Your body language, your facial expressions and your posture are often subconscious. You are likely not aware if you play with your hair in meetings, look down during conversation or pick lint off your clothing while standing around at parties. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to assess you during your next social outing or meeting, and don’t take it personally if the feedback you receive is less than glowing. Being aware of your body language pitfalls is your first step in correcting them, right?
Correcting your posture, if needed, is your first assignment. The first three things others notice about us are our face, our hair and posture. Good posture (standing up with shoulders back yet relaxed) says I am confident, and I am paying attention. Bad posture communicates insecurity or boredom. If you are taller than most, your good posture assignment will be difficult because you have likely adopted a slouching posture as you lean over to hear what is being said or as a way of appearing shorter if your height is an area of insecurity. Stand tall and proud. Others will project up to you during conversation, and being looked up to is never a bad thing.
Next, consider your message and align your facial expression with what you are communicating. If stern expressions come naturally to you, you may find yourself delivering good or happy news while scowling. Trust me, the recipient of the good news will be confused. We are hard-wired to read someone’s face and body, believing those signals, before we take in the words we are hearing. A smile or a positive expression says you are relaxed, assured and happy. As you know, a frown communicates displeasure. Be careful your face is saying the same thing your words are!
Lastly, pay attention to your hands as you are speaking. Do you point or hold your palms down while directing others? If so, they will be hesitant to follow your direction. Why? When you point fingers, they feel like you do not value their intellectual abilities. Taking orders from someone whose palms are down feels like orders rather than direction. The right approach is of course to give direction with palms up. This makes them more open to your words and less threatened by what is being said.
These tips are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other body language pitfalls to consider, but we can address those in another piece. In the meantime, work on these areas. (My palms are up!) They are the first steps to enhancing your influence.