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Body Language in Communication

Number 1: An understanding of body language in communication is critical to improving business and personal relationships.

Number 2: People often think of a conversation as the words spoken between two or more people. What we often don't realize is that much of what we say never comes out of our mouths!

Number 3: Body language is easy to overlook, misinterpret and misuse. Practice the tips covered in this article to crank your communication skills up a few notches!

Free My Life session with Coaching Interactive Accredited and Certified Christian Life Coach James Klotzle

Posture of Attention

When you are talking to someone else, he or she needs to know that you are actually interested and care about the communication. Posture alone speaks volumes.

For most situations, Gerard Egan's acronym SOLER is a great checklist for fine-tuning your body language in communication:

S - sit or stand Squarely

O - keep an Open posture

L - Lean slightly forward

E - maintain Eye contact

R - Relax

Whether you are sitting across the desk from someone or standing in a crowded room of people, you want to face them Squarely. This reassures the person that you're not going to run off any moment to do something more important! Facing squarely helps to keep them engaged in the conversation.

An Open posture stems directly from your attitude about the conversation. If you're feeling open toward the person and about the conversation you're having, the posture usually follows naturally. When fine-tuning your openness, think about your facial expression: is it guarded, suspicious or angry?

Big hint: crossing your arms in front of you is not the way to display openness! Displaying your palms, keeping your hands open and fingers together, is an excellent way to communicate trustworthy openness.

Leaning forward is especially helpful if you are sitting down. It is easy to look disinterested when sitting down, so show your interest by leaning slightly forward.

At the very least, sit up straight! When standing, a forward lean might get you into someone's personal space... so... use common sense on this one. If your conversation partner is backing up, you might be a bit too far forward!

Eye contact. If you remember anything from this article, remember Eye contact. Even if all the other elements of your body language in communication are askew, good eye contact can salvage the conversation. (And bad eye contact can send a person running!)

Keep it natural and comfortable. Don't forget to take breaks: holding someone's eye for too long is inappropriate. In most Western cultures, 3 seconds is the norm for gazing at someone during conversation, and a little over one second is good when two people are looking one another in the eye. Any more, and things start to get uncomfortable.

In most situations, you want the person you're communicating with to feel relaxed. Best way to do that? Relax yourself! You can set the tone of the conversation.

Feel uptight, and you will look uptight. (And the other person will start to feel uptight too!)

Note the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Are they strained or tightened? Are your fists or jaw clenched? These are sure-fire signs that you are not relaxed.

Let the strain ease out of these key areas, and your body language will make the other person feel much more comfortable.

. . .

Practice the SOLER elements of body language in communication, and you will find yourself listening and relating better in every conversation!

The Epicenter

Body language in communication gets more complicated if people must be moving around during the conversation.

When everyone is moving together:

If you are walking and talking, it is hard to stand squarely in front of someone! When two or more people are talking side-by-side, (in a car, walking, etc.) it's better to look at the same things, or in the same general direction.

This helps to keep you connected during the conversation. Staring off in another direction is distracting and makes it hard for them to hear you too!

Appropriate gestures can help to reinforce your points, and are easy to see out of the corner of one's eye.

When you are moving around:

Imagine you are making supper for some guests. They are seated at the kitchen island, and you are moving all around the room stirring in pots, chopping food and measuring ingredients. You can still have great body language during the conversation by making them the center of attention. Make sure you glance up periodically and face them whenever possible. Using good body language, it is possible to be productive while making the other person feel valued and engaged in the conversation!

When they are moving around:

Now the tables are turned! You are over at their house and they are running around with a few last-minute preparations for the meal.

Don't stay rigid in your seat, facing one direction the whole time.

Do pivot to face them and have your attention right there to make eye contact whenever they are able.

Lean forward to show interest and speak louder if necessary. Also, do not get offended if your conversation partner needs to give full attention to something else for a little bit. You can always get back to the conversation after the baby stops crying!

Free My Life session with Coaching Interactive Accredited and Certified Christian Life Coach James Klotzle

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