Does Your Body Language Need a Translator?

Photo courtesy of Jose Goulao

Self-awareness is a huge factor in the equation of true happiness. Part of being totally in touch with ourselves includes realizing the effects we have on others, both good and bad. To reach our ultimate life goals, it’s likely that we’re going to have many interactions with people from all different walks of life. Today’s Mindful Monday focuses on being aware of what we’re saying to others…when we’re not saying anything at all.

I recently came to terms with how much my body language was saying about me. For years, I was told by anyone within a ten mile radius of my face to “smile more!” Another phrase I heard a lot was, “I’m sorry, you must be busy. I’ll come back later.” While I used to stand firmly in denial of the image my serious facial expressions and constant fidgeting were portraying, now I finally get it. My body language was causing me to be mis-read, and the translation did not look good at all.

Most people have a number of physical gestures they perform on a regular basis without even realizing it. For many, these gestures could be sending signals to other people,  causing them to draw inaccurate conclusions. To ensure that you’re sending the right signals, try being more mindful of some of the following body language:

  • Fake smiling (or not smiling at all) - Try not to force a smile when you’re just not feeling it – people can tell you’re faking it when you only use your lip muscles, but as you begin to feel happier in life, let it show with a crinkle in your eye and a big ol’ grin!
  • Biting your lips – In psychologists’ terms, this means that you’re uncomfortable with the situation you’re in. Resist the urge to bite, lick or nibble your lips too much. Try wearing chapstick or lip balm.
  • Avoiding eye contact – Not looking someone directly in the eye makes it appear that you’re lacking in the self-confidence department.
  • Rolling your eyes – I used to do this a lot until I realized how rude and arrogant it made me look. Now, to keep the temptation in check, I widen my eyes instead of rolling them upward to avoid insulting people.
  • Picking or biting your nails – If you want to look really meek, avoid eye contact and chew on your nails. If you’d rather avoid this habit,  try to keep your hands in front of you during conversations and touch your pointer fingers together as a reminder not to pick.
  • Acknowledging distractions – I know that someone is really interested in what I’m saying when they ignore distractions when I’m talking. If you regularly turn away from conversations to attend to phone calls or other interruptions, you are sending a signal of disinterest or disrespect.

When you send strong signals to others that you are truly interested in what they have to offer (by sitting still, leaning toward them, keeping eye contact, smiling and nodding), chances are good that they are going to respond accordingly by treating you well in return.

The saying goes that you get what you give, and if what you want is respect (from yourself and others), make sure your body language bodes well for your your success.

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