noun. the conscious and unconscious movements and postures by which attitudes and feelings are communicated.
One of the worst fears as a traveller is not being understood. The confusion scrunching up a stranger’s eyebrows as they stare at you trying in vain to communicate. That awkward moment when you don’t know if this stranger wants to continue a conversation or not.
To keep you from pulling your hair out in frustration, employing some universal body language cues will be to your benefit!
- The Head Tilt
By doing this, you show that you are open to conversation and are paying attention to what the other person is saying. It also makes you seem more approachable and friendly- helping put strangers at ease in your presence.
- The Eyebrow Raise
Raising your eyebrows signifies your interest in hearing/learning more. It shows that you are engaged in a conversation or person. You can use it to emphasize what you are saying or to show that you are agreeing with them. It’s a universal shortcut to forge a connection with a stranger!
The angle your body sits in signifies your attention and thoughts. If someone wants to leave or is about to leave, their toes will angle towards the exit. If two people are thoroughly engaged in a discussion their entire bodies will be aligned on a parallel axis! You can watch other people’s fronting to gain insight into what they want to do!
- Opening Palms
Humans started off as a primitive species; so our brains are wired to interpret closed hands as concealing a weapon of sorts. By using gestures that open your palms, you instantly gain trust! Avoid pointing fingers at people or places but instead, gesture with an open hand. By watching other people’s hands, you can interpret their intentions as well.
- A Smile
When you smile, you automatically signal friendship and warmth. It can be used to encourage conversation and help people feel comfortable. Be wary of fake smiles! If a person’s eyes are crinkled, it is a genuine smile. If they are not, be careful of them as they may have bad intentions.
If something is bothering us, we have an inherent response of distancing ourselves. If you notice someone distancing themselves from you, you probably made them uncomfortable! They may turn their bodies and heads, check their phones or lean backwards in their chairs.
- Rubbing your Neck
Being nervous or anxious can make someone rub their neck. It can signal that they are uncomfortable or unsure of their surroundings. Running their hands through their hair can also signal distress so watch out for these signs!
Any repetitive behaviour is fidgeting. It can be bouncing a leg or picking at their fingernails. This could mean that they want to do something different or are anxious to leave. If you notice this behaviour, it may be time to change the subject or suggest moving somewhere else!
Matching a person’s movements puts them at ease and naturally forms a connection! This can help relieve any anxiety when meeting new people. Try to be subtle and don’t overdo the mirroring as then it may seem unnatural. If physical mirroring is too hard, try verbal mirroring by using some of their favourite phrases to make them feel at ease!
Even if nothing else on this list helps you, this will. Waving is a universal greeting signalling openness and automatically shows that you are trying to talk to them. It’s the perfect way to go about a greeting in a foreign country, especially when you are unsure of their local greeting customs.
I hope this guide helps make your travels easier, stress-free and full of new friends!