Often people are so focused on what it is they’re saying that they lose sight of the fact that the way they move and hold themselves can communicate just as much as their words. Your listener is able to gain a great deal of information simply by observing the way that you move, gesture, and hold your body. By paying attention to your body language, you can help create the image of yourself you want your listener to perceive.
One critical aspect of body language is posture. How do you typically hold yourself when speaking with others? Rounded shoulders and slouching can make you appear unsure of yourself or unprofessional. On the other hand, standing too rigidly can make you appear ill at ease and tense. Try to aim for a posture that falls between these two extremes. Stand straight with your shoulders held slightly back. Your chin should be level with the floor so that you are looking neither up nor down at your listener, but straight at him. Now, try to keep your body relaxed and your breathing even; this will help you to maintain a natural posture which projects confidence and self-assurance. You should also face your listener with your hips and chest so as to appear fully engaged in the conversation.
You can also use your hands to help you communicate. In various studies, experts have suggested that gestures can play an enormous role in what your listener receives from your message. For example, people who gestured with their palms facing upward were judged to have a sense of openness and honesty. Be aware of how you are gesturing while you speak and whether or not your gestures are consistent with the message you are trying to get across. Also, try to eliminate fidgeting. Playing with your jewelry, tie, or hair will make you seem nervous or disinterested and have a negative impact on your communication. Instead, keep your hands on the table in front of you or relaxed at your sides while listening, and use them to gesture naturally as you speak.
In addition to being mindful of your own non-verbal communication, you should closely monitor that of your listener as well. If your conversation partner is confused, bored, or upset, he may not say so directly, but his body language will usually do the talking for him. Pay close attention to your listener’s facial expressions and body language to see how your message is being received and tailor your speech accordingly.
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