everyone speaks … Body Language!

Body LanguageIt has been said that since we have one mouth and two eyes, we should use them in the same proportion. This observation is particularly appropriate when we discuss listening. The eyes become an effective listening tool in interpreting body language.

Confident Body Positions

Some body positions tend to indicate confidence and others tend to indicate a lack of confidence. Some of the positions that indicate confidence are hands behind the back. Many of us can imagine an authority figure such as you high school principal that patrolled the halls with his hands behind his back. This posture certainly conveyed confidence and authority.

Another position is the hands clasped behind the head. If you think about movies that you have seen, you will recognize this posture. Often a person in power is sitting behind a large and imposing desk in this position. This is often seen when a subordinate or a person with less authority is being addressed. Most people would agree that the person behind the desk has the commanding position. A position call pyramiding may be used also. Pyramiding is described as creating a pyramid shape with the fingers while the wrists rest on the desk.

Two other confident gestures are displaying of thumbs and eye contact. Displaying of thumbs is a gesture most often displayed by males. The position shows the person with his hands in his pockets with the thumbs showing. This position is considered more intense when the hands are placed in the back pockets.

Eye contact, particularly in western cultures, or the lack thereof is a strong indicator of confidence or candor. This is the trait most people will observe to gauge your confidence. Right or wrongly, people assume that lack of eye contact means that you are not truthful or that you are not confident in your position.

Think about the position of straddling a chair. This reference does not apply to females although under certain circumstances, this position may have been used. This position shows confidence because the holder of the position feels secure enough to assume an unconventional position. He also has the bearing to pull it off.

Non-confident Body Positions

Non confident body positions include hands in front of the body. This is also known as the “fig leaf” position. Imagine a child who has been caught in some mischief. Typically the child will hold his head down with his hands in front while be chastised. Adults use this position, at times, when they are feeling less confident.

Another body position that shows lack of confidence is when the hands are placed over the mouth. Most of us can identify with this position even as adults. When we say something that we wish we had not said, we sometimes revert to the childish position of covering the mouth as though we could have prevented the words from being spoken.

The eye-blink rate is another indicator of lack of confidence or candor. The eye blink rate tends to increase when a person is uncomfortable or less than candid. Extensive research has been done in this area by those who are professional interrogators.

Awareness of body language should not be studied from a negative viewpoint. If you notice that someone is uncomfortable or lacks confidence, we can react to that positively. This is the perfect time to try to put the person at ease and make them more comfortable. We want to encourage the person to share their information and their feelings. The most effective communication is composed of both information and feelings. How one feels about a body of information may be as important as the actual information.

Colloquial Expressions
Words like “yeah,” “you guys,” and “you know” may lessen your credibility. Sexist and racist comments or jokes have no place either. Depending on the level of formality, you should avoid referring to women as girls. Even if they do not object, you should adopt and use the word ladies. Even if you choose words not intended to upset or insult, they can cause lasting damage. Although you mean no harm, such comments ruin a first impression and make you seem insensitive or intolerant.

Inappropriate Nonverbal Signals
The nonverbal signals you send can ruin your message as much as what you say. For example, let’s say, you never smile. People might think you’re bored or indifferent. Therefore, your smile should be consistent with the message presented. You don’t want to smile if you’re giving bad news.

Another trouble spot might be your posture. People want their space. If you start leaning too close to them or pointing your finger at them, you risk losing them. They may not hear your message because they are concerned about your being in their space. You should stand in a balanced, comfortable position and don’t give the impression you’re anxious to bail out of the conversation.

Eye contact is another sensitive area. Not enough and people might think you’re nervous or untrustworthy. Too much and they might think you’re staring them down, trying to threaten them, or harassing them.

Domination of the Interaction
It takes two to interact. Don’t expect your audience’s buy-in when you interrupt them, talk over them, or ram home your point at the expense of hearing from them.

Do Not Oversell Your Ideas
Overselling means being too eager to persuade or presenting your thoughts with excessive enthusiasm. It’s easy to oversell your ideas when you feel the issue is important, you’re under time pressure, or you believe in them strongly. Ironically, overselling causes people to resist or suspect your ideas or motives.

Belaboring a Point
There are only so many ways to make your point. After a while you begin to assail, insult, or annoy your listener. Even examples, analogies, and metaphors can be overused. Keep your examples fresh because analogies that are used too often may become condescending and offensive. Belaboring your point can quickly change.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Communication Skills, Professional Skills

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