Do you leverage your body language to feel confident and help get your message across?
We all use two languages to convey a message at any given time, the language we’re speaking in – English in my case right now and body language – the silent language that we all use yet forget about most of the time. Many research studies have shown that body language impacts how others perceive you. For example, a popular study shows that words, tone of voice and body language account differently when it comes to our liking of a person who shares a message about their feelings and attitudes: words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of the liking.
When it comes to body language, here are some things to pay attention to:
- Watch your posture – poor posture makes you look like you have low self-confidence or low energy. Roll your shoulders back, stand up straight, and keep your chin up so you’re looking straight ahead. When I started walking into boardrooms like this, the reaction I got was noticeably different. My executive clients noticed me! They were also more inclined to listen to what I had to say. Looking and feeling confident with good posture is one of my secrets to building instant credibility.
- Give a firm handshake when you meet someone – avoid a light, fish handshake or one that’s the death grip. It should be firm and accompanied by eye contact and a warm smile.
- Smiling in general makes you feel confident and makes you look comfortable and therefore confident. For someone like me who smiles a lot, I have to actually watch how much I smile, especially in business meetings because I can come off as insincere, inappropriate or even weak.
- Eye contact is critical when someone is talking to you. If you start glancing away from them, it signals disinterest. It’s just like looking at the clock when someone is talking to you.
- Watch out for crossed arms. You’ll come off as closed or uninterested. I used to always cross my arms because it’s just really comfortable for me but I make a conscious effort not to do it when interacting with others.
- Don’t look down when you’re making a point. It looks like you’re uncomfortable, unsure, or weak.
- And last but not least, no fidgeting – stop doing those annoying things like biting your nails or playing with your hair or fidgeting with your clothes or your pen or your chair or anything. Just keep your hands on your lap or on the table in front of you and lock them together if you must.For those of you who are very animated, like me, in situations where you want to maximize your authority, work on minimizing your body movements. Try taking a deep breath, toning down your smile and bringing your gestures down to waist level. When you appear calm and contained, you look more powerful.
If you’re in an important meeting and forget all these strategies, then mirror the other person’s body language. If they’re leaning in, you lean in. If they’re not smiling at all, keep a warm, but straight face too.
And I’ll leave you with this: fake it till you make it. Change your body positioning even if you don’t feel confident – especially if you don’t feel confident. The more you practice these strategies, the more confident you’ll actually feel. As Amy Cuddy says, don’t just fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it!