Your body knows you so much more than you think.
When you’re angry, your jaw is clenched tight, your muscles tighten, and your fists ball into fists.
When you’re sad, your head hangs low, your shoulders drop, and your body feels limp.
When you’re anxious, you’re fidgety, your hands need to keep themselves occupied, and you might cross your arms to simulate a hug in order to self-soothe.
Of course, these all sound obvious when they’re written down, but as you’re going on about your day, you rarely consciously notice them.
Once you become more self-aware of your body language, though, you can start using it to your advantage. For instance, you can become more likeable.
Here are the 9 tricks that lead to instant likeability.
1) Maintain eye contact (but not too much)
Eye contact is incredibly important to human communication.
It’s how we remind each other that we’re still paying attention. It’s how we express emotions. It’s how we fall in love.
Therefore, it probably comes as no surprise that too little eye contact can make you seem cold, unapproachable, and disinterested.
In fact, studies show that maintaining eye contact during conversations can increase positive affect between people, which means that the person you’re talking to may create a stronger emotional bond with you if you look into their eyes on a regular basis.
However, keep in mind that too much eye contact can be just as harmful as too little.
If you always stare into someone’s eyes and never glance in any other direction, you may come off as a bit strange or downright freaky.
The best rule of thumb is to glance at the person you’re speaking to quite regularly while also taking in your surroundings.
2) Slightly lean toward the person you’re speaking to
You may not be consciously aware of your body posture, but it actually says quite a lot about how you feel.
In turn, the way you express your feelings affects the emotions of the person you’re talking to and the kind of bond they build with you.
Let’s say you’re really interested in the conversation at hand. As a result, you slightly lean forward. The person in question will subconsciously interpret that action as a sign of interest, and they may feel pleased that their words are so captivating.
Since your reaction has made them feel good, they’ll learn to associate that feeling of satisfaction with your presence, and ta-da!
You’ve instantly increased your likeability. And all you had to do was lean forward.
3) Be mindful of everyone’s personal space
When I say that you should lean toward the person you’re talking to, I don’t mean that you ought to steal all their personal space for yourself.
In fact, that’d probably do you more harm than good.
People like their space. No matter how interested you are in what they have to say, staring them in the eyes from four inches away will probably make them feel very uncomfortable.
I speak from personal experience. I used to have a teacher who would talk to everyone from a very short distance, and no matter how many steps you took back, she’d just catch up with you. It was incredibly frustrating.
If you want to be mindful of everyone’s comfort zones, it’s important to consider what country you find yourself in and who it is you’re talking to because personal space is a very cultural concept.
In Western culture, for instance, a person’s personal space is defined thus:
- intimate (less than 18 inches)
- personal (18 to 48 inches)
- social (48 inches to 12 feet)
- public (more than 12 feet)
By respecting other people’s comfort zones, you’re automatically boosting your likeability because you’re displaying a sense of respect and self-awareness.
4) Assume an open stance
Body language can be very intricate and complicated, but sometimes, it’s as simple as it gets.
An open stance means exactly that: openness. And openness improves your chances of being instantly liked because it means you’re approachable, warm, and open to having a fun conversation.
To assume an open stance:
- Uncross your arms and legs
- Point your feet toward the person you’re speaking to
- Keep your back straight
If you don’t know what to do with your hands, try using them more to gesticulate as you’re talking. Don’t put them in your pockets because many people view that as rude.
5) Nod along and let your emotions show up on your face
When someone’s telling you a story, all they want is to feel heard, validated, and understood.
There’s no better way to do just that than to let all your emotions show up on your face.
If you’re shocked, open your mouth in surprise. If you’re sympathizing with their frustration, shake your head and pout your mouth.
Of course, most people already do such things instinctively, but only if they’re genuinely listening.
And sadly, many of us rarely truly listen. More often than not, we’re just waiting our turn so that we can ramble on about our own lives again.
Therefore, it makes sense that a great way to increase your likeability is to display a genuine interest in what the other person has to say.
6) Mirror other people’s body language
Mirroring is a very common trick in the realm of nonverbal communication.
If you haven’t heard of the term before, it’s what occurs when you mimic another person’s body language in order to build subconscious rapport.
If they lean forward, lean forward, too.
If they touch their neck a lot, subtly touch yours as well.
This sounds quite manipulative, but it’s really just a very shallow way to show empathy and build a sense of understanding between the two of you. In fact, many people mirror others without even realizing it.
Studies show that mirroring increases positive feelings. However, it’s also important to note that there can be too much of a good thing – if you mirror someone in the wrong context, it can come off as rude or inappropriate.
Therefore, the lesson here is to mirror only when it truly fits the context and only slightly. If you mirror too much, your intentions might be very obvious or you may seem very strange.
7) Use light physical touch to convey joy
Did you know that touch can signal multiple different emotions?
No, really. You might think touch is just about pressure or temperature, but the way you touch someone can convey a great deal about how you feel.
While “there’s no phrase book to translate the language of touch,” as Psychology Today says, it’s helpful to analyze the light touches friends exchange with one another in different contexts.
When your friend’s feeling down, a rub on the back or the shoulder signals your support.
When you’re both laughing, a light touch on the arm is all you need to convey feelings of joy and love.
8) Put on a genuine smile
Even if something’s obvious, though, it still bears mentioning.
Based on research, smiling has a motivational effect on other people because it works as an invitation to interact and connect. This is also why cheerful people apparently have better social relationships.
However, keep in mind that you can’t just widen your lips and expect the expression to work its magic. You’ve got to genuinely mean it.
People can tell if you’re faking a smile because it won’t reach your eyes, which is where the power of an authentic smile truly lies.
The wrinkles at the outer corners of the eyes? Those are the vital part of your smile. Without them, your lips are just widened in a strange and meaningless expression.
9) Take an interest in the people around you
Lastly, the best way to increase your likeability through body language is to let your body naturally express how you feel on the inside.
Of course, you’ve got to feel good about the interaction at hand in the first place, which is why my last piece of advice is to take a genuine interest in what other people have to say.
If you approach each person with an open heart and a curious mind, your body will automatically communicate that strong level of engagement, boosting your likeability.
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