I’ve talked about how to scan other people’s body language efficiently, and how to begin to get a handle on your own by focusing on a specific emotion. Both those activities will take some practice, but the rewards will come, and they will be huge. Your awareness of what other people are intending will become razor-sharp and your own body language will become much more expressive, and therefore charismatic. So keep practicing.
The final step in this process of putting your unconscious mind to work for you in a conscious way is to manage the flow of communication between you and your audience, or in that meeting, or that conversation. By taking charge of the communication flow, you will be able to persuade others more easily and to take charge of many of the human interactions that take place throughout our day.
At the moment, your unconscious mind, and the unconscious minds of those around you are doing most of the work. We signal that we’re about to start or stop talking, for example, with blinks of the eye, movements of the head, and changes in body position. Because all of that is unconscious for most people, it’s easily controlled by becoming conscious about it yourself.
If you’ve practiced reading other people’s body language, and managing your own, you’ll be able to dedicate a small part of your conscious mind to managing the communication flow.
Here’s how you do it. Begin by mirroring the people in the room, or the folks that you’re chatting with, to make them comfortable. I’ve blogged about this technique before, and written about it in Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, if you’re not familiar with it. Once you’ve established trust with mirroring, you’ll be able to begin to lead the conversation by leaning slightly forward, for example, when you want the other person to stop talking because you have something to day. Or use a hand gesture to take the ‘public space’ between you – the gestural equivalent of standing up in a classroom to lead the group. The exact retinue of gestures that you use is up to you. Study other people to see how they do it (unconsciously) for ideas if your own natural repertoire is small.
This conscious managing of the conversation will take some practice, because you have to be very sure of your own body language, and that of others, before you will have the conscious ability to do this. But the payoffs in terms of persuasiveness, charisma, and leadership will be well worth it.