When I find myself presenting information to an important group of people, I often consider the quality of content that I’m presenting, as well as the confidence in my voice, but I rarely consider my body language. Anum, from Current on Currency, has graciously provided a well-researched article on just this: the importance of body language. Enjoy!
Nonverbal communication speaks volumes more than anything we say. Even when we’re not speaking, we’re still communicating. From our posture, to our facial expressions, the things we do are sending a message that others read loud and clear. To have more successful interactions we must understand what others see when they look at us.
Positive Body Language
Knowing what is interpreted positively will help you communicate more effectively. Here’s what you can do to appear engaged, gain respect, and be more successful in your business interactions.
- Basic posture goes a long way, sit up straight but not in a way that appears rigid. Relax your shoulders down your back, and keep your legs slightly apart. Align your body with the person you are talking to, then lean in a bit. These small adjustments to your posture show that you are relaxed and engaged, and research indicates that you retain more information with your legs uncrossed.
- Arms relaxed at your sides shows that you are receptive to what another person is communicating.
- Gesture when you speak. Though many of us might consider this a quirk or worry it will be seen as nervous fidgeting, studies have shown that people are more likely to judge your presentation as competent and effective. Another benefit to gesturing is that it may power up your thinking process.
- Nodding, smiling or laughing at appropriate times shows that you are paying attention, understand the ideas being expressed and agree with them.
- Many business people expect you to maintain eye contact for 50-60% of the conversation. Making eye contact while speaking or listening shows interest in the conversation, but take breaks from eye contact so you aren’t staring in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
Negative Body Language
These nonverbal cues are the ones that make others want to head for the hills. Negative body language makes people doubt that you are trustworthy and that your information is credible. It also may give the idea that you only have your interests in mind.
- Poor posture like slumped shoulders and a caved chest display defeat and disinterest and others may see this as you not being up to the task they are suggesting.
- Crossed arms imply resistance. Closing your posture like this will be interpreted by others as being unapproachable about new ideas, they will assume that you don’t want to hear their opinion or don’t value it.
- Putting up physical barriers will give the idea that you are intentionally trying to block your body or distance yourself from others, remove these barriers to seem more receptive. Likewise, learn to recognize barriers being put up – such as purses placed on the table, holding coffee cups and saucers in a way that obstructs the body and adjust your communication. If someone is putting up a barrier and you don’t back off, there’s a good chance they’re going to leave with a negative impression.
- Be mindful of your feet. Fidgeting and shuffling display anxiety, and since the legs and feet are not something we commonly consider when trying to control our body language, they might be one of the most obvious indicators of our emotions.
- While too much eye contact is definitely a bad thing, avoiding eye contact makes it very obvious that you are uncomfortable or disinterested. Anyone trying to communicate with you will not feel that you are receptive to new information.
To increase the positive body language you are putting out, try using a power pose. Not only does power posing create a change in attitude, but an actual change in body chemistry. Power posing leads to increased levels of testosterone and decreased levels of cortisol, meaning you feel more confident and assertive, while feeling less stressed. Standing in a high-power pose for as little as two minutes can make your testosterone levels increase by 20%, while your stress level drops drastically. Feeling in charge increases your performance and will make your meetings more productive. There are several power poses you can utilize such as leaning forward with your hands firmly on a table, or standing up straight with your legs apart to form a triangle and hands on your hips – think Wonderwoman.
Being able to read people’s body language will teach you to communicate more effectively, and knowing how to make yourself appear confident will go a long way towards making your interactions more fruitful. Using the information here, you have an excellent chance at communicating in a way that leads to productive conversations, and in the long run a more successful career.
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.