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Peechaya Burroughs for TIME
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

What is your body language telling others about you?

Last week I wrote about how to read other people (you can check that out here.) But being able to evaluate other people’s body language just ain’t real helpful if you’re sending off all the wrong signals yourself.

So let’s get a better understanding of what you’re unconsciously telling people and how to present a better you. We’ll learn what body language can make you more influential, make you appear like a leader, and even make you more attractive.

First off, let’s find out if you’re turning people off. What body language makes you more likable?

Let’s get to it…

The Body Language That Makes Friends

Alright, we’ll start simple: smile.

Yeah, you knew that. But it’s even more important than you thought. When I spoke to Robin Dreeke, who headed up the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program, he said you gotta grin to win:

And the research agrees. You know the old saying, “when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you”? It’s kinda true. Research shows smiles are contagious:

(Want to improve your smile? Smile slower.)

So what else did Robin say? You want your body language to be open and comfortable. Think “expanding.” Body movements that go up and out are good. Anything that compresses or squeezes is bad:

Smile and expand. Don’t frown and squish.

(For more from FBI behavior expert Robin Dreeke on how to get people to like you, click here.)

I like you more already. But what body language makes a difference at the office? How does the way you move affect your ability to influence others?

Related: How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

How To Be More Influential

You hear a lot of advice on the interwebz about how to be influential. But when it comes to body language, if they’re giving you one-size-fits-all advice, they’re probably wrong.

Noah Goldstein (co-author with Robert Cialdini of Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive) says the research shows the best body language for influence depends on your goal. Plain and simple:

If you want to increase the attractiveness of an offer, think upbeat and sales-y.

Animated movements. Lean forward. Move quickly and speak quickly.

If you want to reduce resistance to what you’re suggesting, it’s the opposite. Think calm and authoritative.

Precise gestures. Lean back. Move slowly and speak slowly.

Does all that seem too hard? Then just mimic the other person’s body language. This is incredibly powerful for both building a connection and closing deals:

Overall, the most important thing is to make sure your body language matches your words. If they’re aligned, everything is more effective. If they’re not, everything gets worse:

Upbeat to sell, calm to reduce resistance. Or just mimic.

(To learn how to ethically influence others from the #1 authority on the subject, Robert Cialdini, click here.)

So you know the body language secrets to help you at work. But what if you run the office — or want to be running the office? What body language makes you look like a leader?

Related: New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

How To Carry Yourself Like A Boss

Most everything you read says you need to appear powerful to be seen as a leader. And that’s true — but it ain’t the whole story…

Coming across as powerful and cold can make people resent or envy you. And if you don’t have any warmth — or the real power to back up that appearance of power — it can lead to you being exploited or harassed. (Fakers take note.)

So to really be seen as a leader, it’s important to balance an appearance of power and warmth.

Via The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help–or Hurt–How You Lead:

What body language conveys authority? Good posture, taking up space, a firm handshake and a purposeful stride.

Via The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help–or Hurt–How You Lead:

Now what communicates warmth? Most of the same things that Robin recommended for increasing likability.

Via The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help–or Hurt–How You Lead:

Play with the two so you can find a balance that works for you. I know what some of you are thinking: Isn’t that straight-up acting? Sounds like I’m supposed to be phony.

Well, Holden Caulfield, changing your body language to appear more “leadery” may not be disingenuous — it might be essential. Research says some of leadership really is acting:

(To learn how to avoid the most common error leaders make, click here.)

Okay, you know the body language that makes you likable, influential and leader-tastic. What makes you attractive?

Related: New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

The Body Language That Makes You More Attractive

The quick and dirty answer? Guys, look at the leadership section above. Ladies, review the likable section.

And don’t get them mixed up or the research says you’re going to get very bad results:

Males who had body language that was calm and confident were most attractive. Specifically, one study showed:

What can women do to make men approach them? Research shows eye contact and a smile usually does the trick.

On a date, ladies, it’s smart to take a tip from the influence section above and mimic his body language. Women who did this were rated as more attractive and the guys felt the meeting went better overall:

Little things can make a difference — like the position of your chin. Research shows men are rated more attractive with their chin up but women are more beautiful when their chin is down:

Want the closest thing to a magic bullet? Eye contact can make people fall in love with you:

(Take this too far and you will be a weapons-grade-creeper. Moderation, please.)

And what about when you’re trying to look good for Instagram pics or online dating photos? Which side is your best side? Your left:

Please angle your selfie-stick appropriately from now on.

(To learn the scientific secrets that will make you better at flirting, click here.)

Alright, you’ve learned a lot (and I’m well on my way to a pair of carpal tunnel braces.) Let’s round it up and also learn why “just be yourself” is the worst way to “just be yourself”…

Sum Up

This is what you need to know about your own body language:

  • To be more likable, smile and use open body movements. No squishing.
  • To be more influential, think about your goals. Upbeat to sell, calm to reduce resistance.
  • To be seen as a leader, think power and warmth. Maintain good posture. Don’t be a jerk.
  • To be more attractive, guys should follow the leadership postures and ladies the likable ones. Gender roles are changing so, hey, maybe this will too. But for now, this is what the research seems to point to.

Now some people will turn their nose up at all this and say you should “just be yourself.”

You don’t want to be a phony. I’m with you. Faking your way through life is a bad idea. Not only is it insincere, it might just kill you. Manipulative narcissists and sociopaths beware — faking smiles can make your heart explode:

So don’t be a faker. But sometimes you feel down, cranky or just not yourself. In those cases, a little bit of effort to be a better you can really pay off. Research shows putting your best foot forward actually reveals the real you:

Not only will it help those around you see the real you but there’s an even better result — you’ll be happier:

Don’t run around pretending to be James Bond or Jane Bond. But a little work to be the best you that you can be leads to better relationships and a happier life.

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This article originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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