Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Adjusting your body language, part of Communication Foundations (2013).
- Did you know that body language can increase your impact before your meeting? Before you even see the people or they see you. Research shows that taking on a high power posture like standing up straight, hands on your hips that can increase hormone levels associated with power, and decrease the levels associated with stress. It also results in people feeling more powerful than they did just two minutes before. Adjust your posture before you start, and you'll do yourself a favor. Stand stronger, start stronger.
Now it's not only posture there's other research that shows how you carry yourself more generally. Your physical presence, gestures, movement, eye contact these things sometimes have much more influence than your words on people's impressions about you and your message, here are a few tips. Posture, when you're communicating take on a confident stance don't slouch or stand too rigidly. Stand like someone comfortably in control of themselves, and in charge of the situation. Have a home base position, a comfortable, confident, default position to prevent looking awkward or using unconscious nervous movements.
By home base I mean that you should have your body aligned and erect, and have a place to put your hands and arms that feels natural. A home base position that I like is hands over the stomach like this, comfortably holding them without tension in your hands or arms. It's easy to come back to that position from any gestures, and easy to hold the position while still looking natural. You want to avoid fidgeting with a pen, keys, or playing with your watch, jewelry and so forth which is associated with nerves or a lack of confidence. Be careful about interlacing your fingers, because tension can flow there, and you can wring your hands, or wrestle with your thumbs or start toying with a ring.
Having a good home base position also keeps you from sinking your hands in your pockets, or crossing your arms for too long making it look like you're closed or defensive. Also, coming from your home base position it's easy to use movement and gestures to reinforce your points in a way that flow easily and look natural. Now for gestures you typically want to stay right in this region gesturing off of your home base position. It looks natural, you can count off points, or compare one thing to another, or make a transition from one part to the next.
Be fluid in your movement, not feverish and not frozen. Now same thing goes for facial expressions. Just as your posture shouldn't be frozen from head to foot don't freeze your face use it. Look interested, energized, and engaged. Don't forget to smile, and smile genuinely. Remember the importance of likeability, and projecting that attitude of I'm glad to be here and I'm glad to see you, let it show. Do show emotion aligned with your message and tone, but, and this is important, maintain your professional poise. You want to create the impression that you genuinely feel and understand, but you don't want to go overboard and make it look like you're out of control, or that feelings are pushing you off kilter.
Eye contact is crucial, look from individual to individual, and bring in all areas of the room wherever people are sitting. Move smoothly from one person to the next or from one person to a visual aid or object that you're referring to. Don't dart your eyes around or look over people's heads, or favor one side of the room, a common mistake. Use your eyes like a leader connecting with people and covering the space. Of the body language elements we covered, posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact which is most important for you to focus on to increase your positive impact? Pick one of them and make some adjustments over the next two weeks.
Even little adjustments can make a big difference. There's a FedEx commercial that brings home the point in a fun way. It's a corporate meeting, people sitting around a table. Boss with quaffed hair and a sharp suit says with authority, "We've got to cut costs people, ideas?" A normal looking guy gives a great answer, but nobody responds. A pause, then the boss says, "Okay, how about this?" He gives the same answer and everyone agrees, "Oh wow that's great, that's fantastic." The normal guy says, "You just said the same thing I did only you did this." The boss says, "No, I did this." Everyone agrees again, "Oh, yes, now that makes the difference." Now it pokes fun at office politics nonsense we've all experienced, but there's a piece of helpful truth in it too.
Body language best practices are a great way to increase your positive impact, and now you know what they are so you can put them into action. Wait scratch that, what I meant to say was and now you know what they are so you can put them into action.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Managing the intent-impact gap
- Designing the content of your message
- Improving vocal delivery
- Adjusting your body language
- Being politically savvy
- Listening to what's said, what's unsaid, and how it's said
- Increasing empathy and trust
- Overcoming anxiety<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.