How are you sitting right now? Is it with your back straight up with good posture or are you hunched over your computer with extremely poor posture?
Something that I’ve been studying over the past 6 months or so is body language. I know, I tend to study a lot of different things at once and am in fact obsessed with learning. According to the Strengths Finder 2.0, my second biggest strength is learner so you can understand why I’m obsessed with learning.
A Science Called Kinesics
Body language is known scientifically as kinesics. Body language can include any non-reflexive or reflexive movement of a part, or all of the body, used by a person to communicate an emotional message to the outside world. The reason that this is interesting to me is that our words can say one thing, while our body says a completely different thing. This is extremely fascinating to me because it can change the way that an encounter goes with any given person, depending on whether or not we can see signals and address the signals.
Body language is not just used in business, it is also very apparent in the world of dating, which is another reason I’m interested in it. One thing that I have noticed a lot lately is that women tend to be a lot better at reading body language than men.
Our body language is not acted out consciously for the most part either. It’s usually us acting out our state of being with our nonverbal body language. We will lift one eyebrow for disbelief. We will rub our nose for puzzlement. We’ll clasp our arms to isolate ourselves and to protect ourselves. We will shrug our shoulders if we truly are indifferent and we’ll wink one eye for intimacy, tap our fingers for impatience and slap our foreheads for forgetfulness. These subtle body cues often happen before we even realize we have done them.
How We Handle Space
How do you typically handle space? Are you aware of how you utilize the space that you are in? Do you take up a lot of space to show authority or do you shrink the amount of space you need to provide more space for others? How about when you attend church, a networking event or even your chair when watching the big game? Do you get upset when another person is sitting in your normal seat or do you just brush it off?
All of these signals tell us about ourselves. We all become comfortable with one seat at events or in classes and might feel upset if someone sits in our seat. Think about that for a second and reflect back on how you felt the last time someone was sitting in your seat.
Playing With Comfort Zones
There are also 4 different zones in our space that determine our level of comfort with people. I often play around with these spaces now to see how people react to them.
The first zone is the intimate distance which can be either close physical contact or from 6 to 18 inches away from the other person. When you are in a close intimate distance to another person, you are overwhelmingly aware of your partner, which is why this is typically done between a man and woman on intimate terms only. If you’ve ever spent any time observing people, you’ve probably noticed couples who sit extremely close to one another and are up in each others grills. These people are typically in a relationship or about to get physical. If this situation happens among non-intimate partners people often get upset and extremely uncomfortable. Think of a crowded elevator or subway car where you’re crammed up next to someone and how uncomfortable that sometimes feels. Strangers in your personal space and touching you sometimes…
The second zone is your personal distance which is the area 1.5 to 2.5 feet away from another person. This distance is still enough for you to hold or grasp your partner’s hand from a distance. An interesting thing about this is that when a man or woman steps into the personal distance of another, they are typically interested in the person they are getting closer to. This is really interesting when you see it happening at a night club or a bar, because it’s usually a signal that someone is interested in you and will respond openly if you approach them. This is similar at networking events as well. If I want to meet someone who is currently engaged in a conversation I’ve found that by standing at this distance, it usually signals that I’m interested in talking to someone once their current conversation is over. It’s viewed as either “I am keeping you at arm’s length” or “I have singled you out to be a little closer than the other guests.”
The third zone is social distance which is from about 4 to 7 feet away. This is the average distance for impersonal business. There is still the opportunity for you to continue working or acknowledge the presence of another person from this distance. In an office setting, having a desk that keeps people 4 to 7 feet away from you keeps the power in your court and allows for you to control the conversation or end it.
The last of these zones is public distance which is about 25 feet or more. This is used more for informal gatherings and I don’t want to focus on that in this post.
All Of These Tell Another Person About You
Is your body language communicating the message you want communicated? If not, you’re going to need to take some time to reflect on what your body language is currently saying about you and find a way to either change your body language or learn to accept mediocrity. I recommend taking the higher road, although it will be more difficult, and learning more about how your body language impacts your interactions.
There are a ton of great books and resources that will help you to learn about your own body language and how to read the body language of people around you. I find it extremely fascinating to learn this stuff because it helps me in personal relationships as well as business relationships. When making a sale, you can tell if a person is open to doing business with you or not by how they are positioning their body and the movements they are making. When meeting a girl, you can tell if they are open to talking to you by how they position their body and subtle clues they’ll do with their body.
This stuff really is interesting and it’s worth spending some time learning about if you are involved in business or dating in any way. If you are a guy like myself, you probably have a lot more to learn than the females reading this right now. In fact, the females reading this probably understand all of this already and are thinking how silly men can be at times. Yes, I agree women, but we have to learn somehow right? 😉
Book Resources to Learn More About Body Language
- Body Language by Julius Fast
- Winning Body Language: Control the Conversation, Command Attention, and Convey the Right Message without Saying a Word by Mark Bowden
- The Power of Body Language: How to Succeed in Every Business and Social Encounter by Tonya Reiman
- The Magic of Rapport by Jerry Richardson
- Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You by Mark Mazzarella
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope it’s helped you think about how you are holding yourself and presenting yourself in front of others. If you have any comments or questions please leave them below! I may end up writing more about body language as I learn more about it..