The importance of body language in your everyday interactions
In life and in business, it is important to think about how each of us is conveyed. For years it became really trendy to focus on body language, but it hasn’t been as much of a hot topic over the last while. But it is actually a critical element to finding success and ensuring you communicate properly.
Body language is just another way we communicate; an interaction to help us share information. So, it takes strategy and consideration to ensure your audience is receiving your message effectively and accurately.
Is what you are saying with your body what you’re really trying to convey?
It’s often been said that body language is hardwired into our brains, but we can also learn it and mimic it from the people around us, from the time we are children. This often-unconscious form of communication can be open to varied interpretation, and how we believe we are communicating may not necessarily be what is received at the other end!
So think about, and fine-tune, your body language: does it support the messages you send to right people at the right time?
Whether business engagements, how you show yourself when going for a job interview, your interactions with your peers or even how you treat your partner, it is essential that you understand your own body language and what it communicates about you.
Do you come across as a strong-willed person? Are you a bit shy or submissive? Or do you burst with enthusiasm and light up the room? Do you really know how you come across in various situations?
A smart person once suggested to me that I take the time to look at my own stance in front of a mirror to take note of my posture; what does it say about me? I recommend this to my team and other colleagues. Another idea is to simply ask for an honest opinion and feedback from someone you trust.
Don’t be afraid to stand tall and proud
There is an old saying: “stand tall and the world stands with you; slouch and you slump alone”, and nothing can be truer when communicating confidence and openness.
If you stop to think and visualise those people who stand with a straight back – they generally exude confidence and seem approachable. They appear interested in life and look as though they are prepared to handle anything that may be thrown their way.
Keep your head held high
We hear this a lot as younger people – parents telling us to hold our heads high. There’s a lot to be said for this statement because in fact a head held high shows confidence as well as interest in any particular conversation.
And what do you think, when you see someone staring at the ground – how do they seem? Disinterested, disengaged or lacking confidence is usually the interpretation here. So keeping your chin up, making eye contact and level is a positive way to show you are interested, eager and focused.
I have read that handshaking, when done with vertical palms, is supposed to reflect a subconscious sign that both parties are of equal footing. It’s often a very first greeting between parties, and therefore often the very first impression you give when meeting someone in a professional capacity.
So what will your first impression be? Though it may not come naturally to all of us, mastering the art of a good handshake is a must! Taking time to master the form of this communication is crucial to making the action a natural flow of your body, rather than a forced and potentially awkward encounter.
Handshaking is a great way of showcasing enthusiasm, good faith, trust and appreciation.
Know what your hand signals say about you
We all talk with our hands, some more excessively than others. Communicating with hand gestures is a common and widely accepted form of communication and often aids in the story-telling process.
Interestingly, with palms facing up, this conveys an open mind and an acceptance of other people and their ideas – an important gesture to master, particularly when in a leadership role. It communicates honesty, and that you’re open and approachable.
On the flip side, crossed arms can suggest negativity, skepticism or disregard.
Make an effort
How do you normally feel when someone you’re speaking seems disengaged? It can be frustrating and disheartening. Remember this and make a conscious effort to focus on those around you.
An effective way to show interest when in a conversation is by saying a person’s name when asking questions, for example, “That must have been really challenging Stacey, how did you finalise everything?”
Asking questions, using a person’s name, providing light commentary to show you are paying attention and nodding shows you are engaged and interested in what they have to say.
There is no one-size-fits-all with body language, but being aware that other people can make a decision on you as a businessperson based on how you carry yourself and communicate, means it is an important thing to be aware of.