French sculptor François Auguste Rodin’s bronze statue, The Thinker, is world-famous. The sculpture is of a man sitting on a rock with his right arm placed below his chin, leaning a little forward and looking downwards. The type of body language displayed in the sculpture itself shows that the man is lost in thought.
The Thinker is an excellent example of good body language that aptly conveys your mood or message. While communicating with those around us, we use two types of communication. One is verbal or written. The other is nonverbal, which is subtler, and in many ways more important in face-to-face communication.
Understanding and decoding the different types of body language in communication is extremely important to navigate conversations effectively.
Body language is one of the primary ways we communicate with each other. The way you present yourself, behave and act carries meaning. The meaning can be positive or negative.
Positive Body Language
Positive body language is a type of non-verbal communication that puts us in a position of comfort, likeability and dignity. Also known as open body language, it helps us be open and approachable to others—helping them feel at ease during interactions or exchanges. When you pay close attention to your body language, you have the potential to navigate conflicts and build new relationships.
Negative Body Language
Negative or closed body language are nonverbal cues that affect your credibility and influence. You act or respond through gestures, facial expressions and postures that may offend or even hurt others. Your closed body language may drastically reduce your ability to be effective and you may not even be aware of it.
Keeping your body language in check is crucial for workplace settings as it has the power to affect your professional relationships. You wouldn’t want to leave people with a wrong idea about you, which is why you need to learn how to keep your silent signals in check.
Types of body language
Body language refers to the messages that our bodies communicate. The use of facial expressions, gestures, different kinds of mannerisms and body movements are essential for nonverbal communication.
Here are the various kinds of body language we generally use:
Seema and Richa ran into each other in a marketplace. While Seema was overjoyed to meet her childhood friend and rushed forward to hug her, Richa looked a little confused and her body language was stiff. Even though she enquired about Seema and her family, Seema wasn’t sure if Richa was happy to meet her.
As Latin priest Jerome of Stridon once wisely said, “The face is the mirror of the mind, and the eyes, without speaking a word, confess the secrets of the heart.”
Facial expressions can convey a gamut of feelings such as joy, sadness, sorrow, anger, fear, or surprise. A person living in Mexico and another living in Greece will have different words to convey emotions, but both may shed tears if they are sad.
Richa wasn’t able to look into Seema’s eyes when the latter excitedly told her about the job she was short-listed for. Her eyes wandered across the busy market street, and it seemed she wasn’t paying attention.
Out of all the different types of body language, eye contact is one of the most important to remember. Eyes are the windows to the soul. Avoiding eye contact usually indicates lying or lack of attention or interest. So it is imperative to maintain eye contact for any communication to be effective. Good body language starts with having a healthy amount of eye contact during a conversation.
Unlike Richa, we should be mindful of the kinds of body language we use in our conversation. Gestures are another type of body language that can convey our excitement, anger, remorse, or hopelessness. Using gestures aids in effective communication as it physically portrays our energy invested in a conversation.
While some types of body language are universal, some are contextual. Gestures, for example, can have varied meanings across the world. While a ‘thumbs up’ gesture means ‘okay’ or ‘good’ in almost every English speaking culture and country, it is found to be offensive in countries such as Brazil, Russia, or Germany.
While Richa congratulated Seema about the new role she was so excited about, Seema couldn’t help but notice that the tone and tenor of her voice conveyed something entirely different . Richa’s tone seemed disinterested and a little sad to Seema.
Out of all the different types of body language, voice is the most important one. While we experience most types of body language in physical communication, the tone and quality of voice can be gauged through phone calls as well. People not only listen to your words but also your voice. Maintaining a comfortable pace and suitable emotion to the context is imperative.
Leave A Lasting Impression
Proper body language is especially important when searching for a job. In job interviews, recruiters not only look at your resume or CV but also try to gauge whether you’re trustworthy and will be a good fit for the organization. Non-verbal cues matter because there are certain expressions and movements that reveal negative emotions. If you want to present yourself as the most suitable candidate, you need to build rapport and establish trust with the interviewer. The interviewer should also feel comfortable in your presence and positive body language can help you achieve that.
Here are some tips that can help you present yourself professionally in a job interview:
Make Eye Contact
The best way to show someone that you’re interested and engaging with the situation is to maintain eye contact. However, that doesn’t mean you stare someone down as too much eye contact can make them feel uncomfortable. Make sure you make eye contact when the interviewer is talking or listening to you.
Don’t Touch Your Face
Touching your face during an interview can be extremely distracting. It also makes you appear distracted. Keep a handkerchief or tissue at hand if you need to pat down the sweat and follow it up with ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me’. Keep your hair out of your face by combing it well. This way you can completely focus on the matter at hand.
Although interviews are formal, it doesn’t mean you can’t exchange a good laugh. Genuinely smiling and nodding can help you seem approachable. Laugh only if it’s appropriate. Make sure you don’t force your smiles or laughter as it shows and can be distracting.
You want to project confidence during interviews and the most effective way to do so is by maintaining a relaxed posture. This means you need to sit with your back straight and not cross your arms and legs. Use hand gestures wherever necessary as it signals honesty and engagement.
The quickest way to build rapport with the interviewer is to mirror their positive body language. For example, if they seem warm and welcoming, you can answer by genuinely smiling and leaning in. However, don’t fall into the spell of mimicking them.
Harappa Education’s Building Presence course can help you learn about different types of body language in physical communication and using nonverbal cues from leading educators and trainers. Strengthen your communication skills to give a boost to your professional journey.
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