I tell my patients that I read body language for a living. As a shrink when you are in the listening business, bodies are often much more important sources of information than words. In a world of language, texting and almost non-stop communication why should you pay attention to body language?
A new study this week offers up some insights.
“We still use body language because that’s the way our brains worked (eons) years ago when we first became human,” King said. “That brain is still ticking away; all research based on evolutionary psychology demonstrates that we are living in the 21st century with that same ancestral brain. This is what is called hard wiring. We still have the same bodily workshop. We just do different stuff in that workshop.”
“Body language is not an either-or situation,” adds Dennis Kravetz, a Scottsdale-Ariz.-based psychologist who specializes in male-female communication and body language. “If speech is more sophisticated than body language, then why haven’t chimps, dogs, and other animals developed speech as part of their evolutionary history? Rather, body language enhances communication.”
Here are some suggestions for enhancing your body language for maximum impact. As I’m in the “getting laid and finding love” arena, I know that an understanding of what your body is saying to others makes a monstrous impact in having others respond in a romantic way.
1. Remember first impressions are still key. Smile, hand out, well groomed and open gets you noticed.
2. Practice your posture. I once took a presentation course that had us look at ourselves on video. The presenters that were straight and looked right at the camera were the ones that passed the course. Just saying…
3. Pretending to be confident (even when you are feeling tentative) can actually increase your hormone level. Research at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools shows that simply holding your body in expansive, “high-power” poses (leaning back with hands behind the head and feet up on a desk, or standing with legs and arms stretched wide open) for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone — the hormone linked to power and dominance — and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
4. Look like your listening. Practice active listening skills. Nod, eye contact (right out of Make friends and Influence people), and immediately shake hands. Bill Clinton spoke of his practicing connecting with people as early as grade 7. It’s how you build legendary charm.
5. Watch your feet. Hands and facial reactions may be guarded but feet can be unrehearsed. Under stress, people will often display nervousness and anxiety through increased foot movements. Feet will fidget, shuffle and wind around each other or around the furniture. Feet will stretch and curl to relieve tension, or even kick out in a miniaturized attempt to run away.