We often talk about the importance of communication. The words we say, how we say them and how well we listen. But did you know that it is estimated that about 55% of our communication is in fact through body language? Incredible to realise that we may not even be aware of most of the messages we are sending to people.
How does this relate to self-esteem? Often people with low self-esteem give out negative messages about themselves without realising it. You can help to improve your confidence and self-esteem by paying attention to sending positive signals through body language. You may not feel positive or secure but essentially, ‘fake it till you make it’!
So what can you do with your body language to appear to people as friendly, approachable and confident? Following are some basics about body language and how you can use it as a tool to help boost your confidence and self-esteem.
1. Make eye contact
When you have low self-esteem it is often natural to look away from people in social or work situations and have no or little eye contact when in public places. This instantly sends a negative message to people around us.
Make an effort to look people in the eye when you speak to them. If you find this confronting, then focus on the space between the eyes at the top of their nose and they won’t know the difference.
When in public places or social situations, scan the room and look at people. This can be really hard at first but try and do it when you first enter a room as it does give a message of confidence to people.
If you are speaking to someone directly and you are not making eye contact it conveys the message that you are not interested. Focusing on making direct eye contact can alone make a big difference in looking confident and friendly. It shows you are genuine and listening.
This is one of the biggest and most effective messages you can send. When you first enter a room, look around and if someone makes eye contact with you, smile! It sends the message that you are friendly, approachable and confident.
Let’s face it, are you more likely to approach someone who is smiling or someone who is frowning hard at the floor?
Smiling also lifts your mood. When you smile, your body naturally reacts and makes you feel happier. Try it. Sit there and smile for no apparent reason and see how it makes you feel.
Of course make sure you smile appropriately. If you are walking into a serious business meeting, grinning at everyone is probably not the message you want to send.
3. Strong Posture
The tendency when you have low self-esteem is to slouch in order to disappear and not be noticed. So, again, fake it. Shoulders back, head upright, stand tall. This shows people that you are confident. You may find that you naturally return to your slouching position when you aren’t focused on it so be aware and keep correcting. With time it will become habit.
4. Don’t fidget
When people get nervous they tend to start fidgeting. In particular, touching your face can send messages of being nervous so focus on your body language, and if you feel yourself starting to fidget, stop yourself and take a deep breath to help calm your body.
When others are talking to you, nod. Of course don’t go overboard with it, but nodding occasionally when someone is speaking, shows that you are interested and listening. Everyone loves to be listened to so they will automatically feel more comfortable with you.
This is a common way of building rapport with people. Mirror facial expressions, sitting or standing positions and other body language.
If you are speaking to someone and they sit back in their chair, then sit back in your chair. If they are smiling and nodding, do the same. Without realising it you are forming a bond with the other person. There is something about you that they like and connect with. They feel comfortable with you.
Again don‘t go overboard or people will think you are making fun of them.
6. Don’t cross your arms
Crossing arms can mean many things. Maybe you are cold, maybe it’s a comfortable position for you, or maybe you are uncomfortable and trying to protect yourself.
Unless you are standing at a sports match in Winter, most people are going to read crossed arms as meaning you are unapproachable whether this is the message you are sending or not. Try and have an open stance. If you are uncomfortable and feel like your hands are dangling, have a look around at other people and what they are doing with their hands.
7. Observe Role Models
This is one of the best ways to learn positive body language. Pick someone you admire as being confident and friendly and watch them. Watch how they enter a room, how they talk to others, how they walk down the street. Discreetly of course.
Watch for the body language mentioned above and any other things you notice about how they hold themselves. It is a great way to learn.
Similarly, start to observe the body language of everyone about you. You can see what attracts you in terms of body language, what you read as negative and what you can do to change yours based on this information. It is also a great distraction to focus on the body language of others when you are feeling nervous.
Changing your body language as with most things, is not going to happen overnight. First pay attention to your current body language and work out what needs changing. Then pick one thing and focus on changing that for the week. Any time you are in a situation that makes you nervous or uncomfortable, focus on your body and what messages it is sending, because it will be reacting.
Practice at home. You may feel silly standing in front of a mirror making faces but nobody knows and it is a great way to learn. Look at yourself in the mirror and smile, frown, slouch, stand tall. Get used to what looks confident and friendly and practice that.
Many of my clients use this to help them change their social and work interactions and find it does help. Not only do they find that it sends positive messages to others, it also gives them something to focus on which helps with nerves. Often our behaviour can affect our thoughts so behaving in a confident way can actually make you feel more confident.
With practice you can help to boost your confidence and self-esteem through effective use of body language.
If you need help improving your confidence and self-esteem, give me a call on 0468 950 420 and we can chat about how I can help you.