Use your body language! questions & answers
* how can you use body language - and other tricks - to appear confident in a social/work situation, even when you're not?
You can use body language in many ways to appear confident in social work situations. The most obvious helpful signals you can give is to have an open “primary posture”. This is where you avoid crossing your arms over your chest or abdomen.
Next is the confident posture signal where you pull yourself up to full height and face people square on.
A smaller signal a confidence includes a calm sweeping gesture of your hand from your abdomen outwards as you make a point.
The reverse gesture of bringing your hand from your side, inwards to cover your abdomen signals you've gone into defensive mode.
For a "welcoming" gesture you can relax your lower arms and expose the palms of your hands to the group.
Finally, when feeling incredibly nervous simply cross your hands in your lap to keep them still and prevent fidgeting. Or hold a pen and pad in your hands as if ready to take notes. Again this stops anxious fiddling with your fingers. Also crossing your feet at your ankles to stop any nervous foot tapping.
* how much do other people notice and respond to body language, even on a subconscious level? do people tend to notice body language before anything else?
People don't have to be body-language experts to gather a tremendous amount about how you’re feeling through your body language. Some of this is registered at the conscious level where they actively process what they see and think to themselves, e.g., "isn’t that person confident." or quite the reverse, "that person is scared witless!"
At a subconscious level we’re constantly filtering out irrelevant signals from people at the same time as subconsciously registering and storing important signals. Such signals we want to retain but may not process until later when time permits.
Whether we observe someone body language signals at a conscious or subconscious level we then respond to these in any way we feel appropriate. For example, giving subtle support to a colleague who's struggling with a presentation by making supportive noises.