Challenge #10: Mastering an Unspoken Language

Posted on August 31, 2011

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Remember when your teacher told you to sit up in class to show that you were serious about learning? Or your mother got on your case about your bad posture? Or perhaps a friend told you how important it was to make eye contact in an interview.

Your whole life people have been telling you, in one form or another, how important the nonverbal signals you send are. And you know what? They were absolutely right.

Research shows that upon meeting a new person, within 10 seconds (sometimes even sooner), people subconsciously can pick up on a ton of information about someone else. Before someone even speaks, we have already made a set of assumptions and predictions about them based on the way they hold and position their body. In other words, body language speaks volumes. 

Whether you’re  conscious of it or not, your body language is sending messages to people all the time about your feelings of self-worth. And although there are many, many ways to assert your self-dignity, one of the first things people will notice about you will be the way in which you speak this unspoken language with your body.

In our last challenge of this month full of self-worth challenges, I’d like you to learn some important body language pointers. Literally positioning your body in a new way will make you feel differently about yourself.  Learning how to hold yourself confidently not only sends a different set of unspoken messages to others, it actually subconsciously makes you feel more confident. So start putting these initial tips into action and then go and read some books or articles on body language so that you can learn how to master this unspoken language.

Challenge #10: Learn and practice confident body language. 

Tip 1: Learn to make eye contact. 

I’m not talking about staring people down here. That’s just creepy. Nor am I saying you should get in the habit of lovingly gazing into someone else’s eyes (Unless they’re you’re significant other, this is highly inappropriate as well).  I mean, when you’re talking, make sure you’re looking another person in the eyes most of the time (70-80% is good). In our culture, confident, honest and observant people are able to make and maintain eye contact with someone else.  So learn how to do this.

Tip 2: Keep your spine straight. 

Are you guilty of slouching? I know I am. I have a mild form of scoliosis and sometimes it just feels more comfortable-and natural-to slouch. However, I know the importance of maintaining a straight spine (for both physical and psychological reasons) so each hour I check in with my back to make sure I am maintaining good posture. Good, solid posture sends a message of strong self-worth to others and it also allows for a number of other physical benefits as well (like opening up the lungs so that you can take deeper breaths).

Tip 3: Don’t fidget with your hands.

Messing with stuff (tapping a pen, playing with your hair, picking at your fingernails) sends a message of anxiety and impatience to others. If you know you have a bad habit of nervously doing things with your hands, make a conscious effort to fold them and place them in your lap.

These tips are intended to just get you started. There’s a whole host of body language tips and strategies from experts out there and I hope you’ll devote some time to studying this art.

If you’ve been keeping up with the challenges this month in our Self-Worth Challenge-CONGRATULATIONS! You have made it to the end. I hope you give yourself a nice big reward for finishing. I strongly believe that the rewards you’ll reap from learning how to honor and value yourself will continue to help you transform into a person who realizes her own true worth. 

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