Body language is a part of nonverbal language, which includes stance, gestures, facial expressions, even a brief shrug of the shoulder or nod of the head.
According to psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian, first impressions generally comprise 55% your appearance and body language, 38% the tone of voice in which you say something, and 7% what you actually say. So as a professional, when preparing for an interview, promotion, or sales meeting, your overall presentation, which includes your nonverbal communication, will significantly affect the outcome. It is important we understand the significance of body language both professionally and personally.
Remember body language occurs both ways:
- Your own body language reveals your feelings and meanings to others.
- Other people’s body language reveals their feelings and meanings to you.
TIPS ON COMMUNICATING THROUGH BODY LANGUAGE
1. Don’t cross your arms or legs – Crossing your arms or legs gives the impression of defensive. Keep your arm gesture open and your two feet solid to the ground.
2. Have eye contact, but don’t stare – If there are several people you are talking to, give them all some eye contact to create a better connection and see if they are listening but don’t stare. Giving no eye-contact might make you seem insecure.
3. Have personal space – Taking up space by for example sitting or standing with your legs apart a bit signals self-confidence and that you are comfortable in your own skin. Be careful you don’t overpower the space available and scare people off with the impression of being domineering.
4. Relax your shoulders – Always try to relax. When you feel tense it shows as tension in your shoulders. Loosen up by shaking the shoulders a bit and move them back slightly.
5. Nod when others are talking – Nodding once in a while will signal that you are listening.
6. Sit up straight – Always sit up straight but in a relaxed manner.
7. Lean, but not too much – If you want to show that you are interested in what someone is saying, lean toward the person talking. If you want to show that you’re confident in yourself and relaxed lean back a bit. But don’t lean in too much or you might seem needy and desperate for some approval. Or lean back too much or you might seem arrogant and distant.
8. Smile and laugh – Smiling will give the impression of a positive, friendly, enthusiastic personality. Smile when you are introduced to someone but don’t keep a smile plastered on your face, you’ll seem insincere.
9. Don’t touch your face – Touching your face gives the impression you are nervous and can be distracting for the listeners or the people in the conversation.
10. Head up – Keep your head up straight and your eyes towards the horizon. Eyes looking to the ground may make you seem insecure and a bit lost.
11. Slow down – When we are nervous we often speed up our actions. Slowing down your movements such as walking not only makes you seem more calm and confident, it will also make you feel less stressed.
12. Don’t fidget – Fidgeting and nervous ticks such as shaking your leg or tapping your fingers against the table rapidly can be a distracting when you try to get something across. Try to relax, slow down and focus your movements.
13. Use your hands – Instead of fidgeting with your hands use them to communicate and show expression. Use your hands to describe something or to add weight to a point you are trying to make, but don’t use them too much or it might become distracting.
14. Don’t stand too close – Recognise personal space boundaries. The boundaries will vary by the situation, how well you know the person, and by culture.
15. Mirror – Often when you get along with a person, when the two of you get a good connection, you will start to mirror each others body language unconsciously. To make the connection better you can try a bit of proactive mirroring. If he leans forward, you might lean forward. If she holds her hands on her thighs, you might do the same. But don’t make it to obvious.
16. Good attitude – Always keep a positive, open and relaxed attitude. How you feel will speak loudly through your body language and can make a major difference.
More than 90% of communication is body language so maybe it’s time to assess your body language and if it is working for you. As an Image Specialist it is my job to ensure your nonverbal and verbal actions are speaking the same language. You can change your body language but as all new habits it takes time and practice.