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Women's March to Freedom
March 8, 2017
Body language: how are you coming across?
October 1, 2015
When you enter a room, the first thing people experience is what you look like, then the sound you make. Only then do they listen to what you have to say. And by that point they will have already made an assessment about you. Our body language is the first point of contact. Our bodies, and the way we hold ourselves gives out information all the time, and this information is read and interpreted by others, who make swift judgments about you: who you are, how you come across and ultimately of what you are capable. Whether sitting or standing, even without saying a word, you are communicating a message and each gesture, facial expression, and movement tells a story.
According to psychologist Alex Todorov, at Princeton University, it takes just one tenth of a second for people to decide whether or not you are trustworthy. His research shows that people respond intuitively to faces so rapidly that our reasoning minds may not have time to influence the reaction. "We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them. “ It is well worth bearing this in mind when wanting to make a positive personal impression, and how this may influence your ‘personal brand.’
So what impression are you creating through your body language?
Given the research and our tendency to make quick judgments about a person’s competence and credibility, by focusing on demonstrating positive and effective physical presence can make or break your career. In an interview situation for example, no matter how qualified you may be, your credibility and impact may be severely affected. This can be the difference between you and the next less qualified, but more impactful, candidate getting the job.
Why is this?
The congruency of language with body language is the key to how others receive your message. If your body language is not in line with what you have to say, and that includes your vocal tonality, then the audience is more likely to believe your non-verbals over your content. For example, if I said “I can’t wait to work with you” but with my arms crossed tightly over my chest, avoiding eye contact and not smiling, then my body language would shout “I really don’t want to join this team!”, despite the content of the message.
So, what should you avoid in your body language?
There are many positive choices you can make about positive and powerful body language. Here are five quick tips of things to avoid:
• Slouching and crossing your arms or legs to make yourself smaller
• Losing eye contact when connecting with the other person
• Looking too serious – smiling helps others warm to you.
• Hair that covers your face.
• Wearing any jewellery or accessories that distracts from your message
When we are stressed, nervous or feeling defensive we contract in our body, making ourselves smaller and signaling to others how we feel. Interestingly, there is scientific evidence to show that contracting into these poses actually affects our physiological state.
Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School has carried out a research to prove exactly that. High ‘power posing’ - i.e. raising your hands to the air in a typical ‘winning pose’, or hands on hips ‘wonder woman ‘ stance can increase testosterone (powerful, dominant, confident hormone) by 20%, and decrease cortisol (stress hormone) by 25%. Conversely, by contracting and taking up less space with a ‘Low’ power pose - our testosterone decreases by 10%, and the cortisol actually increases by 15%. This body language strategy is key for that interview, as well as every other situation where you are out to make a positive, memorable impact.
So here are 3 tips to enhance your body language:
Tip 1 - Be Tall : Access the full potential of your height
Imagine you are a puppet on a string being pulled upwards from your tailbone through your spine to the top of your head. Stand tall and own your full height - it says you are confident in who you are!
Tip 2- Keep Grounded: Connect to your gravitas
It’s not by chance that the word Gravitas is rooted in the word ‘gravity’. The source of finding physical impact and weight is by getting grounded. To do this - stand with your feet hip width apart, remembering to keep your puppet string elongating your spine. Relax the shoulders, unlock and soften your knees and breathe. Imagine you have got strong roots growing from your feet and connecting you to the centre of the earth. Your weight should be even and planted, and this will give you strength and authority!
Tip 3- Power Pose
Find 2 minutes each day to adopt a Power Pose. Find your centre, take up space and feel grounded and confident. Then stretch your arms up in the air in a V- shape posture and smile as if you are a winner. Hold that pose for a couple of minutes, and enjoy the testosterone flooding through your body.
So have a think about how you show up in person. What first impression are you making, and how might you tweak it to ensure you have great personal impact?
Art Blakey the jazz musician once said, “If you are not appearing, you are disappearing.” Let your physical presence enhance your communication and help raise your visibility, profile and credibility in your career.