We all know that communication is the key to success, but it is important to recognize that communication is a process that involves far more activity than simple speech. All people possess a natural instinct to analyze and interpret physical gestures by way of body language as interaction occurs. Studies have even shown that body language and tonality may be more accurate indicators of meaning and emotions than spoken word.

Considering that nonverbal communication creates a deeper impression on others than verbal communication, mastering the ability to understand and use nonverbal communication, or body language, is a powerful tool that can help you connect with others and express what you truly intend to convey. Exercising even a little deliberate control over one’s body language can thus produce immeasurable benefits in the quality of relationships we build.

The following are some tips and techniques you can follow to apply effective and constructive body language.

1. Increase your awareness of your body language.
Because communication is such an instinctive behavior, people easily neglect to be mindful of if, or when, body language is having impact on their encounters with others. Practicing effective communication in this regard therefore demands constantly reminding oneself not to default to emotionally driven nonverbal communication, but to overcome this impulse with self-controlled nonverbal communication. Simply put, develop the habit of paying attention to the demeanor of your body as you talk to others. Take notice of your posture, your stance, and general movements as emotions fluctuate during conversation.

2. Try to get more information about what you communicate nonverbally, so that you will know what to change and what to retain.
Awareness of one’s body language is a good start to effective nonverbal communication, but the most important step of this transformation is actual adjustment of behavior. This can be a challenging thing to accomplish because modifying body language typically feels counterintuitive. For instance, convincing yourself to stand tall when negative emotion makes you want to slouch can feel uncomfortable. Or convincing yourself not to be animated when a situation provokes agitation can feel unnerving. Even so, it is fundamental not to give in to the uneasiness of body language that doesn’t match one’s emotions. Pushing through that conflict consistently will more often than not produce desirable outcomes.

3. Know how certain behaviors are typically interpreted.
Considering how many moving parts our bodies possess, nonverbal communication is an activity which occurs across an expansive spectrum. Regardless of its complexity however, paying close attention to three main components of nonverbal communication can usually make it easier for you to gain control of your body language during communication. These components are: facial expressions, posture, and hand gestures. Different situations call for different reactions but it is usually the case that:
Warm facial expressions encourage receptiveness in others. The simple smile is one of the most universally recognized messages of friendship across all cultures.
Eye contact keeps others engaged in your conversation. Making an effort to look others in the eye as you talk to them is an easy way to stimulate participation in your discussions.
Upright posture projects confidence and reliability. Slouching and hunching over should be avoided at all costs because they make people think you are unsure of yourself.
Tempered and open hand gestures help put others at ease with your message. For instance, closing one’s fists constantly or speaking with folded arms are motions that are more likely to communicate confrontation or defensiveness.

4. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Like all human abilities, mastery of effective nonverbal communication can only happen with dedicated practice. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Progress may be slow, or even difficult, but in the long run the benefit of being able to develop sound relationships and interactions with others makes this transformation well worth it.