Understanding Body Posture

Speaking of effective communication, the importance of posture cannot be underestimated. As an essential element of non-verbal communication, it reveals our emotions and initiates a corresponding reaction from people with whom we interact. There are open and closed body postures.

In a closed sitting or a standing posture, a person’s legs are crossed, arms are folded and back is hunched. These postural signals indicate a weak and submissive position or a reluctance to engage in conversation. Undoubtedly, this posture should be avoided if your goal is to persuade or to establish contact. Likewise, a closed posture of your interlocutor means that you need to change your communication strategy.

A person, displaying an open posture, is relaxed with their shoulders erect, hands apart, directly facing the audience. To evenly distribute your weight and maintain balance, put one foot slightly in front of the other. An open posture demonstrates that you are in full control of the situation, interested and confident but can also be easily transformed and interpreted as aggressive. For example, a person, standing “akimbo” with hands-on-hips pose, looks assertive and ready for action, but people can also consider this a threat and start to behave defensively. If a person is leaning back, with elbows up and pointed out, it indicates dominance and strength, although these qualities can be situationally inappropriate and may cause communication problems.

The important element in any process of communication is to control one’s body postures and to use them appropriately, in accordance with the intended objectives. For instance, an open posture works well in the beginning of a conversation or presentation, while a closed one may be more appropriate at the negotiation stage if you are going to decline an offer. In communication, context plays the main role. In order to succeed, we need first to accurately assess our audience’s attitude. If we feel that the atmosphere is strained, formulate something fast and easy to relax it, and non-verbal postural signals usually serve this purpose.

It’s useful to practice and perfect positive body postures. Yes, body language can be practiced and improved just like a speech or a presentation. And it’s in our hands to develop it as a powerful tool when reaching our communication goals, making a good impression, persuading or delivering a message.

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