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How to Make Your Body Language Work for You

Body Language tools for different circumstances

Here is the first key thing you need to know about working on your own body language to enhance your impact and maximize your success:

A perfect body language that will work for you in different circumstances can be understood in three steps.

Step One: Know Your Goal(s)

If you were about to shoot a gun, you’d be given three basic commands:


The order of these three words is simple but vital to ensure you hit your target. But how do you currently communicate?

… um… take aim?

The success rate of this approach is about the same as the success rate of firing a gun before you’ve aimed and expecting to hit the target. Apart from anything else, it’s dangerous!

Speaking before you think is a common problem, and the thing about our communications and transactions is that often we don’t bother to aim them before we fire.

We’re a bit flaccid about our target planning. Our body language aiming is especially suspect. We don’t get to see our own body language and so we tend to just let it do its own thing. Like an overindulged child, though, it starts to become a bit of a liability.

When did you last “take aim” with your body language? If you’ve had a difficult transaction, or communication, with time for planning and preparation I bet you spent any prep time working out what to say rather than how to say it. Or how about approaching someone you are attracted to? There are loads of articles in men’s magazines extolling the virtues of different pick-up lines but few that describe how a guy should stand if he wants to impress a girl.

Like every other aspect of a transaction, your body language needs to be fine-tuned in keeping with your goal(s).
There are four different types of image goals for you to target:

  1. The “lifetime achievement” goal: the image you want to project to others on a regular and long-term basis.
  2. The strategic goal: flexing your image and impact to suit a short-term set of circumstances.
  3. The professional goal: adopting a corporate or more professional image that matches your chosen career.
  4. The role goal: Adopting differing images to suit your different life roles and responsibilities, like a parent, daughter, wife, team-player, friend, and so on.

If you understand your goals you will be well on the way to understanding how to maximize your body language techniques to achieve them. Before you attend an important meeting or scenario spend a few moments creating specific image goals for that meeting.

Ask yourself:

  • How do I want to be perceived?
  • If I were wearing a t-shirt with words printed across the front to describe me and my personality, what would I want those words to say?
  • What body language can I use to get those words across?

Spend a few more moments visualizing those words. To do this you can work on very basic body language rules and knowledge. For instance, if one t-shirt word is “confident,” visualize people you know who look confident and then see yourself acting in the same way.

This technique is a great learning tool for body language as it replicates the system you used to learn how to move and gesticulate in your childhood: play and mimicry.

As a basic ploy, you can create a simple body language tool-kit that will make instant improvements, like:

“Body language” If your target quality is confidence

If you want to show yourself as a Confident person than your body language tools are:

  • Steady eye contact
  • Upright posture
  • Open gestures
  • A relaxed facial expression
  • Your smile

If your target quality is the “friendliness”

When you want to present yourself a friendly nature man, your body language tools are:

  • Smiling
  • Nodding
  • A warm handshake
  • Softened eye expression
  • Standing face-on to the other person

If your target quality is status or “leadership”

For those who want to target their body to pretend as a leader, Your body language tools are:

  • A firm handshake
  • Good eye contact
  • Straight posture
  • Sitting centrally or at the front
  • No fiddling or wriggling
  • Smooth, emphatic gestures

“Body language” If your target quality is calm

If you wish to show yourself clam and composed in that case your body language tools are:

  • Measured breathing
  • Smooth, synchronized body movements
  • Lowered shoulders, not tensed or hunched
  • No fiddling
  • Sitting back in your seat
  • Elbows on the arms of the chair
  • Hands lightly clasped

Does modifying your body language like this make you a liar? Shouldn’t you just “be yourself”? Isn’t this conning people and acting falsely or not being true to type?

Honing or changing your body language signals is part of a natural process. You learned most of it by imitation and there’s nothing wrong with adding to your repertoire.
You’d feel happy about learning new words to express yourself, so why not new gestures?

Another fact of body language is that when you feel that you’re “being yourself” you probably aren’t. Most people I coach are mortified when they first see their own body language on TV because it’s not what they thought they were doing and not what they intended to say. They make changes because they’re not putting the right message across.

One of the key changes I made to my own body language was to stop looking shy. I am shy and I feel shy but shyness doesn’t work in my job. Worse still, it was getting misinterpreted. People assumed I was being stuck-up or arrogant.

Step Two of body language law: Play to Your Strengths

When you target your image goals make sure you pick the right set of competencies. Look at your own USPs (unique selling points) and try to enhance them, rather than suppressing or deleting them. Tweaking is good but industrial-strength masking is not. It’s hard to perform and the cracks will start to show.
Here’s how your body language works as a communication tool:

  • You talk to someone.
  • While you’re talking you gesticulate or pull a face.
  • They see you do this.

