Body Language And You

Being part of a generation where you are constantly judged and analyzed by your outward appearance can make life pretty tough.  But what if you could change people’s perception of who you are? What if you could change the way people see you, without changing your appearance or personality, but by only adjusting your body language?

People have been using nonverbal ways of communicating since the beginning of time. It’s only in 1872 that Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, wrote a book about the study of body language of humans and animals: “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals”..

While we are all walking around trying to decode other people’s nonverbal cues, they are also trying to decode ours. Consciously or unconsciously, using gestures and movements to express feelings and attitude can influence others’ perceptions of us.

Using gestures and movements to show interest or disinterest in any subject matter can make all the difference in how people treat you – and that includes your students. Teachers already have one of the hardest jobs in the world. Why not take every advantage you can get?

Feeling anxious or insecure affects your body language a great deal and can make you appear negative, disinterested and unapproachable. The ultimate goal is to trick students into thinking you are extremely confident, interested and approachable even if you don’t feel any of those things.

Teachers have to be public speakers, leaders, and entertainers all at once.

It doesn’t mean that you are faking the way you are feeling. You can still feel bored, irritated or antisocial but to build good professional and social relationships you have to adjust the way you portray yourself.

Here’s some nonverbal tricks for teachers. 

Show more confidence

Researchers at Harvard Business School discovered that the more expansive you are – roll your shoulders back, firmly plant your feet on the ground, and keep your head up – the more confident you feel and the more confident others perceive you. Check out how Frank Underwood does it! 

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Even if you feel unsure take on a confident ‘power position’ to assert yourself. A power position would be standing with your legs apart hands on your hips or leaning back in your chair with your hands behind your head. When teaching, keep your arms loose and your head up.

Look welcoming

Touching someone by means of a friendly and firm handshake or a soft pat on the back, arm or shoulder is a warm way of showing care and friendliness. You don’t have to go around hugging everyone and all you see, but that quick physical touch makes you seem like a warm hearted people’s person. 

Similarly, keep your hands visible. Our hands are trust indicators: people who can’t see your hands don’t trust you. Don’t put your hands in your pockets, behind your back, or under your desk. 

Don’t cross your arms and legs when you speak to a new acquaintance. Open up – have your hands rest by your sides and relax your shoulders. Appearing relaxed makes you seem more confident and will make the person you are talking to feel at ease and listened to. Expect an invite to a social gathering when you have this approach.

Smile and be expressive

A simple genuine smile can light up a room and will create a friendly, trustworthy vibe around you. No one likes talking to someone who looks like they are having the worst day ever! Smiling directly changes the way people respond to you, you immediately look more approachable and they will most certainly always smile back.

In a clever study, Professor Stephen Cicci tested how much body language helped his student evaluations. He conducted two experiments with the exact same verbal content. However, while in one class he used his typical body language, he mixed it up for the second. Along with a few nonverbal tricks, Professor Cicci also varied his voice tone, used a variety of facial gestures, and moved his hands around.

Which one do you think got the highest ratings?

Look like you’re listening

If you want people to become friends or to trust you with valuable information you need to listen! Stop multitasking while they speak, checking the time, fidgeting with your pencil case or checking text messages will only make them feel like they are boring you and you can forget an invite to another social session with them. Completely turn your torso towards them and make eye contact to show interest in their story. This will make you appear more trustworthy and loyal.

Mirror expressions and postures

Imitate someone’s posture and hand gestures to show that you agree with them. Mirroring is one of the most powerful tools we use instinctively without even noticing. For example, yawning: when you see someone yawn, you’re probably going to yawn too in the next thirty seconds. 

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Mirroring body language is a nonverbal way of saying “I am like you; we are the same”. When people say they feel connected to someone or that the “vibes” are right, they’re referring to mirroring. This technique works best within a one-on-one setting, when you’re trying to get the student to open up. Instead of saying “trust me” verbally, consider showing it. 

When you understand how to present a certain message through posture, movements and gestures it addd to your appeal and make for a lasting positive impression. You’ll sustain social connections, build better interpersonal communication skills and add confidence to your day to day life.

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