A Primer on Charisma and Body Language

Body language is the language that does not lie. Those who work with the police, security, intelligence bureaus are trained in reading body language and watch for telltale signs for lies.

It is very hard to train your body to abstain from betraying your thoughts. It is amazingly useful to learn to read body language because you would be able to learn a lot more about people just by watching them. Just as professionals do, you will be able to understand people better and interact with them more effectively.

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On the other hand, you could also use body language to put people at ease, to transmit a message of solidarity, trust, authority and friendship. You can do all that by the way you carry yourself and move your body. Here are a few tips:

Good Posture Has No “Off” Switch

It’s said that a king can be recognized by his body language even if he is wearing rags. This is because the regal demeanor comes from within and not from the clothes. The king’s posture is regal no matter what he wears, i.e. he walks tall, the shoulders are pulled back, head is held high and there is eye contact.

Pretend as if the whole world belongs to you and walk in such manner.  This would ensure that you come across as a confident and self-reliant person. This posture would make you stand out in a crowd as a person worthy of contact and friendship.

A slouched posture indicates low self-esteem, boredom and rejection. On the other hand, a standing/ sitting up straight with a slight lean forward shows that you are interested and alert.

Take care of the posture you carry. If you think you can fake it “when necessary”, you are wrong. A slouched posture would not only have you depressed and kill your energy, but also establish itself as a permanent image. If you want to feel good, look good and project a good image you need to first of all learn to maintain a positive posture.

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Always Make Eye Contact

Making eye contact, first of all indicates confidence, which is a very attractive and inspiring sign. Additionally, it tells the audience that you have integrity and authority. Whenever you talk to someone, make it a point to meet the person’s eyes.

Eye contact says, “I have nothing to hide. I am speaking the truth and I know what I am doing.” As explained earlier, you need to ensure that you maintain eye contact for the perfect period, lest you come across as overbearing and pompous.

Keep Your Body Free and Open

What would say if you saw a person literally hugging himself, with legs crossed at the ankles and head down? You would immediately assume that the person is either scared of something or is hurting emotionally or physically. Now picture this, a person standing relaxed mode, hands moving freely at the side, leg apart at shoulder width and eyes seeking yours.

In the second instance, you will assume that the person is “at home” with himself and is relaxed. You would feel happy to talk with the relaxed and open person and a little apprehensive about approaching the closed bodied person.

Facial Expression

Practice looking interested. This is most important. Would you try connecting with a person who looks uninterested or bored? One foolproof way to put people at ease is to smile briefly and genuinely when eyes meet. Smiling when appropriate, is the easiest way to say, “I am interested to know you better”. It puts people at ease and facilitates conversation starters.

Hand and Arm Gestures

Pay attention to what your hands are “saying”. If you are fidgety, twiddling with objects, hair, or fingers it may project you as nervous, bored or annoyed. If you are having trouble controlling your hand gestures, learn to carry an object such as mobile phone, a notebook, etc. which will have your hands still.

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Use small and controlled gestures with your hands when you talk; it shows that you are in control of your emotions and in synch with the environment. Charismatic people make most use of their palms while talking, which stresses the points they make without threatening or challenging their audience.

Keep in mind that arms crossed across your chest conveys that you are not interested in the person or what he is saying.  You will find yourself doing that when you want the audience finish quickly or you are forced to listen something that you would rather not.

Feet and Leg Gestures

Did you know that when you are bored your feet almost invariably turn towards the exit? Make it a point to check this fact next time you are not feeling comfortable at a party or meeting.

Pay attention to how you are keeping your legs. Are they crossed at the ankle or at the knee? Are they kept apart in a comfortable manner or are you encroaching more space than necessary? Crossed legs and crossed arms usually mean that you are really not interested in what is going on; or that you are tense. Tapping of the feet, shaking, or moving feet too often betray restlessness and boredom.

Body language is very vast, but just keeping these few things in mind can make a lot of difference in the way you talk and relate to others. You would also be able to read better whether you are received the way you wanted next time you interact with people.

Are You and Your Body Speaking the Same Language?

This is perhaps the most interesting topic of all; and the most controversial. Very often we say something and do completely something else. It’s not that we want to lie or do it to mislead intentionally. Human beings have learnt to mask their feelings in order to be polite.

It is with this intention that we have learnt to hide our real feelings and exhibit only those, which are socially acceptable or those which hurt/ insult the least. For example, you find a person very loud and vulgar but owing to the persona social hierarchy, age or importance to those whom we love, you would pretend you are not repelled by the behavior.

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Another example could be when a loved one asks a question whose answer would hurt more than help; we lie. Say, your significant other asks you, “Do you find that girl attractive?” You do find her attractive, very much, but you also know that if you say so she will be crushed. So, you say something like this, “Of course, not. Her kind of beauty is not my type. You are.”

Sometimes, this is called diplomacy; sometimes, it is called conning and sometimes, plain lying. The ambassadors and politicians do it in the greater interest of the public; the sales persons do it to earn their livelihood, and charlatans do it to earn money by fraudulent means.

You need to learn body language and master it so you could use it to your advantage. Some people have the inborn talent to project magnetism effortlessly and without thinking about it; it would come to them naturally. Some need to learn it; and learnt it you can.

For you, learning body language is important for two reasons, i.e. first, you understand better what your audience feels about you; and second, you know how to use body language to captivate and hold the attention of your audience.

Charismatic people know how to use body language to their advantage. They read what people are really thinking by the way they stand, move their hands and legs, facial expressions, etc. They use that information to put them at ease and communicate with them more effectively.

Learning body language would perhaps be the most significant input towards becoming a charismatic person.

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