Whether you’re interacting with clients, or having a catch up with your team, your body language will say a lot about your thoughts and intentions. Many of us assume that the most powerful communication tool is the voice. However, repeated studies have shown that, in any kind of interaction, between 50% and 90% of the communication is actually non-verbal. So, while you might be saying all the right things, if your body language doesn’t support that you could be missing a valuable opportunity to communicate better.
Body language can help to establish credibility
Eye contact, for example, is one way that we often judge whether someone is honest and credible. Being able to hold eye contact is taken to indicate genuineness and trustworthiness whereas constantly looking away will create doubts in the mind of the other person about your intentions. The most effective eye contact is gentle – held, rather than staring – as this is viewed as a non-aggressive, genuine desire to connect.
Mirroring can put others at ease
We often mirror others’ postures or gestures when we like, or have connected with, them. And when someone does this to us it creates an instant sense of ease and openness. For example, sitting at the same level as someone you are about to have a difficult discussion with when you need their cooperation can create instant rapport.
First impressions count
The first time body language comes into play is when you’re face to face with someone at an initial meeting. Standing tall with shoulders back demonstrates confidence and ease whereas slumped posture could deliver the message that you’re uncomfortable or insecure. The handshake too is often a crucial piece of body language that can be used to make a great first impression. A firm handshake communicates sincerity but also the intention to step up and stand strong.
Filling a space
The way you position your body in a business meeting or interview could communicate a lot to the other people in the room. We are often encouraged to “take up space” but this should be cautiously done. If your body language indicates shrinking – for example, shoulders hunched, neck bent and arms tucked in – then you will certainly come across as lacking in confidence. However, resist the urge to get up and walk around or stretch out and take up room that could impede on others’ personal space. This rarely works as a negotiating tactic (it’s not the 1980s anymore) – it just conveys a lack of awareness and often-unwelcome aggressiveness.
A hostile approach?
Crossing arms or legs is often interpreted as a sign of hostility or defensiveness – or perhaps a lack of interest. This kind of body language can be a useful tool to indicate initial indifference – and later interest in – a topic if you change from crossed arms and legs to more open – but only if this is done consciously. If you just enjoy sitting with crossed legs but you don’t want to convey a negative message overall then you can balance the posture with openness in chest and arms.
Excellent communicators know how to use non-verbal cues to their advantage in business. Our Body Language – The Hidden Secret of Communicating Successfully training course will enable you to learn how to improve the way you communicate without saying a word.