In today’s technologically driven world, body language is more important than ever when facing one-on-one or group human interactions. When communicating through emails, Facebook messages, and texts, the idea of leaving a lasting impression on those we speak to begins to fade into a notion of the past. That said, regardless of whether or not we’re aware of it, our body language can be an indicator to our joys, strengths, weaknesses, and even our fears. In fact, this form of non-verbal communication is widely believed to be ingrained in our genetic makeup. Ethologist Iraneus Eild-Eibesfeldt even claimed that a vast number of basic elements of human body language are universally prevalent across cultures and therefore must be fixed action patterns under instinctive control.
The big question is: How can we harness our innate ability to communicate without speaking to aid us in our day to day interactions? For those of us with nerves made of jelly one significantly noticeable form of body language, though personally difficult to catch at times, is the action of fidgeting. The shaking of legs, cracking of knuckles, or clenching of hands can instantly give away our feelings of uneasiness, anxiety, or desire to not be where we are. Fidgeting, while a great way to burn a few extra calories, instantly sends the signal to those around us that we are a nervous wreck. So, how exactly can one combat this? Believe it or not our most common and effortless form of action, breathing, is one of our ultimate weapons in terms of conquering our unconscious and potentially socially damaging body language.
One of the easiest breathing strategies commonly used by those who suffer from social anxiety and panic attacks is a breathing-counting exercise. Essentially, what we aim to do is take a long, slow breath through our nose and deep into our lungs. Hold that breath and slowly count to five. Once that is done, exhale slowly through pursed lips counting backwards from five while consciously relaxing our jaw, face, shoulders, and stomach. Rinse and repeat as needed.
Following this, we want to use our body in a manner that dictates positivity rather than restlessness. When communicating with others, one-on-one or as a group, we must be sure to keep our feet pointed in the direction of our audience. Having our feet pointed away from our audience could give the impression that we are disinterested or timid. When speaking, we must also be sure to make periodic, but meaningful, eye contact with our listeners to show them that we are engaged with them. Not only does this exude confidence, but it also allows us to monitor our audience’s engagement with us. Additionally, using our hands while speaking provides an emphasis on our words while simultaneously showing our audience that we are excited about what we’re talking about. By manipulating these subtle forms of body language, we are well on our way to taking advantage of our natural ability to speak more powerfully without speaking at all.