We don’t always realize that our bodies are giving people very subtle signals and cues. While we may be saying something that reflects confidence, or thats make us “sound” direct, if our body language looks submissive the person we’re trying to communicate with may get an entirely different message than the one we’re trying to convey. Submissive body language could be keeping you from making your point in the boardroom or at work, to landing a date with that guy or girl that you’ve been trying to draw attention from. Below is an overview on subtle body cues that you can carry with you to be more mindful when communicating and to more successfully accomplish your goals.
There are the obvious signs when it comes to body language, like putting your hands on your hips that scream disapproval or taking an authoritative stance. However, a physical cue like that that may be a sign of confrontation and disappointment as opposed to a cue that you are asking respectfully for action while standing your ground. To confidently make a point, while also being welcoming as opposed to coming off insecure and submissive try these subtle shifts in body language and see if you see a result:
1. Look Into Their Eyes
Looking someone in the eye can be intimidating, but eye contact is a great skill to learn. While doing so isn’t also comfortable it’s a sign that conveys confidence and security with the point and connection being made. If you have a tendency to look down at the ground you are sending a signal that you are timid or shy. While eyes that shift from side to side and are unable to look at someone directly often reflect a person who is untrustworthy, nervous, distracted or bending the truth. If someones eyes seem distant or “far away,” they’re showing a sign of genuine listening or thoughtful reflection. The quote, “eyes are the key to the soul,” exists for a reason. Start your next conversation using that key and making an eye-to-eye connection.
2. What Are You Doing With Your Arms
It’s easy for a person to unconsciously do something with their body that may reflect a part of their subconscious and not necessarily reflect what their current communication goal is saying. For example, someone who is out looking to meet a potential partner may start carrying on a conversation with their arms crossed in front of their body. Crossing your arms in front of you is a sign of protection, or “putting up a wall.” While it may be a habit it’s also a sign of closing yourself from the social influence around you, literally closing yourself off from making a connection which is both submissive and detached. Obviously, in a dating scenario you may be verbally reflecting that you’re interested but your body is non-verbally saying you aren’t open. Once you start paying attention to what your arms are going, check in with your hands. When someone is holding their hands in fists, or clenched you’re conveying signs of anger, frustration, or nervousness. While excessive motion or fidgeting with your hands may also convey a sense of being uncomfortable and insecure.
3. Your Stance
Be aware of what you’re doing with your feet when it comes to how you’re standing. When a person starts to shuffle from side to side it’s a red flag that they’re insecure, uncomfortable, or perhaps trying to contain nervous excitement. When you stand firmly with both feet planted into the earth you convey confidence, both arms open to your side showing that you are approachable and open. If you tend to stand with your feet cross, or with your legs close together you can come across as “proper,” meek or submissive. With both legs shoulder distance apart, you will look more at ease.
4. Try Mirroring
If you notice a conversation between you and a good friend or someone you’re very comfortable with, you’ll notice that you mirror they’re actions. If they’re sitting back, relaxed, you’ll lean back and mirror their comfort. If they’re leaning in and engaged, you’ll lean close. Mirroring is a sign of building report. If you’re closing yourself off by missing the signs and actions from the person in front of you your body language could come off more submissive. Consider asking yourself before engaging in communication that may require strength and authority to plant your feet in the ground and bring both arms to your side. This posture will allow you to be in the place of receiving communication and information while also putting yourself on equal ground with whomever it is you’re communicating with.
5. Pay Attention to Your Head Position
This goes along with rule #1, where your eyes go, your head goes. Lowering your head towards the ground relays a message that you’re timid, shy, or insecure. Lowered heads are not only a sign of submissive body language but could also convey that you are hiding something and are ashamed, so as a result you’re intentionally shrinking yourself away from a person. While lowering your head could be a sign of reflection, nonetheless it’s still an internal gesture that comes across closed or private. On the contrary, tilting your head is a sign of confusion or sympathy. You can imagine when your puppy tilts its head and raises an eyebrow, the same impression of quizzical curiosity is conveyed when done by a human.
6. Breath. Pitch. Tone.
Body language also includes the intonation of our voices and the depth of our breath. Shallow breathing, from the top of your chest is a sure-fire sign of nervousness, stress, or even excitement. While deep and steady breathing makes you and those you’re communicating with feel more at ease. Consider when you’re speaking the volume and pitch of your voice. If your voice is quieter and high, you can come across as submissive, naive or shy. On the flip side a bellowing, loud voice can be intimidating and authoritative. When we’re too commanding with the tone of our voices, people tend to tune out or go inward for protection, thus resulting in a disconnect of communication.
Our body communicates beyond our conscious level often and our subconscious may reflect physically a lot of the time. With an awareness of what your body is communicating related to what your internal monologue is saying, you can better adjust yourself so that you come off confident and strong. Remember that when you are communicating you’re interpreting everything from the verbal dialogue, to your surroundings to the energy you feel from a person and that they’re doing the same with you. There are layers beyond just the physical and verbal plane and when we start to interpret with all layers in mind, we’re able to connect more authentically and successfully with the person (or people) in front of us.