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5 Body Language Cues that You Should Know

The key to success in both personal and professional relationships is your ability to communicate effectively. Most people think of words when they hear the term ‘communication,’ but often it isn’t the words but the nonverbal cues that speak the loudest. Body language is the process of communicating nonverbally through gestures and movements, often performed instinctively rather than consciously.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are constantly giving and receiving wordless signals when you are interacting with others. It is important to remember that all of your nonverbal behaviors — the gestures you make, your posture, your tone of voice, how much eye contact you make — send strong messages. Your body language can put people at ease, build trust and draw others towards you, or they can offend, confuse and undermine your message. 

For all of us, there are times when what comes out of our mouth seems completely different from what we are communicating with our bodies. These mixed signals can confuse the listener and force them to choose between the different messages you are conveying. Since body language is generally a natural instinct, listeners are likely to choose the nonverbal message.

So…how can we ensure that we are delivering our intended messages? Start to pay attention to our body language and how listeners are reacting to our physical behaviors. 

Here are 5 key body language cues to be aware of:

#1: Micro-expressions

Micro-expressions are extremely brief facial expressions that happen when you’re trying to hold back your emotions. Examples of micro-expressions are eye rolling, wrinkling your nose in disgust, raising of the eyebrows or wrinkling your forehead. Becoming more aware of your facial expression can assist in positively conveying an accurate message.

#2: Torso Turning

Torso turning is when you turn your body toward someone and can be used in the office to make people feel included. When you’re in a group, make sure to turn your torso to the person talking or the person you want to connect with the most. Turning your torso away from the person trying to communicate can also be seen as an effort to disconnect or detach yourself from a situation.

#3: Arm Folding

Arm folding is when someone crosses their arms in front of their body, forming an imaginary barrier. This can have a variety of meanings. One major perception is that arm crossing means we are feeling insecure, defensive or resistant. If someone is gripping their arms tightly when crossing their arms, this is likely a sign of stress. It is important to note that in some cases crossing of the arms may not be an aggressive gesture but an act of self-comfort when they are feeling overwhelmed.

#4: Pursing Your Lips

Lip pursing is when the lips push or mash together in a hard line. This is an indication of tension and may indicate frustration or disapproval. Pursed lips are a classic sign of anger, including when it is suppressed. Pursed lips can also indicate a person who is thinking and deciding between possible options. Deciding and disapproval are both evaluative actions, which is the common core of lip-pursing.

#5: Crossing Your Legs

The way you cross your legs can tell others a lot about you and how you’re feeling at any given moment. If you cross them at the ankle, it may show that you’re trying to hide something. If you cross them at the knee but point your knees away from the other person, you show you’re uncomfortable with them. In most cases, the best option is to plant your feet firmly on the floor. 

From one-on-ones to group meetings, your body language expresses your confidence, your commitment and your intentions more than you realize. Being mindful of your body language is an important life skill that will not only affect your professional development but social relationships as well.

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