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Controlling What Your Body Says

Discover what your body language says about you to other people, and how to control it.

Controlling What Your Body Says

Lisa has always been shy and uncertain. She grew up with three older brothers who got the lion's share of attention. Whenever there was an argument or disagreement, her parents believed the older brothers over Lisa. As a consequence, she learned that her contributions to a conversation were seldom taken seriously, and even when she was telling the truth, no one believed her. As an adult, Lisa has trouble speaking up when she has something to say because she expects that no one will listen to her.

When Lisa sees Joe at a party, she is immediately attracted to him. To her surprise, he singles her out and comes over to speak to her. She barely looks up when he says hello, certain that he can't be speaking to her. When he asks if he can get her a drink, she manages a quick, nervous smile and shrugs uncomfortably as she says, "Thanks, I'd like that." Even though her words say 'yes', her body language says, "I don't care." When he returns with the soda, she looks up to meet his eyes as she takes it, but immediately looks away, certain that he's 'just being nice' to her. Joe tries to engage her in conversation, but the harder he tries, the more uncomfortable the girl seems to get. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other, fidgets with her glass and constantly looks away from him as soon as he catches her eye. After a few minutes, he decides that Lisa isn't interested in him at all, and rather than make her even more uncomfortable, he politely excuses himself and finds someone else to talk to. What went wrong here?

Your body is a tattletale. When you say one thing but believe another, your body will give you away - unless you understand how to control what it's saying. When our words don't match our body language, we send a mixed message that triggers uncertainty in others. Ninety percent of the time, when our bodies and our words don't match, others will believe the body language even if they don't consciously recognize exactly what it is that they're reading. Because Lisa didn't believe that anyone could be interested in her, she was sending out 'I'm not interesting' signals left and right. She avoided Joe's eyes, responded to his questions with shrugs even when her words were positive and unconsciously looked for 'escape routes' to get away from a situation that was making her uncomfortable.

Because Lisa's actions were incongruent with her verbally expressed interest, Joe got the feeling that she really wasn't interested in talking to him. If she had understood how to use body language to back up her words, she would have discovered that Joe was as interested in getting to know her as she was in getting to know him.

In any situation, it's important to know how your body is affecting the impression that you're giving others. Here's how to make a positive impression on those around you, from your very first meeting.

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