So far, so simple. But of course, the whole process is far more complex than that. What happens next is something called “cognitive algebra,” which is the term used to describe the following process of assessment via visual recognitions:

1. Stage one:

scanning. This is when you’re being generally looked at. You employ a gesture. Let’s say you fold your arms. This is the stage called “creating stimulus.” You did it, they saw it. If the pair of you went to court you could both swear on a stack of Bibles that’s what you did.

2. Stage two:

focusing. Your “listener” starts to take notice, consciously analyzing the stimulus you’ve produced.

3. Stage three:

Comprehension. Consciously or subconsciously the “listener” searches for meaning in what you did. What is this gesture telling them? That you’re cold? Or angry? Are you nervous? Or have you just realized you forgot to wear underwear? By now the communication has gone out of your control.

4. Stage four:

Assimilation. Your listener starts to link what they have seen to memories. This is the conscious evaluation process. Based on previous experiences of your gesture your listener is going to make judgments on your personality or mood.

The listener is rummaging through their memory banks to form connections, meaning they’re trying
to create understanding by relating this to a time when they’ve seen this gesture before and remembering what it meant when they did.

As you can gather, this is a very flawed way of assimilating information, especially when it comes to body language. What if they have poorly evaluated their
past experiences?

5. Stage five:

Response. This could be along the lines of: “I had a teacher once who always folded her arms when she was telling me off. I, therefore, dislike
this man because I feel he’s being dictatorial and domineering.” Or: “I always cross my arms when
I’m feeling nervous or unsure. I feel sorry for this guy and I’ll do my best to make him feel at ease.”

This is why it’s so important to evaluate your own body language signals and make some effort to understand their effect on other people.

If you’re aware that folding your arms could create the impression that you’re standoffish or even aggressive you can begin to make moves to improve the quality of your signals, either by not folding your arms at all, ever, or you could minimize any negative connotations by balancing your gestures to create harmony.

This is why it’s so important to evaluate your own body language signals and make some effort to understand their effect on other people. If you’re aware that folding your arms could create the impression that you’re standoffish or even aggressive you can begin to make moves to improve the quality of your signals, either by not folding your arms at all, ever, or you could minimize any negative connotations by balancing your gestures to create harmony.

Playing to your strengths means knowing your USPs and capitalizing on them. When you work on your image make sure you’re accentuating the positives and masking any negatives.

Fit the qualities to the situation and avoid working strictly on assumption—for example, “I know that client likes me because I always speak my mind.”

Maybe they like you despite the fact you speak your mind. Or: “I’ll never attract that guy; I get much too nervous when he talks to me.” Perhaps it’s your diffidence that attracted him in the first place. Did you never go for the shy guy above all the mouthier ones?

How to self-assess

  • If you’re not sure of your core image strengths, ask people you trust.
  • Ask as many people as possible and find out what they first thought of you when they met you.
  • Compile your own list of descriptive words and try to discover why people came to those conclusions. I promise you’ll be surprised if the people you ask choose to be honest.
  • This is a very valuable exercise but must be done in an open way with no stress or pressure.
  • Never start arguing with people’s opinions or becoming defensive. If you do, you’ll find the evaluation process will break down rather quickly.

Step Three: How to Work Through Body Language Change

Assessing your own body language is hard because catching yourself unawares is as physically impossible as tickling yourself.

In perception terms, you are either aware of your own body language or very unaware. Once you become aware you also become inhibited, which has an instant and traumatic effect on your gestures and movements, altering them out of all recognition. Take my word for it; I know this to be true. The minute I tell people what I do for a living their muscles undergo a form of rigour Mortis and their movements become wooden.

Nevertheless, tweaking your own body language to create improvement is so absolutely necessary that you’re going to have to move through the pain barrier and launch yourself on a voyage of self-discovery. Why the pain? Because very few people are naturally gifted body language performers. A lot of people have the body language charisma rating of a sea urchin.

When you start to become observant of your own behaviour you will find it’s like looking at party photos: embarrassing and depressing. You’ll fail to recognize yourself or identify with your gestures, facial expressions, and nervous tics and twitches.

With your visual image you only really get the one shot. People will sum you up in as long as it takes to blink an eye, and if you look hostile or pointless then that’s how they will think you are.

Let’s Sum up

You can develop a sense of real consciousness by avoiding over consciousness. You don’t need to take the extra burden on your mind and need to practice the situations to achieve the natural flow to your body language.

by the course of time, your body will become habitual and you will become unconsciously aware. To achieve this level you need time and little practice to face different situations, perfection in your body language will come slowly but it will be steady.

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