Did you ever meet someone and think right away that maybe you couldn’t trust them? What was it about them that caused you to feel that way? Was it something they said or did? Because in the first few minutes of meeting someone, we make decisions about that person's intentions based on their non-verbal cues.
Non-verbal Communication, commonly called body language, is the way our bodies tell another person about whom we really are and what we really think. There’s a reason Hollywood portrays the villain in an ugly light, just as they make the hero look like he can do no wrong. They want us to be sure who the players are.
It's especially important to make a good first impression. As many people like to say you never get a second chance at a good first impression. So make sure what your Body Language reveals about you is aligned with what you are saying.
Confidence - Signals
- Posture: stand straight and tall with your shoulders back but relaxed
- Lean in slightly: this shows your focus is on them
- Eye contact: present a solid gaze with a smiling face
- Gestures: hands and arms should be purposeful and deliberate
- Speech: slow and clear
- Tone of voice: moderate to low and don't end every sentence with a question
- Handshake: firm
Relaxed and calm is what people like to see. It’s like when you smile at someone and they smile back at you. You cause them to want to smile because you seem to be happy. It rubs off.
Communication, not your strong point? Then practice in front of a mirror. Smile and say hello. Notice how you look. Would you want to meet you? Or would you cross the street to avoid you?
Now practice standing up straight, shoulders back, hands fidget free at your sides, and eyes forward making contact. Good posture is a good practice to develop. Being all scrunched up and hunched over with a frown on your face is no way to be. Pretend there is a string in the top of your head pulling you up. Now smile. There, you look great!
Defensiveness - Signals
- Hand/arm gestures: small and close to the body
- Facial expressions: minimal
- Body: turned away from you
- Arms: crossed in front of body
- Eyes: downcast, no eye contact
When you see this behavior your audience isn't open to what you have to say and your message is falling on deaf ears. By picking up on these cues you can make changes to what you say or how you are saying it to help that person feel more at ease and thereby more receptive to your message.
Disengagement - Signals
- Heads: are down
- Eyes: glazed over or gazing elsewhere
- Hands: fiddling with pen or doodling
- People: slumped in their chairs
This behavior tells you your audience isn't buying into what you're saying. When you see that someone appears to be disengaged you can bring their focus back to the topic at hand by asking them a direct question and waiting for their answer.
Lying - Signals
- Eyes: maintain little to no contact, or have rapid eye movements
- Hands/fingers: in front of mouth when speaking
- Body: turned away from you or unusual body gestures
- Breathing: rate increases
- Complexion: changes in color, red in the face or neck
- Perspiration: increases
- Voice: changes in pitch, stammering or throat clearing
The ability to know if someone is lying will stand you in good stead. But if you notice some of these signs of lying don't jump to conclusions as they are often signs of nervousness. Instead, ask questions that may help to define what they think to see if this is the case.
Reflection - Signals
- Eyes: look away and return when answering
- Fingers: stroking chin
- Hand: on cheek
- Head: tilted with eyes looking up
What do you do when asked a really good question? These gestures give away that they are thinking or pondering the answer to that question.
Understanding non-verbal communication is beneficial to your relations with people and a skill anyone can learn with practice. So, become more confident today by putting just one thing from this post into practice. In a short time, you will develop your own style of walking, standing, and greeting people. Remember: actions speak louder than words.
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