A Quick Guide to Understanding and Improving Body Language

The Basics of Nonverbal Communication for Social Anxiety Sufferers

Body language and nonverbal communication make up a large part of what we understand about others, our first impressions, and the messages that we convey to those around us. If you are looking to improve your ability to read the body language of others, the following list of six articles covers a range of topics related to understanding and using body language and nonverbal communication to your best advantage.

If you live with social anxiety disorder (SAD), this list of articles will provide basic information to help you practice becoming more confident and approachable and to reduce behaviors that can turn other people off (even if you don't realize you are doing them!). Though you might feel awkward at first, over time it will feel natural to behave in more open and confident ways.


How to Appear More Approachable

Mirroring another person's body language makes them feel more at ease. Gideon/Flickr

If you live with social anxiety you probably exhibit a lot of "closed" behaviors that make others think you don't want to be approached. Things like crossing your arms, looking down or standing at a distance all say "Leave me alone."

If you want to change things up and start creating a more inviting aura, you need to practice having more approachable body language. Here are ten tips to help you do that.


Ten Body Language Mistakes You Might Be Making

Even chimps can send off the wrong signals. Renett Stowe/Flickr

Those with SAD are often guilty of committing one or more of these ten body language mistakes. In general, these are closed behaviors that make you appear unapproachable, aloof, disinterested or uncomfortable.

Although these behaviors might feel natural due to your anxiety, the message that they send to others is that you are not an easy person to get to know. If you want to change your social success, start by looking to see if you are making these body language mistakes.


How to Tell if Someone is Lying to You

Catch a liar by knowing what body language to look for.

Have you ever had a gut feeling that someone was lying to you? Did you follow your instincts or let yourself be swayed by words instead of nonverbal behavior?

There are many reasons why a person's body language might not match the spoken word; one of these is that the person is telling a lie.

Liars often overcompensate by giving too much eye contact or holding their bodies stiffly to control any signs of discomfort. If you see these types of signals your hunch that you are being lied to might be correct.


How to Have More Confident Body Language

Confidence is reflected in the way you carry yourself. 4FR/Vetta/Getty Images

Are you desperate to look and feel more confident? You aren't alone. Those with social anxiety tend to judge themselves harshly and have poor confidence and self-esteem.

One way to begin building better confidence is to carry yourself in a confident manner, even before you feel that way on the inside.

Doing things like standing tall, walking with broad strides and having a firm handshake will make you appear more confident; which over time might make you feel more confident.


Understanding Facial Expressions

Facial expressions convey a story about a person's thoughts and feelings. Zone Creative/Vetta/Getty Images

Beyond the language of the body, the language of the face tells a lot about what a person is feeling. We know that there are seven universal emotions that are experienced by everyone.

If you are interested in becoming better at reading facial expressions, first learn these basic emotions and then look to see indicators of each during conversation.


Understanding Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal behavior doesn't always match what a person says. AMV Photo/Digital Vision/Getty

Are you looking for a quick guide about how to decode the body language signals that others are giving you. It really boils down to two dimensions: comfort and discomfort.

Look to see which of these manners your conversation partner is exhibiting and think about what that means for what is being said. If there is a disconnect between words and body language, usually body language is the more reliable indicator.

Learning how to improve your body language skills doesn't have to be difficult. With a lot of practice, many of these skills will become easier for you. As with anything, exposure to what you fear will reduce your anxiety. Once your anxiety is lowered, it will become easier to read other's body language and make sure that your own nonverbal behavior is aligned with the message that you truly want to send.

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