They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Now picture yourself, approaching a co-worker or a prospective client, walking into a board meeting or a party. How do you look? What message do you communicate the moment you walk into a room?
What are your eyes, hands and feet saying? What information can people gather about you before you ever say a word? Regardless of your competence in the field, your body language is a huge factor in determining how others respond to you.
Here are seven ways you can use body language to show confidence and win respect.
1. Offer a genuine smile.
A genuine smile not only stimulates your own sense of wellbeing, it also tells those around you that you are approachable, cooperative, and trustworthy. Instead of wearing out those cheeks with a permanent (and fake) smile on your face, try on a more neutral but friendly expression until you make eye contact with or meet someone. Wait until someone introduces himself before you flash your pearly whites. This will make you more approachable and make the other person feel like your smile is just for them.
2. Be authoritative.
Even if you are friendly and down to earth, your relaxed attitude should never overshadow the fact that you are in control. When you are introduced to someone, stand tall, extend your hand, and introduce yourself by saying your first and last name.
To sound authoritative, speak in a normal, conversational tone. And if you are a female, watch that your voice doesn’t rise at the end of a sentence as if you are asking a question or seeking approval. When stating your opinion, use the authoritative arc, in which your voice starts on one note, rises in pitch through the sentence and drops back down at the end.
3. Be approachable.
If you are the type of leader who has a naturally-authoritative demeanor, others may be intimidated by you. Reduce your intimidation factor by avoiding intense gazes and stern facial expressions. Show that you are engaged by sitting in a relaxed position. Lean forward when someone is talking to you. Avoid leaning back with your hands behind your head and propping your feet up on your desk. When standing, uncross your arms and keep your hands off your hips and out of your pockets.
4. Demonstrate control.
There are times when everyone feels unsure, anxious, impatient, frustrated, bored or nervous. Avoid the temptation to check your text messages, take phone calls, or check your watch. Instead, focus on those who are speaking by turning your head and torso to face them directly and by making eye contact. Avoid actions such as nail biting, pen chewing, finger or foot tapping, pacing and fidgeting.
5. Remove barriers.
Physical obstructions are especially detrimental to collaborative efforts. Take away anything that blocks your view or forms a barrier between you and the person with whom you are speaking. When someone steps into your office to say hello, step out from behind your desk to shake his or her hand.
During a networking event or coffee break, don’t hold your beverage in a way that blocks your body or distances you from others. According to the book, The Silent Language of Leaders by Carol Kinsey Gorman, Ph.D., the higher you hold your coffee, the more of a physical barrier you put up between yourself and the person you’re talking to. Hold it closer to your waist when you want to seem open and engaged.
6. Show empathy.
Being in charge is demanding on your time, however, you should always give others your full attention when they speak with you. Think before speaking instead of rushing the conversation or finishing someone’s sentences. The greatest leaders know how to be patient and maintain control while showing empathy and respect.
7. Control facial expressions.
Your facial expressions have the power to motivate others to give you their best or can totally destroy their morale and drive to succeed. Avoid negative gestures like eye rolling, brow knitting, nose twitching or mocking grins. Be mindful of the message your face sends.
Nonverbal behavior is the most crucial element of communication. Studies by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, indicate that 55 percent of communication is conveyed though facial expressions, gestures and posture, 38 percent is conveyed through tone and only 7 percent comes through the actual words. If you follow these simple and powerful body language tips, you’ll increase your nonverbal impact, both personally and professionally.