Body language is a form of non-verbal communication that often times speaks louder than words. Your body language helps form the first impression that people have of you. It is comprised of your posture, facial expressions and hand gestures; and as with everything else, it has etiquette dos and dont’s, as it relates to its positive appearance.
Your body language determines how people perceive you. Excellent nonverbal communication skills tell your audience that you are confident, energetic, engaged, and honest. Someone with poor nonverbal skills, however, may give off an impression of low self-esteem and a lack of interest. Your body language reveals the real you, as your mouth may lie, but your body will not. When peoples words do not match their body language, it causes us to be unsure about that person and many times we do not understand why.
When dealing with the business world, it’s especially important that you are aware of your body language. Your nonverbal cues and gestures can make or break relationships, and may have a significant impact on your success.
The Different Aspects of Body Language
1. Facial Expressions
The muscles in your face can produce over 5,000 different facial expressions. The two strongest areas of expression are the eyes and mouth.
- Eye contact is critical in establishing trust-worthiness and confidence. It is polite to give the person speaking your full attention, its also important to watch the face of the speaker and not to roam the room with your eyes. Eye contact shows the person you are speaking with that you are listening; it is how you show interest. But look away every now and again to gather a thought or reflect on what is being said. Constant eye contact tends to intimidate people and makes them feel as if they are being stared down.
- A smile is another part of facial expressions and is a powerful gesture. Your eyes, as well as your mouth can smile. You will be happy to know the lines about your mouth and eyes are not wrinkles, but a positive attitude meter. Your smile is a powerful tool in business, as it makes you approachable and open to do business.
- Your face can express fear, shock, happiness, anger, disappointment and a multitude of non-verbal communications. However, just as importantly on a professional level, you often times must also be able to mask those same expressions.
Using gestures can enhance what you are saying and make it more interesting, however too large a gesture however, can make it more dangerous! Outgoing and confident people are more likely to use gestures. Not gesturing also speaks of you. It is important to learn to use your hands, as it is considered a sign of honesty. You can use your hands and keep them visible, do not place your hands in your pockets, as people may view you as hiding something.
While it is important to gesture and use your hands, other than the gesture of the handshake, you should rarely touch a person in a business setting. People have different acceptances for physical touch and a good rule of thumb is just to avoid it.
Here are a few Body language tips to consider for being viewed as more confident, trustworthy and credible.
- Walk with purpose
- Move smoothly
- When introduced to someone, be aware of his/her space
- Stand straight without slouching
- Stand with your feet 4 to 8 inches apart facing the person with whom you are speaking to.
- Keep your arms at your side; do not put your hands in your pockets, behind your back, on your hips or cross your arms.
- Keep your chin parallel to the ground, do not lower your head or look at the ground
- Nod your head in acknowledgment of what is said
- Sit up straight
- Do not plop down into the chair
How you carry and project yourself will have more influence on people you first meet then what you actually have to say verbally. Understanding and improving your body language is important.