9 Body Language Tricks That Lead to Instant Sympathy

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Your body knows you so much more than you think.

When you are angry, you clench your jaw, tense your muscles, and clench your fists into fists.

When you are sad, your head hangs low, your shoulders slump and your body feels weak.

When you’re anxious, you’re fidgety, your hands have to keep themselves busy, and you can cross your arms to simulate a hug to calm yourself down.

Sure, these all sound obvious when you write them down, but as you go about your day you rarely consciously notice them.

However, once you become more aware of your body language, you can start using it to your advantage. For example, you can become more sympathetic.

Finished?

Here are the 9 tricks that lead to instant sympathy.

1) Maintain eye contact (but not too much)

Eye contact is incredibly important for human communication.

This way we remind each other that we are still paying attention. It is the way we express emotions. That’s how we fall in love.

Therefore, it’s probably no surprise that too little eye contact can make you seem cold, unapproachable, and uninterested.

In fact, studies show that maintaining eye contact during conversations can increase positive affect between people, meaning the person you’re talking to can create a stronger emotional bond with you if you look them in the eye regularly.

However, keep in mind that too much eye contact can be just as harmful as too little.

If you always stare into someone’s eyes and never look in another direction, you may seem a little strange or downright freaky.

The best rule of thumb is to periodically glance at the person you are speaking to while also taking in your surroundings.

2) Lean slightly toward the person you are speaking to

You may not be consciously aware of your posture, but it actually says a lot about how you feel.

The way you express your feelings, in turn, affects the emotions of the person you are talking to, and the kind of bond they build with you.

Suppose you are really interested in the conversation in front of you. This causes you to lean slightly forward. The person will subconsciously interpret that action as a sign of interest, and he or she may be happy that his words are so engaging.

Because your reaction makes them feel good, they will learn to associate that feeling of satisfaction with your presence, and ta-da!

You immediately increased your sympathy. And all you had to do was lean forward.

3) Consider everyone’s personal space

When I say that you should lean into the person you’re talking to, I don’t mean that you should steal all of his or her personal space for yourself.

In fact, that would probably do you more harm than good.

People love their space. No matter how interested you are in what they have to say, staring them in the eye from four inches away is likely to make them very uncomfortable.

I speak from personal experience. I used to have a teacher who would talk to everyone from a very short distance, and no matter how many steps you took back, she would just catch up. It was incredibly frustrating.

If you want to take everyone’s comfort zones into account, it’s important to consider which country you’re in and who you’re talking to, because personal space is a very cultural concept.

For example, in Western culture, a person’s personal space is thus defined:

  • intimate (less than 18 inches)
  • personal (18 to 48 inches)
  • social (48 inches to 12 feet)
  • public (over 12 feet)

Respecting the comfort zones of others automatically increases your likeability because you demonstrate respect and self-awareness.

4) Keep an open attitude

Body language can be very complex and complicated, but sometimes it is as simple as it can be.

An open attitude means exactly that: openness. And openness increases your chances of being liked immediately, because it means that you are approachable, cordial and open to a nice conversation.

To adopt an open attitude:

  • Cross your arms and legs
  • Point your feet toward the person you are speaking to
  • Keep your back straight

If you don’t know what to do with your hands, try using them more to gesture while you talk. Don’t put them in your pockets, as many people consider that rude.

5) Nod along and let your emotions show on your face

When someone tells you a story, all he or she wants is to feel heard, validated, and understood.

There’s no better way to do that than to let all your emotions show up on your face.

If you are shocked, open your mouth in surprise. If you sympathize with their frustration, shake your head and pout.

Of course, most people already do such things instinctively, but only if they really listen.

And unfortunately, many of us rarely really listen. Often we just wait for our turn so that we can talk about our own lives again.

Therefore, it makes sense that a good way to increase your sympathy is to show genuine interest in what the other person has to say.

6) Mirror the body language of others

Mirroring is a common trick in non-verbal communication.

If you’ve never heard of the term, it’s what happens when you mimic someone else’s body language to build subconscious rapport.

If they lean forward, lean forward too.

If they touch their neck often, subtly touch yours too.

This sounds pretty manipulative, but it’s actually just a very superficial way to show empathy and build a sense of understanding between the two of you. In fact, many people mirror others without even realizing it.

Research shows that mirroring increases positive feelings. However, it is also important to note that there can be too much of a good thing. Mirroring someone in the wrong context can come across as rude or inappropriate.

Therefore, the lesson here is to mirror only when it really fits the context and only slightly. If you mirror too much, your intentions may be very clear or you may come across as very strange.

7) Use light physical touch to convey joy

Did you know that touch can signal several different emotions?

No really. You might think that touch is just about pressure or temperature, but the way you touch someone can say a lot about how you feel.

While “there is no phrasebook to translate the language of touch,” like says Psychology Todayit is useful to analyze the light touches that friends exchange with each other in different contexts.

When your friend is feeling down, a rub on the back or shoulder indicates that you support him.

When you’re both laughing, a light touch on the arm is all you need to convey feelings of joy and love.

And genuine touch can have a calming effect And even reduce feelings of loneliness Sharing a few light touches with others can help you build a positive relationship with them.

8) Put on a genuine smile

Shocking, right?

Even if something seems obvious, it’s still worth mentioning.

Based on research, smiling has a motivating effect on other people because it acts as an invitation to interaction and connection. This is also why cheerful people apparently have better social relationships.

However, keep in mind that you can’t just widen your lips and expect the expression to work its magic. You have to sincerely mean it.

People can tell if you’re faking a smile because it doesn’t reach your eyes, and that’s where the power of an authentic smile really lies.

The wrinkles in the outer corners of the eyes? These are the essential parts of your smile. Without them, your lips are just wider in a strange and meaningless expression.

9) Show interest in the people around you

Finally, the best way to increase your sympathy through body language is to let your body naturally express how you feel inside.

Of course, first and foremost you have to feel good about the interaction at hand. So my final piece of advice is: be genuinely interested in what other people have to say.

If you approach each person with an open heart and a curious mind, your body will automatically communicate that strong level of commitment, increasing your likability.

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