What are the best ways to improve your body language? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
The process of improving body language is a relatively simple one, but that does not mean it is easy. From my experience as both a behavioral scientist and a practitioner, I propose four stages: Learning, Practice, Review and Feedback, and Implementing. These stages, however, are part of a cycle of continued improvement rather than a set of steps you must climb.
The first stage is learning about effective body language. For example, if you want to appear confident, you need to know what body language is perceived as confident, and what is not. This stage becomes the foundation of the next three stages, such that, if the information you are putting into practice is incorrect then regardless of how much you practice, you will not achieve your desired result.
Thus, it is crucial to learn from a reliable source. Watch out for individuals who promote pseudoscientific claims, such as, you can detect deception, tell a person’s personality, and tell what somebody is thinking thought body language.
To check source reliability, ask yourself: Is this person a researcher in the field? Are they evidencing empirical articles or unreliable sources like blog posts? Can they evidence successful applications in the field (Media appearances are NOT sources of evidence)?
Mastering the art of body language, just like any other skill, takes time and practice. Don’t try and implement everything at once, for example, trying to consciously control your hand gestures, facial expressions, mimicry techniques, voice control, and expansive postures. Doing this will overload your cognitive resources and no individual element will get enough attention.
Focus on the elements you want to change the most, such as being more emotionally expressive, or showing smoother gestures, and begin altering your natural behaves to be more in line with how you want to be perceived. Through practice, these changes will feel more natural.
Review and Feedback
Once you start to feel more comfortable, you should begin reviewing yourself and making notes on what you are doing well and what still needs work. You could do this by recording yourself and watching it back, asking a friend to watch it back and provide feedback, as well as practicing whilst presenting to close friends and loved ones. You may FEEL like your behaviors look natural, but when watching yourself back, it becomes clear when behaviors look forced.
If you find yourself bouncing back and for the between this stage and the last before moving to the next stage, good, this is how your skills become fine-tuned.
You will then implement your nonverbal communication skills into important meetings, negotiations, presentations, and your everyday life. Given enough practice, your improved body language will have become part of your natural behavioral repertoire, requiring little conscious effort.
But remember, scientists are increasing our understanding of nonverbals every day and there will always be more to learn and improve. This may seem like a lot of work but given that body language is essential for effective communication and successful interpersonal interactions, you will never regret putting the work in.