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How To Use Body Language For Effective Communication

By Mary Smith. Updated: January 23, 2017
How To Use Body Language For Effective Communication

It is often said that in face-to-face communication words represent less than 10% of the message that we transmit, while body language represents more than half of our message. Therefore, it is important to control the messages we are sending with the movement of our body, gestures and glances. In situations where communication is crucial, such as in a job interview or when you've just met someone, this language becomes more noticeable and we need to pay attention to the message we're transmitting. In this OneHowTo article we'll tell you how to communicate with body language so you know how to control the messages you're sending.

You may also be interested in: How to Interpret Body Language

Understand your own body language

While there are certain aspects of body language that can be improved to create a more effective message, you still have to act naturally and not be robotic. The important thing is to be yourself, be natural.

Try to make a conscious effort to analyse body language during various interactions with different people. A mirror can help to examine your facial expressions and posture, above all however, you should try and monitor what your body does when you are angry, nervous or happy.

Your body language is effective if it communicates the message you want to send. Does your body communicate trust, or does it make you seem unsure of yourself, even if your words express confidence? If your nonverbal cues match your words, not only will you communicate more clearly, but you will also be known as "more charismatic". You can give a lot away through your body language; for example in this OneHowTo article we'll tell you how to spot a liar through body language.

How To Use Body Language For Effective Communication - Understand your own body language

Gestures

Directing more positive gestures towards the listener allows you to clearly indicate that you're offering a favorable outcome for the listener. Direct more negative gestures away from the listener (to the other side) and, in this way, you'll clearly indicate that you don't want any obstacle to stand in the way of your intended message.

Use hand gestures carefully. Be aware of what you your hands are saying while you're talking. Some hand gestures can be very effective in highlighting your points (open gestures), while others can be distracting or even offensive to some listeners and can close a conversation (closed gestures). It also helps to look at other people's hand gestures to learn and understand how their message reaches you.

Maintain control over other body signals. Removing lint from your clothes, scratching your nose, or picking your nose, for example can signal distraction or nervousness. These little gestures add up and can reduce the effectiveness of your message.

How To Use Body Language For Effective Communication - Gestures

Be aware of your audience

Try to reflect passion and generate empathy with the listener by using gentle, kind and sensible facial expressions. Avoid negative facial expressions, such as frowning or raising your eyebrows. Whether it is negative or not depends on the context, including cultural context, so you should be guided by the situation.

Eye contact establishes a relationship, helps to convince us that you are a reliable person, as well as showing interest. During a conversation or presentation, it is important to look at the eyes of the other person if possible and maintain eye contact for a reasonable period of time (but don't overdo it; whatever feels natural so about 2 to 4 seconds each time).

If you're facing a group in the boardroom, look at all the board members in the eye. Omitting one person can be taken as a bad sign and you could lose business, acceptance, success, or whatever you're trying to achieve.

If you're addressing an audience, try to pause and make eye contact with a member of the audience for a maximum of two seconds before resuming your speech. This helps the individual members of the audience to feel personally valued.

Bear in mind whether eye contact is culturally accepted. In some cultures, it is considered to be upsetting or inappropriate. Ask or do some research in advance if you are unsure.

How To Use Body Language For Effective Communication - Be aware of your audience

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