What gives you the most body language bang for your buck?
It’s an important question, since many communication experts agree non-verbal communication speaks volumes compared to what we actually say.
Now I don’t agree this is always true, but in many vital interactions, like first impressions, it’s valid. If your non-verbals say the wrong thing, the other person can quickly get a negative feeling about you.
The problem is, there’s volumes of advice on good body-language out there. And with all the signals, postures, mirroring and such to learn about, it can take years to master.
So, here’s an easy and simple to remember technique (the best body language tip I’ve found), that’ll ensure you’re saying the right things non-verbally. The kind of things that make you a people magnet others want to be around.
How to Use the “SOFTEN” Technique to Create Engaging Non-Verbal Impressions
I can’t claim this technique, but I learned it a long time ago. From my research, I think a communication expert by the name of Don Gabor originally came up with the mnemonic.
In any case, by simply remembering the term “SOFTEN” and the following principles, you can more easily soften the social defenses of anyone you meet.
The letters stand for the following:
S for Smile
A smile is your personal welcome mat. No, not for people to wipe their feet on; it’s subconsciously inviting. It lets strangers know you’re not threatening. It’s also contagious; a good thing if you want people to feel and remember good things about you.
O for Open Posture
Sales people learned long ago to hand prospects samples of a product. This forces the prospect to uncross their arms to handle the sample. The thinking goes, by opening their arms, they open up their mind and emotions.
In fact, it’s generally accepted that body language mirrors our emotions and vice versa.
By holding open body language (uncrossed arms/legs, open-palms, etc.), you signal to people you are open to interaction. Sensing your openness, they’re more likely to open up too.
F for Forward Lean
Leaning in, or leaning slightly toward your conversational partner, signals interest in what they’re saying. It signals interest in them as a person. I find this applies more to seated conversations than standing.
Think about watching a movie. During slow scenes you’re probably relaxing back in your chair. Then the chase scene starts or the mystery is explained and you’re on the edge of your seat.
Same concept here. The result is the other person feels important and listened to. Just be sure not to overdo it. Balance things out with that relaxed posture sometimes too.
T for Touch
More and more we live in a culture of cyber-connection. So physical touch, I think, is more powerful than ever for creating a real sense of connection. But because it’s so powerful, a little goes a long way.
The situation will dictate how much touch is appropriate, but err on the side of less. That being said, it’s hard to go wrong with the handshake and the shoulder/elbow touch.
With the second, the idea is you briefly touch someone on the outside of the shoulder or elbow when you start to tell them something. For example:
“Oh! [hand to their shoulder or elbow] You know what you just reminded me of? I read this great article the other day that’s similar to what you’re talking about…”
E for Eye Contact
Windows to the soul, remember? Looking someone in the eye lets him know you are present, not just physically of course, but mentally and emotionally.
It lets people know you’re engaged and encourages them to engage also. Looking someone in the eye connects you on a primal level (in fact in some cultures, it’s considered intrusive and rude).
Constant eye contact is waaay too much, but intermittent contact during the course of a conversation is powerful.
N for Nod
You’re listening when you talk to people, right? I mean actually listening to what they’re saying and not thinking of what to say next? Good.
But do they know that? Nodding is a non-verbal way to let people know their words are getting through. It lets them feel understood and listened to and encourages them to continue the interaction.
Why SOFTEN is the Best Body Language Tip?
SOFTEN covers all the basics of good body language AND it’s so easy to remember. In any situation, you can quickly recall the principles and put them into action immediately.
I’ve found this can totally change the vibe of an interaction.
So, be sure to keep the SOFTEN technique in mind and use it next time you’re in a social situation.
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