Great Communication Starts With Body Language.
“Your body language screams out, even when you’re silent.”
Whether you realize it or not, you send out messages all the time and communicate with others, without even speaking! The non-verbal cues you make reflect an unspoken language…it’s called “body language.” You communicate all manner of information about yourself including how you are feeling and what you think of them. You should be aware that you are sending out these non-verbal cues cues to others constantly. People are constantly attempting to read your body language for signs. So it’s crucial that you use your cues to make a positive first impression.
For example, avoiding eye contact with others conveys an extreme shyness on your part and/or a lack of trust in others. It also conveys that you are attempting to hide something from them
Folding your arms is an extremely defensive posture (unless you’re cold.) It has the connotation of protecting yourself. The act of folding your arms across your chest alerts others that you are angry with them, you feel threatened by them, or you don’t trust them/believe what they are saying.
The act of placing your hands in your pockets and playing with change indicates you might be miserly (yeah, cheap.) Twirling your hair in your fingers absentmindedly sends a message that you lack professionalism, are not paying attention to the person speaking to you, or you get bored easily. Many body movements we make are behaviors that we have been doing so long, we may not be conscious of them. This is extremely dangerous, because the people we are engaged with are looking for these cues to get a sense of whether they can trust us, like us, work with us, or do business with us.
For example, making rapid and/or sudden hand gestures like pointing, gesticulating, or waving hands dismissively to the side (swatting flies) is seen as not taking others seriously or not listening to them. In can also create an aura of agitation, anger, or losing temper/control. Eye-rolling is an obvious and pronounced turn-off.
Repeated face touching (esp. your nose) indicates deception. It’s an especially bad bluff in poker. They call it a “tell.” Repeatedly checking your watch indicates extreme boredom and rudeness! Good posture is a sign of confidence and leaning in towards others as they speak conveys an interest in what they have to say. Conversely, leaning back/away from others as they speak has the connotation of being aloof, cold, and distant.
Other non-verbal gestures can be offensive when seen through the prism of differing cultures or religions. An example would be a strange man trying to shake the hand of an Orthodox Jewish woman he was not married to or in the same family. Crossing one leg over another while you were in a seated position may come across as being engrossed in casual conversation. However, the same gesture of showing the bottom of your shoe to someone can also be very offensive. Likewise, turning away from someone that is hearing impaired who reads lips is another unintended way to offend another. In fact, consider it just plain bad form (rudeness) to turn away from ANYONE hat is speaking to you.
When Exchanging Business Cards Leads to Offense
Even the simple act of exchanging business cards bears an entire set of standards of decorum . For example, in Asian ans Hispanic cultures you would never see someone write on another person’s business card, or fold their business card or put it in their pocket. Why? Your business card has your name and title on it, as well as the name of the organization you work for.
By treating a person’s business card with a perceived a lack of respect you are seen to be disrespecting them, their stature (as defined by the position they hold in their current organization) and their career accomplishments. When someone hands you their business card, take it into both hands, and take the time to actually look at it. You might even consider getting a sleek business card holder to put people’s cards in when you meet them. by treating a person’s card with respect, you are bestowing respect on them by association.
Another way to avoid offending others is to understand and practice the art of giving people their “personal space.” Different cultures have different unspoken rules about how much personal space to give. Americans as a general rule like pronounced distance. Ever have someone invade your personal space by getting within 6 inches to a foot of you? It’s creepy. Other cultures don’t practice the same social conventions about having as much space between us humans as a “buffer.”
One technique that you can use to put others at ease is called “mirroring.” Mirroring is a technique in which you match your body’s positioning and movements to coincide with the person across from you. The trick is to be as subtle as possible. You definitely don’t want it to be obvious, or they’ll be thinking: “What are you doing, mocking me?!” Why practice mirroring? It’s simple…research shows that by assuming the body posture of the person across from you, you put them at ease which leads to greater trust. This is an especially important goal to achieve during interviews.
Following are informative resources for advice and best practices on perfecting your non-verbal cues and body language to exude an aura of trust, likability, and professionalism. Here’s to your continued career success and professional development.
Understanding Body Language. written by Kendra Cherry.
Seven (7) Non-Verbal Cues & What They (Probably) Mean.
Body Language Actions to Avoid.
Examples of Body Language.
Top Ten body Language Tips
Eighteen Ways to Improve Your Body Language.
Understanding Body Language, list of resources on Changing Minds.