Most people regard verbal communication to be the primary form of communication; however research has shown body language accounts for 50-70% of all communication. Leadership training and management training understand the significance of these kinds of findings and aim to guide individuals on how best to understand and improve non-verbal communication.

Body Language is the unconscious communication that operates alongside our conscious spoken language – this fact is often overlooked for that very reason – it’s an unconscious process. To have an understanding and awareness of your own body language, and that of others, is a skill that can aid the way you perceive others and present yourself. The key to understanding the significance of body language is to realise that everything we say is the product of a conscious process; with many different factors affecting our spoken language.

Body language however, unless consciously attended to, operates unconsciously and is therefore often a clearer indicator of our true intent or feelings. Perhaps a good way to assess the value of understanding body language is in the world of gambling; when the stakes are high, poker players assess the other player’s non-verbal and verbal expressions to gain a greater understanding of what their opponents are thinking. If the verbal and non-verbal communications do not match up, then there’s cause for suspicion – players call it “the tell” and large sums of money can be won or lost depending on a players skill in reading these cues.

Along with using body language as a method to understand other people’s non-verbal communications, management training and leadership training recognise that our own body language can actually create a feedback loop, whereby the expression you wear can affect your actual emotional state. Researchers at Princeton University discovered that when people were asked to read a page of ambiguous text; either frowning or grinning, experimenters consistently found the grinning group to interpret the passage as positive whilst the frowning group largely perceived the passage to have a negative connotation. Amy Cuddy has found similar results when she looked into the effects of posture; more positive postures can improve everything from interview success to increasing testosterone and reducing cortisol (stress hormone). Even by initially producing an artificial expression, this action has been found to influence your actual mood, i.e. by producing a confident posture your body can actually change your brain chemistry to initiate a more confident mental state.

By improving your knowledge of body language, and becoming consciously aware of it, you can better understand the mood and intentions of others more accurately – while also improving not only your own body language, but improving your actual mood. Below are some suggestions leadership programmes and management programmes use for understanding and improving body language:

1.      Posture – Practice some power poses before an important meeting or interview, open confident posturing is great type of bespoke training you can use to convey a positive and confident approach.

2.      Feet – start to become aware of the positioning of peoples feet. If they are aligned with the direction of their torso, facing towards you, this suggests they are interested and you have their attention. If their feet are angled away from their facing torso they may well be trying to exit the conversation.

3.      Smile – Remember, smiling not only conveys friendliness and positivity it can boost your own emotional state.

4.      Alignment – Realigning your body to match your conversation partner’s direction can improve congeniality and aid in reducing tension by suggesting a shared perspective or understanding. This technique is often helpful for first time meetings with individuals you do not yet have a working relationship with.

5.      Voice – Not strictly a body language, however, lowering ones voice can convey leadership qualities promoted in leadership training. Individuals with deeper voices have been shown to be regarded by others as having a greater authority.

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