Our body language is always talking and telling others about us. It gives indicators about our power, status, and self-assurance. People subtly pick up on our body language cues, using them to make perceptions about us. They hold perceptions about their relationship to us (are you an ally? competitor? superior?) They make perceptions about your agreeability (can they talk openly with you or do they walk on egg shells around you)? They make perceptions about your motives (are you honest and respectable or conniving and manipulative?)Sometimes who we are and how people perceive us matches up. Sometimes it does not. By being intentional about your body language, you can influence how others see you. Carefully choosing your movements is really no different than carefully choosing your words. You are simply being aware of how your actions change how others see you. By being intentional about your body language, you can convey a respectful dominance to appear more confident and powerful.
Body Language, Dominance, and Submission
One way to categorize body language is whether the movement conveys dominance or submission. Dominance, broadly defined, relates to an individual with confidence, authority, competence, and power. The person may not actually have any of those things, but people perceive he or she does. Submission, broadly defined, relates to an individual with insecurity, a lack of power or authority, and inexperience. Again, this may not be accurate. But it is what the body language is conveying.Generally speaking, you want to avoid body language that sends signals of submission and you want to use body language that sends signals of dominance. The point is not to convey aggression or be overly dominating to someone else, but rather to showcase your confidence by engaging in other specific behaviors.
1. Keep Still
When people fidget, they are often trying to remove nervous energy. It is why you find yourself bouncing your foot up and down during a job interview or being unable to sit still during a date. Keep your movements focused and methodical, trying to maintain a stillness that exudes confidence.
2. Take Up Space
Work on (respectfully) taking up space. This reflects a confidence that you are where you belong. If you are sitting down, you can rest your arm on the empty seat next to you. If you are standing, you can stand tall with legs apart, hands on your hips, and with your chest slightly out. Avoid crossing your arms and legs, as these make you take up less space and signal insecurity or stress. Resist the desire to lean up against something to support you, like a counter or wall. Make sure to not hold objects, like a drink or briefcase, in front of your body as a barrier between you and others.
3. Sustain Eye Contact
Your eyes convey a lot about your confidence. The ability to hold strong eye contact is important. Too brief of eye contact suggests insecurity. Too long of eye contact suggests overcompensating for that insecurity. A good length of time is to hold eye contact just long enough to notice the color of the person's eyes. If you are in a group, make sure you give each individual some extended eye contact. Avoid quickly scanning the crowd. Rather, hold eye contact with every person in the crowd as you speak.
4. Keep Your Posture Relaxed
When we are stressed or worried, we tense up and our posture stiffens. By holding relaxed poses, we convey a sense of calm and confidence. Keep your arms loose and shoulders back. Show that you are comfortable in the situation by sitting or standing comfortably.
5. Gesture with Your Hands
Gesturing with your hands allows you to showcase strength as well as be a more engaging speaker. There are three common hand gestures. You can make motions with an open palm, keping your arms at waist level to seem more credible. You can use the open thumb pose (link together your fingers and keeping thumbs pointed out). Or you can make the steeple (tips of fingers come together while leaving space between your palms). Many politicians use a combination of these gestures to communicate strength to their audience.
6. Angle Towards the Person You are Talking to
How you angle your body affects how others view you. Angling away subtly indicates insecurity in yourself or a distrust of the other person. By angling towards them, you appear more self-assured and more engaged in the conversation.Using these tactics in your daily life, from work to interpersonal conversations, can help other see you as the confident, self-assured person you are (or the confident, self-assured person you'd like to be). Either way, they see you in a better light.