How to Use Body Language to Communicate Effectively

Written by georgiana r. frayer-luna
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How to Use Body Language to Communicate Effectively
Learn forward, tilt the head and smile warmly to say, "I'm interested." (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Is your body language helping you communicate, or is your nonverbal communication interfering with what you mean to get across? Body language can convey a great deal. To make sure it's working for you and not against you, get acquainted with the five clusters of nonverbal communication: repetition, contradiction, substitution, complementing and accenting.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Affirm what a speaker is saying using a type of nonverbal communication called "repetition." Let the speaker know that you are interested with a steady gaze and quiet body. Learn forward and tilt your head very slightly to one side. Stroke your chin to show deep contemplation. If the speaker is conveying anger, repeat this with a tense body. If the speaker is conveying joy, repeat this with a relaxed body and warm smile.

  2. 2

    Harmonise your body language with your words. If the listener perceives mixed communication signals, more often than not she will be more convinced by your nonverbal communication. Tell a child she cannot have more candy while handing her a chocolate bar, and what do you think she's going to believe? That's what's known as "contradiction."

  3. 3

    Substitute nonverbal communication for words. Raise your eyebrows to signal surprise or eagerness. Squeeze the eyebrows together and combine this with a frown to signal disapproval or anger. Smile and applaud to communicate approval. Smile and throw your arms out wide to signal invitation and openness.

  4. 4

    Add a gesture to the spoken word so that your body language complements what you say. Say hello and wave your hand. Stroke a child's cheek while telling him how wonderful he is, and the tactile communication complements the spoken word.

  5. 5

    Accent your words with gestures. Count on your fingers while outlining reasons for your point of view and you accent the points you wish to make. Pound the lectern when you want to emphasise particular points in your speech and you accent the spoken word with body language.

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