What does Open and Positive Body Language Mean?
When I talk about positive in body language I mean open, interested and approachable, as opposite to the defensive body language we discussed in the previous article.
This doesn’t mean this is the “best” body language you should always use, but rather a cluster of signals that radiate an open-minded and friendly attitude.
This of course can be a good thing, so let’s see what we can do to make others “open up” to us and establish trust by showing attention and willingness to cooperate.
In order to establish trust with anyone we need to show them that we’re not a threat to them, and we don’t fear them either. Remember that defensive body language affects our attitude? So if we’re on the defensive it would be hard for others to approach us, and for us to accept them
For this reason, we need OPEN body language, one that avoids barriers.
I talked about the defensive body language in the previous article, so you know what to avoid if you want to appear more of a “yes person”. Our goal in removing our defenses, so to speak, is to create a welcoming, warm and confident atmosphere, you show that you’re not afraid of others, and they shouldn’t be afraid around you.
This “opening up” is obviously a process; complete strangers won’t turn immediately to your biggest fans. But if know the right steps, you can speed things up, or at least understand their general attitude towards you.
- At start, complete strangers will comfortably assume the crossed body position with their arms and legs. They will also keep a considerable distance from each other. And they might close their coat or hold an object in front of them.
- As the relations warms up, the legs barrier will disappear and they will get a little closer.
- Next, people will start to gesticulate more and reveal their palms.
- The arms will uncross.
- Leaning and pointing with the body towards others.
Taking the initiative and assuming the next position might help others open to you too, as we subconsciously copy the body language of others around us. You can also reverse the process by assuming a defensive position yourself.
This process speed is depending on the context (a fun party vs. a random meeting between complete strangers on the street), the character (introvert vs. extrovert) and the culture.
Show that you have Nothing to Hide
Avoiding barriers is the first step in projecting positive body language, you eliminate the obstacles, now is the time to show honesty and trust, the stuff that built good long term relationships.
Do you remember the way your relative or good friend has greeted you after a long departure? They probably spread their arms upwards and exposed their palms, like embracing you from afar. This very open and positive gesture really warms the heart.
Well, while you can’t use it in everyday situations with EVERYONE – Your boss might suspect that either you won the lottery or that your mind went on vacation, but you can use similar gestures to project open, honest and positive body language.
A great way of doing so is to keep your palms exposed, this shows willingness and honesty, you’ve got nothing to hide and you want others to trust you.
Other signals that can help you project sincerity and cooperation are:
- Keeping your body straight – to project confidence and energy.
- Keep good eye contact – shows that you are attentive and unafraid.
- Keep your head in neutral position – don’t bow to them but don’t look down on them either.
- Keep your body and clothes open and avoid holding objects in front of you.
When you like someone you want to get closer to him\her, it’s that simple.
The closer you get, the more interested you are. Hence, leaning forward, especially when combined with nodding and smiling, it’s the most distinct way to say nonverbally: “yes, I like what you’re saying, keep going”.
Does it mean that you should always lean and nod?Of course not, overdoing it lead to 2 main problems:
1. By overextending your leaning you can inadvertently invade personal space and create discomfort for the other person. That’s also the reason why we lean forward when we try to intimidate our opponent, only this type of lean is much tenser and aggressive.
2. If you nod, smile and lean all the time, with all people, you will always appear eager to please, and therefore you lower your status in the eyes of others.
Think about leaning as driving, the more you press on the gas the more engaged and eager you are, the less you push – the more relaxed and distant you are. So you don’t want slip to the extremities, and you always need to alternate your “speed” to match the situation.
And just like in driving, the direction of the lean has significance. We subconsciously lean and gesture towards the places or things we want.
Don’t Get too “Positive”
Like I mentioned in the introduction – Positive body language doesn’t mean it’s the “best” or even very good communication. As social creatures we have a variety of emotions and attitudes, and if we try to apply only a single one all the time we will appear as fake or one dimensional.
So expressing positive and attentive attitude all the time can actually hurts your reputation and status. Because others will simply take it for granted and dismiss it easily. You should care and give attention, but only to those that deserve it.
This is especially true for guys (or girls) who want to be super nice to their date. Think about it, how others can care about you, if you dismiss yourself and only seek to appease them? It’s boring and shallow, there’s no tension or excitement.