How to get your way with body language

Express yourself

Did you know that the way you stand can make you more persuasive—or more attractive to your date? And the way you hold your arms can be a tip off that you’re tense? Send out the best possible message to your guy, your friends, and your coworkers with this quick primer.

Be a copycat

Mirroring someone else’s body language is a great way to show that the two of you are in sync. In fact, when you talk to a close friend, you may find yourself matching her posture—she leans forward, you lean forward; she takes a sip of her latte, you take a sip.

“You’re saying, ‘I feel comfortable and at ease,’” said Patti Wood, a body language expert in Atlanta. “And when someone mirrors you, it calms you.” This move can also show empathy. When listening to your child, a friend, or even a client describe a problem, matching their posture and tone of voice shows them that you truly understand what they’re going through.


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Take up space

Do you keep your arms close to your sides or folded in front of you? This makes your body more compact, which sends out the signal that you’re not only closed but subordinate. “When you take up less space, you appear and feel less powerful, and people may treat you that way,” Wood noted.

If you want to command respect, whether it’s from a co-worker or a family member, take up a little more space. Remember to stand up straight and relaxed, with your feet 6 to 7 inches apart.

Hold your head up

There’s a good reason why “jump for joy” is a cliché. When you feel happy and confident, your body automatically lifts up, Wood said. You may raise your head, shoulders, and/or chest, and momentarily push up on the balls of your feet. Feeling down? Hold up your head, bring your shoulders back, sit up, and smile. “It can change your mood in less than a fraction of a second,” Wood said. Believe it or not, our body movements actually change our feelings.

Watch your arms

Though anything from stress to an overly air-conditioned room may prompt you to cross your arms, people assume you’re trying to keep something inside or someone out when you get in this stance. You might unconsciously do it at a party to keep others at bay or at work as a way of holding back your real opinion. To appear more approachable, leave arms by your sides or gesture with them.

Open up

If you’re physically attracted to a date (or your husband on date night), you might reach out with open palms or push your hair behind your ear with your palm facing out. “That’s a signal to his brain that you’re open to seduction,” Wood said. Similarly, turning the upper part of your chest—what Wood calls “the heart window”—toward a person and pointing your toes toward him show a desire to connect, whether it’s a romantic interest or a potential new friend.