One of my favorite parts of being a Communication major, and the skill-set I am most grateful for learning as I prepare to walk across the stage at graduation this week (this!!!!freaking!!!!week!!!!) has been refining my nonverbal communication skills.
As my boyfriend so kindly reminded me last week before remembering that I’m days away from having a literal degree in this shit, “Communication is more than just the words you speak, Mary!”
He’s right! It is a lot more than just words. In fact people are more likely to believe what your body language is telling them than what your actual words say. (That is, if you say “I’m not upset,” but are slouching your shoulders and frowning and looking down while you say it, the person you explicitly said “I’m not upset” to will still believe that you are upset. This is science.)
Because of the importance of nonverbal communication in general, I’ve compiled what I genuinely believe to be the most important list of nonverbal cues and body language tips to convey confidence and general awesome-ness for those days you just need a little push.
Maybe you’re having a tough conversation with a family member or boss; maybe you’re interviewing for your dream job; maybe you’re on a saucy Tinder date and really want it to go well. Whatever the case may be, these five tips may help you boost your confidence and be your best self in any conversation before you’ve even decided what the hell to say.
Annoying and cliché, but definitely effective. Smiling not only makes you look more approachable and trustworthy on the outside, but will likely make you feel better on the inside too. Just don’t make it weird -– know when to not smile, and don’t do that strange mouth-only smile that makes you look dead in the eyes. I know you know what I’m talking about.
2. Make and maintain eye contact.
Making eye contact when you’re nervous, uncomfortable, or meeting someone for the first time can be hard. Maintaining eye contact can be even harder -– you know that awkward moment a few minutes into eye contact during a conversation where you’re not sure if you should keep staring them down or look away? Yeah, we’ve all been there. But shifting your eye contact from one eye to the other, and sometimes to their mouth or between their eyes if it becomes “awkward” is one of the best ways to build rapport with the person you’re talking to, and let them know that you’re focused and interested.
3. Pay attention to your shoulders.
We already know that we shouldn’t be crossing our arms during conversation because it often conveys that we are closed-off and defensive. But there are other things that we should be aware of, arm-related and otherwise, when it comes to body language.
Slouching forward, for example, makes you look sloppy and insecure, and paired with the fact that it is just generally terrible for your back and neck, it is definitely something you shouldn’t be doing.
Be mindful of when you’re slouching your shoulders or pushing your neck forward. Roll your shoulders back until you feel your shoulder blades start to slide down your back, then tuck your chin ever so slightly so you’re not putting so much pressure on your neck. (If you have a hard time with this, a few simple yoga poses might help you understand, and become more mindful of how to do it right.) Stand like this until it becomes a habit –- it will improve your health, and make you look much more confident.
4. Figure out what to do with your hands.
This is my biggest downfall when it comes to confidence-body-language. I’m a professional fidgeter, and this often means doing a lot of weird shit with my hands because I generally have no idea what to do with my hands. It is important to try and avoid fidgeting and doing weird habitual things with your hands like picking your nail polish, tapping your fingers, or twirling your hair – but it is hard to stop. If you must sit on your hands, it is better than nothing. But my suggestion would be to very gently clasp your hands and rest them in your lap. (Try your hardest not to twiddle your thumbs.)
5. Nod your damn head.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to show someone you are focused and and paying attention to what they are saying is to nod. When someone is talking at you and it is more of a lecture than a conversation for you to actively participate in, nodding keeps you engaged in what they are saying, and shows them that you’re “with” them even though you haven’t spoken. It also just makes you look smart and respectful, and not like a confused weirdo.