We all know the power of words, but how often are yours being misinterpreted because of your body language?
Before you read on, take a moment to assess your body language right now. Start at the top of your head and work down to your toes… Where are your shoulders? Your arms, legs and feet? Make a note of their positions – we’ll come back to this later.
From the moment we enter this world, the focus is on language. Learning to speak is an integral part of our growth and development – from the first ‘Mama’ to spelling tests, public speaking and even learning second languages. When are we taught about the power of body language?
In many situations, actions can actually speak louder than words. Take the following sentence: “I’m sorry.”
Say it out loud, with no physical movement. Now try it again, with your shoulders hunched and arms crossed. What differences do you notice? Crossing your arms forms a defensive shield; closing you off from those you are talking to and suggesting tension. Who is going to believe the words coming out of your mouth when your body is telling them that?
Now repeat the sentence one last time, holding your arms out in front of you. This open body language suggests friendship and comfort; you are reaching towards them to build bridges across the gap. Isn’t it amazing how simply moving your arms can change the sentiment of your sentence? The power of body language is astonishing.
“If language was given to men to conceal their thoughts, then gesture’s purpose was to disclose them.” John Napier
Body Language and the Brain
Some even believe that body language has the power to alter the chemical levels in our brains. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy suggests starting the day with a ‘Power Pose’ if you need a confidence boost. She believes that standing with your legs wide, hands on hips with your head held high for just a moment each morning, can dramatically alter your perception of yourself, providing a boost to the levels of testosterone/cortisol in the brain and even increasing your chances for success (watch Amy’s TED Talk here).
If you believe this or not, the truth is that body language is often forgotten about!
Body Language: The Basics
Let us introduce you to some body language basics:
Handshake: This doesn’t just say hello! It’s not about how strong your grip is, contact is key here! Palm-to-palm contact signifies honesty and openness, so it’s a great way to instill a sense of trust and transparency. Limp handshakes often mean that palms don’t touch, hence they are less effective.
Eye Contact: Holding someone’s eye contact can suggest honesty and openness, whereas avoiding eye contact suggests you are dishonest and untrustworthy, or uninterested. So make eye contact, but remember not to stare!
Standing up Tall: By standing up tall, you make yourself larger. Stand with your feet hip width apart and imagine you are being pulled upwards by a string from the top of your head, like a puppet. Relax your shoulders down. This will make you appear confident and comfortable within your own skin, without appearing threatening!
The Angle of Your Body: Angling your body towards the person that you are speaking to is a subtle change that makes a significant difference. Animals challenge one another head on, and the same applies to humans! Angling yourself slightly opens up the encounter and suggests a friendlier situation.
Smiling: A simple smile has the power to change a situation. Smiling suggests friendship, comfort and openness. They can also offer warmth and encouragement to the person you’re speaking with. A smile is crucial for a good first impression.
“The expression one wears on one’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back.” Dale Carnegie
Playing with your Hair: Whether short or long, playing with your hair can be interpreted in many ways. When a woman tucks her hair behind her ears with her palm facing forwards, they may be flirting! Or perhaps they are just getting their hair out of their face? Beware your body language being misinterpreted!
Now go back to the beginning, when we asked you to review your own body language. How were you sitting? What could an outsider have interpreted from your positioning?
Synchronising Your Body Language
The power of body language is incredible. In fact, by synchronising your posture with the people around you, you can actually increase the effects. Next time you’re having a conversation, consider:
– Whether they have their arms folded, or by their sides?
– If they are leaning towards the left or right?
– What angle are they stood at?
Mirroring their posture and stance has been found to make people feel more comfortable and increase the chances of them liking you. The key is to be subtle of course, if they realise what you are doing then they may well start feeling the opposite…
Use Your Body Language to Your Advantage
When you’re in an interview, meeting a client, business networking or public speaking… Next time you step into an important situation, don’t forget to consider what your body language is saying. Non-verbal communication is just as crucial as the verbal.
As we have discovered, there’s no point saying sorry with your arms folded and shoulders hunched!
Do you need some professional support regarding how you connect with people at work or at Interviews? Get in touch with Career Ambitions today at email@example.com or 01223 633535. Lindsey & Katherine offer coaching, reviewing and giving independent objective feedback to you so you build successful relationship through understanding the power of your body language.