Body language is the unspoken influence behind the promotions we earn and the dates we prematurely leave.
Crossed arms say much more than choice words ever could.
At work, I sometimes find myself sinking into my seat. To anyone walking by, it reads “teenage boy playing video games” instead of “competent employee.”
Sometimes, judging a book by its cover can be insightful.
Vanessa Van Edwards is a professional behavioral investigator and the brain behind Science of People, a digital human behavior research lab. She’s queen of the “sit up straight” mantra.
Van Edwards thinks it’s time to rethink the way we interact. Let's stop blaming Tinder for that terrible date or Instagram for an interaction gone wrong.
It’s all in what we don’t say.
A first impression is all you get.
Millennials are the digital generation, but that doesn’t give us an excuse to pout through a meeting just because a conversation isn't going our way.
"The biggest misconception is that body language can only affect the big moments in our lives," Van Edwards says. "But [it] has an enormously positive effect on our day-to-day and the more we start incorporating it into our daily routine, the easier it becomes to make it a regular practice."
Meeting someone for the first time means he or she is likely to form an impression about you in mere minutes. If you have a tendency to slouch, for example, you may come off differently than you’d like.
For that reason, Van Edwards advocates standing up whenever possible -- especially at work and on dates -- because the stance naturally encourages an active posture.
"Blocking" is the new "ghosting."
There’s no feeling worse than having someone who gave you butterflies suddenly disappear without a trace.
In real life, we do a similar thing with stressful situations. It's a behavior Van Edwards calls “blocking.”
Although we’re still physically present, we shield and protect our bodies. The posture tells the rest of the room how defensive we are.
“Nonverbal signals are 12 to 13 times more powerful than our words,” Van Edwards says. "This type of behavior makes us appear more closed-off and reserved and can detract from conflict-resolution.”
To remedy the problem, uncross your arms and take the laptop off your legs. It's a process she calls "fronting."
Show you're open to interaction, not against it.
Lean in, no questions asked.
Asking your boss for more money is nerve-wracking, so you’re mostly afraid of accidentally throwing up in his or her lap.
Puke aside, projecting confidence in the boardroom is crucial.
According to Van Edwards, nervous women turn their demands into questions. Instead of cowering, use vocal inflection to your advantage.
Uptalking — ending every sentence with an invisible question mark — is fine for your girlfriends, but not when your career is at stake.
Rethink the way you ask for a raise. Focus on declarative sentences to project power, instead of timidity.
Put others at ease with the mirror effect.
As a kid, you might’ve played the game where you and a friend try acting like mirror reflections of each other.
You won’t find an adult way to utilize Play-Doh or monkey bars, but mirroring can be very useful when putting others at ease.
Van Edwards says you may have already been using it without ever noticing.
We subconsciously mirror with others when we’re on a date where we like someone or when we’re trying to make a new friend, so mirroring is a great way to build connection with both old and new relationships.
If your coworker or date speaks quietly, copy that tone of voice. Are they leaning forward? Do the same.
Know how to read the signs.
According to Van Edwards, men and women have very distinct approaches when it comes to nonverbal signals.
Women nod during conversation to indicate their attentiveness. Men, on the other hand, only nod to show agreement. See how that becomes confusing?
The same idea also applies to approaching another person.
Women typically like to be approached by a man from the front and don’t like someone coming up behind them and tapping them on the shoulders. Men prefer being approached from the side or at an angle, so if you want to approach a man, sidle up to him.
In a romantic situation, Van Edwards says a man who's interested will try to stake his claim by taking up space around you.
Try to remember that the next time your Tinder date won't stop "man spreading." It's a sign things are going well.