Improving your body language

First aired on Morning North (05/04/12)

Researchers have estimated that body language and nonverbal cues account for most of human communication. So why has it been that so much of our social education revolves around words and what we say, as opposed to how we say it (and what we don't say)?

Mark Bowden, an author and expert in nonverbal communication, has been educating people about the importance of being able to read body language. His book, Winning Body Language, offers a range of techniques to improve the way you communicate with others. In a recent interview with Morning North, Bowden said that a quick way to improve your body language is to make yourself open and approachable.

"What I'm watching for in somebody else, for example, is a sense of what their feeling is for the situation and what their intention is about the situation. So ... is your body language open? You know, are you being expansive with your body, are you open with your belly or chest area so that I can see more of your body? Or are you closed, are you folded in on yourself, are you crunched in at your stomach, are your hands covering your chest or your belly or are they hunched in down by your side?"

According to Bowden, open body-language encourages trust between people, which is key in any kind of successful relationship, from business to romance.

You can also apply this to public speaking, an activity many people feel anxious about. Successful public speakers avoid looking nervous, even if they are, by using the right body language, Bowden says.

winning-body-language.jpg "If you stand up and you place your hands in that belly area with your hands open, showing your openness around the torso area, that will send a message to the audience that you're an open person and they'll be more likely to approach what you're saying. You'll look more approachable, so even though you're speaking, you'll look like you're listening."

Bowden points out that much nonverbal communication happens at a subconscious level, which is perhaps why we spend so little time analyzing our own body language as opposed to our words and conversations. Want to try a quick social experiment to see how this stuff works? You can play Bowden's Eyebrow Raise game.

"When we see somebody who we recognize, naturally, unconsciously we raise our eyebrows, they just go up, up and down, very quickly, it takes about a 50th of a second, and unconsciously the other person sees that, that familiar person sees that, it's the signal for 'I know you, I've met you before.' Well, here's the thing. If you want to make friends very, very quickly, as you're walking down the street just do that quick eyebrow raise to them, and you'll be surprised by how many people smile back at you," Bowden said. "People will even stop and start talking to you because you've tricked their unconscious mind into thinking you're actually a member of their tribe, their familiar group. So you can have some fun with making new friends and stopping people in their tracks if you want to."