of others. Whether in a job interview or networking, using the right body language (or being able to read others) could be effective in helping you to land a job or win over your peers. To improve your chances of coming across as you desire, be it in a job interview or a first date, here is some insight into what the different presentations of body language actually mean.
If you are talking with your hands open and palms facing upwards around a 45-degree angle (to your chest) this suggests you are open and honest: if your palms are facing downwards this represents your certainty of what you are speaking about. However, the hands can be used to convey negative signs too. Hands closely clasped, twitchy, or repeatedly touching your hair, neck or face indicate a high level of nervousness. But somebody’s language can be ambiguous. Hands rarely held still and constantly extended beyond the frame of your body whilst talking can tell people you are disorderly, creative, and/or passionate depending on the context of your other body language and also the topic of conversation.
Some things are obvious: shrugged shoulders suggest a lack of enthusiasm. However, other things present the exact opposite of what you think they do. Have you ever felt nervous or self-conscious when standing in front of an audience or at a networking event and thought if you cross your feet it will give you balance and stability and convey confidence? Well, this actually confirms to people how nervous you are. To appear confident, a straight posture should be adopted with a slightly raised chin, your shoulders in line with your earlobes and your legs straight but not locking your knees.
Obviously eye contact should be made, but carefully. To try and compensate for a burning nervousness some people will stare deeply into the eyes of the person they are speaking to in order to appear confident. This will only make you look like a psychopathic killer. Instead, make eye contact regularly during the conversation, not constantly. Every ten seconds or so glance at the person’s nose or forehead just for a second and then return to the eyes. Do not shift away from them to glance at the surroundings as this may suggest you have lost interest in what they are saying.
It is important to bear in mind that these are general rules and some individuals may perceive or cause things to be perceived differently. For example, creative and artistic people can actually be very confident but fidgety at the same time. They may exhume inner confidence with their eye contact and posture but their fingers may be touching their faces or their hands may be used animatedly. Thus social and personal context is important along with verbal communication and your own intuition when reading another person’s body language.