There is more to style than sporting the finest duds and a slick haircut. Confident and strong body language contributes a lot to your overall image. A lot of what we say is communicated non-verbally; ninety per cent according to the scientists who research this stuff, so people already form an opinion about you even before you’ve said a word.
As men, we aren’t as perceptive about body language as women, but that’s no reason why we can’t adopt our own positive body language cues and learn about how to read other people’s non-verbal communication.
Eliot Hoppe is a body language coach from Alberta. He conducts workshops and seminars for business of all sizes from small companies to Fortune 500 corporations. I took some time to talk with Hoppe about what good body language is all about, and how we can learn.
“Body language reveals the true emotion of how we feel, and its either going to compliment or contradict what we’re doing,” says Hoppe. “Actions speak louder than words. With body language and communication there is no truer statement because we believe what we see.”
There the three different types of body language: intentional, intentional but hidden, and unintentional. It’s the unintentional body language habits that are often the ones that tell us what someone is really thinking and feeling.
When what someone says and how they act are incongruent, we sense that something is wrong, or suspect they aren’t being genuine. We may not know exactly why we feel this way but some people call it a six sense or a gut feeling. It is our natural body language reading capabilities telling us something is up.
In the workplace, one of the biggest things to avoid is touching your face when talking. “The golden rule with business is you never touch your face when speaking because inherently when people are nervous, anxious, or about to tell a lie, your blood pressure goes up, and the little tiny nerves in your nose and your ear lobes get engorged with blood. Therefore, they itch,” says Hoppe.
“As soon as you get an itch you tend to scratch it. Whenever you’re touching your face, study after study and after study conclude that the person observing you does not trust you. You could be speaking the truth and everything is fine, but if you’re touching your face that person is going to get that gut feeling.”
Another body language faux pas is pointing. No one likes to be pointed at and it tends to bring your guard up, even if the one pointing at you is across the room. Sometimes people may use a pen to point instead, but this still has the same effect. A way to correct this is to point with your thumb instead of your fingers or whatever pointy objects that might be lying around.
“The key thing with business is to keep those gestures within your shoulders. Keep it between your shoulder and your waist. Gesture as much as you want in that area,” he says.
Although men aren’t as intuitive as women, we can still learn and that’s what Hoppe specializes in. The time it takes to fully internalize the good body language habits he teaches varies by individual, but the process begins immediately.
“It takes time (to learn everything). It’s like learning a new language. You’re not going to learn a new language over night; you’ve got to practise at it. You’ve got to have it become second nature to you.”
In the dating world, Hoppe says you essentially want to look for signs that the person likes you (obviously). But there is no one-size-fits-all here. When you first meet someone on a date, you have to take some time to calibrate them. Observe their normal body language, and then look for instances where their reactions change outside the norm.
One of the best indicators is the mirror effect. This is when your date “mirrors” what you’re doing. Holding your beer with your right hand? She holds her wine in her left hand. Take a bite out of your burger and she might take a bite of her chicken penne at the same time, for example.
There is a lot to learn in the world of non-verbal communication, but thankfully it’s easy to understand. After all, everyone has a natural ability to read people. We just need to pay a little more attention.
Chris Riddell is a freelance writer from Toronto who covers art, business, and urban life for various fine publications. Also a poet and aspiring novelist, he’s busting his butt trying to get his name into a few literary magazines these days. He encourages you to check out his website for a look at what he’s been working on lately.
Photo courtesy of mundane_noodle.