Did you know that only 7% of our communication comes through speaking? The rest of communication comprehension relies on visual and energetic cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, body language, posture, touch and movement.
With this in mind, it’s key to be conscious of what you’re communicating on ALL levels. How you show up in the first minute of meeting someone new, sets the stage for all your future interactions with this person. Good, bad, or otherwise…
This takes raising your emotional intelligence through greater self-awareness.
Is your body language giving you away?
What messages are you consciously, or unconsciously sending out with your body language, your facial expressions and with your energy signature?
Several years ago, I was meeting with someone at the start of a project we were working on together. In the 40 some odd minutes I was in her office she did the following…
- She was 10 minutes late to our meeting
- Responded to someone on her phone, text messages, emails and walkie-talkie no less than every 3.5 minutes
- Would not look me in the eye but for brief instances
- When someone knocked on the door, asked me to open it to let them in
- Had the nurse come in and, wait for it… bandage her toes while we were talking (because she had apparently broken them that morning at home)
Yes, this is a true story – you can’t make this stuff up!
As you can imagine, this left me with quite a clear indication of what she thought of me, our project and her intentions for her “participation” on this project.
This is an extreme example of when your body language is speaking with a megaphone versus what your words have to say.
No matter whether you’re a leader or an up-and-coming rockstar,
Here are 9 Body Language Do’s and Don’ts that are sure to Make a Powerful Impression (and raise your EQ to boot):
1. Your handshake speaks volumes: If you lead with a wet noodle kind of handshake, it can say a lot about your personality. What is the message you want to convey about yourself? That you are a strong, confident and self assured kind of person, ready to take on a new project or venture, or meek, not so sure of your self or your skills. A firm handshake can set the stage in a positive way – Even if you have to fake it until you make it!
2. Stand Tall: Having good posture helps you build strong core and back muscles. It also directs your energy that you’re projecting out in all directions. Amy Cuddy’s research has shown that when you take a powerful stance with your chest open and shoulders back, you create a more commanding presence, without saying a word.
3. Put Down Your Defenses: When you stand with your arms crossed, you’re telling the other person that you don’t trust them, or that you’re protecting yourself from some perceived threat. This puts a psychological barrier between you and another, which energetically can “shut them out.” When you put your arms down by your sides, you create a more open space from which to communicate.
4. Look Into My Eyes: In some cultures it is perceived as rude to make direct eye contact. While in others, not making eye contact can be perceived as deceptive or insulting. So it’s important to know the difference depending on with whom you’re speaking. In the US, UK and many western cultures, it is generally considered an essential for social interactions, showing interest and respect. While in Eastern cultures such as Japan and China, making eye contact is considered disrespectful, especially when talking with a person of authority. Excessive eye contact can also be seen as an attempt to dominate or as an act of aggression. Choose wisely grasshopper.
5. Sit Still. When you’re fidgeting your hands or your feet, rocking back and forth, re-positioning yourself in your chair, etc., these are all signs that you’re uncomfortable or nervous. In an important meeting, take a few deep breaths to calm your nervous system so you can remain present with the other. And if you’re naturally a highly wired individual (you know who you are), then do your best to channel that energy by being more mindful of your posture with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
6. Lean In. If your aim is to show interest in who you’re talking with, then lean in with your torso or just your head while facing the person squarely. This demonstrates that you’re curious and open to hearing what the other person has to share. While leaning back can convey that you don’t care very much, are bored, or are disinterested in the person or topic at hand.
7. Meet Them Where They Are. To create greater trust and likeability, match the other person’s pace and volume for speaking. If you’re speaking with a fast talking New Yorker, you might need to speed things up a bit. However, if you’re speaking with a slow talking Southerner (It’s ok, I’m from the south), then you need to down shift your pace a bit. When you are speaking too fast or too slow in relationship to the other person, it can make them uncomfortable or nervous. In general though, if you’re speaking really fast, it can signal that you’re nervous and uptight about the information that you have to deliver.
8. Be Present. When you continuously are looking at your watch, or your phone, or emails when you’re meeting with someone, this not so quietly tells the other person that you’re not interested in what they have to say, that you literally “don’t have the time” to sit and listen to them, and that they are not important. If you want to be perceived as respectful and make a powerful impression, then give someone your full attention in the moment.
9. Consistency is Key. Since first impressions are so important, you want to come across as believable and trustworthy. To achieve this, be sure to have your body language match your words. For example, don’t say yes, while nodding your head No, or smile while extending your condolences to someone, or appearing angry while delivering a compliment. When your words do not align with the emotions and energy of your body, the other person will be able to consciously (or unconsciously) sense that your words are not true to form thanks to our mirror neurons in our pre-motor cortex of the brain which alert us to the emotions of others.
Our bodies and our energy don’t lie so get your energy and your message in sync in order to create a powerfully positive impression.
What’s the most out of sync verbal message to body language message meeting you’ve ever experienced? I’d love to hear your stories! Be sure to post them in the comment box.
To Your Success!
Michele Molitor, CPCC, PCC is the CEO of Nectar Consulting, Inc. Working with executives and entrepreneurs worldwide, Michele brings over 24 years of experience, strategic business savvy and intuitive insights to her clients. Her unique, inside-out approach serves as a catalyst to challenge status quo thinking, eliminate blockages to success, and helps her clients enhance their capacity as a leader, build high performing teams and exponentially increase bottom line results.
As a nationally recognized inspirational speaker, certified executive coach, consultant, trainer, and author, Michele will light you up on her mission to assist you in becoming an extraordinary leader.
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