Your Body Talks

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How body language influences the conversation.

Your posture conveys a wealth of information that lets people know whether you鈥檙e interested/ bored; available/ distracted; pleased/ displeased; or dangerous/ friendly. Research has shown that nonverbal postural cues register in the body before they register in the mind. Tuning in to the underlying postural message is linked to your survival and success. It鈥檚 also a good way to increase your emotional intelligence.

When conversing, it鈥檚 important to pay attention and respond to the words and the body. Chances are, you already do this with facial expression. For instance, if someone鈥檚 eyes look sad, you automatically soften the tone a bit. If the forehead is scrunched, you鈥檙e inclined to explain more thoroughly. If the jaw is set, you may want to slow down and negotiate. Although less obvious, postural expression is just as important. Whether the body appears open or closed (upright or slumped) relays a message of confidence, status, receptivity, or not. It just makes sense that if you want to deliver a message of availability, you wouldn鈥檛 cross your arms and slump down. In the normal course of relating, these messages may go unnoticed but they still have a profound impact. Check it out.

Pay attention to postural expressions over the next couple of days, yours and theirs. Don鈥檛 stare or listen to the words, just evaluate the body talk. Glance at a stranger in a crowd room or across the restaurant. Go through your Facebook photos and take a quick look on Snapchat. Here are some things to observe:

路 hands on hips, fingers open or curled

路 arms stretched out or arms crossed over belly

路 head lowered, eyes averted, hand covering mouth

路 standing on one leg, sitting with legs crossed

路 heart space open or compressed

路 jaw soft or hard

Interpreting body talk has as much to do with how it makes you feel as any expert鈥檚 list. But, to stimulate your imagination, speaking coach Fred Miller offers these common assessments: Easy, upright posture conveys a message of leadership and confidence; whereas hunched shoulders convey lack of confidence and possibly low self-esteem. Leaning slightly forward indicates that you care; while slouching to one side says you don鈥檛. Crossed arms can appear defensive, self-protective, or closed off. Hands on hips could say a person is in control and at the ready; or it may be a sign of aggressiveness. Clasping hands and tapping fingers indicate boredom or impatience. Crossed legs might indicate unavailability or a need for privacy.

Being responsive to a postural message can make the difference between a good encounter and a failure. In addition to increasing your non-verbal vocabulary, becoming fluent in body language is a good way to improve your personal and professional relationships.

Here are some ways to make sure your posture is sending a positive message:

路 Occupy your entire personal space including above your head and below your feet to send a message of conscious awareness.

路 Balance on your full foot/ pelvis to send a message of grounded confidence.

路 Keep your shoulders and lips relaxed to give a message of openness.

路 Face your audience to deliver a message of full attention.

路 Imagine open lines of communication between heads and hearts to encourage a message of connection.

路 Focus your mind on your body rather than your next comment to convey a message of interest.

路 Breathe fully to reinforce a message that you are present and listening.

Even if you鈥檙e texting or talking on Bluetooth, your positive posture will help you stay focused, respond accurately, and make a good impression. If we can hear a smile in a tone of voice, perhaps we also hear the fullness of posture. Even if the listener can鈥檛 see it, your relaxed, open posture just sounds more confident and connected.

Whether you鈥檙e with a colleague, a friend, or a romantic interest, including the body in the conversation increases both effectiveness and intimacy. So, shake it up. Let your conscious body bring in a fresh look that鈥檚 aligned with your intentions. This could be the most important thing you do to assure success in all of your relationships.