Within seven seconds of meeting someone, they have already formed their impression of you. That means that before you even start talking, they have decided whether or not you are trustworthy, credible, and likeable, and they have decided this based on your body language. Your demeanor, the gestures you make, and the way you situate your body all have the power to either reinforce your goals or to work against them. Here are a few tips to be sure your body language is getting you closer to your goals:
Talk with your hands. The area of your brain that fires when you speak (Broca’s area) also fires when you wave your hands. Thus, when you gesture while you talk, you can actually “power up” your speaking and research supports this. When people were told to talk with their hands, their verbal content improved, their speech was less hesitant, and their verbal fillers (e.g., ums and uhs) decreased.
But … don’t fidget. Fidgety behaviors, such as tapping your pencil, rubbing your hands, cracking your knuckles or tapping your feet signal anxiety, not confidence.
Use your memory. Before meeting someone, think of a time you felt very upbeat, positive, and successful. Imagine how you looked and sounded in that moment, and channel all that energy into the present moment.
Open yours arms. Crossed arms send the message that you are closed off and defensive.
Look into their eyes. Eye contact shows that you are engaged and interested in what the other person has to say, and this builds trust. This is especially true when someone is angry or upset. Looking in their eyes has a way of making them less hostile and negative, because they will feel heard. Poor eye contact communications boredom, restlessness, or disengagement – none of which are messages you want to be sending to another person.
Ditch the fake smile. A real smile incorporates both the mouth and the eyes. Go for crinkles around the eyes to look genuine and make others feel good.