How your body COMMUNICATES

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Talking to people with arms folded gives the impression that you are bored, disinterested or uncomfortable and is a major closed gesture. 

By DEREK BBANGA

Body language is crucial in creating a positive impression and achieving your business goals. Additionally, being able to read the body language of others is an advantage. We reveal a lot about our attitudes, emotions and motives by the way we hold our bodies.

I give talks frequently at companies and it is fascinating to observe the body language and non-verbal communication. Sometimes there will be one person who is uncomfortable. They do not have to say anything as I can clearly read it in their body language – arms folded, legs crossed, and body or legs are turned away or other closed body gestures. If you are reading this in the office, take a look around at the body language of your co-workers. Study those who are successful and I’ll wager that they typically use open body language when interacting with workmates or in meetings. Talking to people with arms folded gives the impression that you are bored, disinterested or uncomfortable and is a major closed gesture. A lot of people for example tend to fold their arms across their chest when they dislike the other person.

Deportment or the way you walk or sit is fundamental in projecting a confident, positive image. When you walk into a room, always try to stand as tall as possible with your head up and your eye line directed to the person you are going to talk to. This automatically makes you look and feel confident and at ease. When you are having a good day and things are going well, you automatically have a spring in your step and walk more erect but did you know that the reverse is also true? The way you carry your body also has a powerful impact on your emotions. Even displaying clothes to their best advantage can come down to your body posture.

The CEO pose

In a business setting, one should ideally try to sit straight (without looking as though you have a broomstick shoved down your back). Over-confidence or superiority is often displayed by the way someone sits. The ‘CEO pose’ with hands clasped behind the head; or leaning back in the chair with legs outstretched and ankles crossed says I’m large and in charge. This is a very masculine position that takes up a great deal of room and signals that the person is very sure of himself and of his place in the group. Observe any meeting and you will see people slumped in their seats most of the time. You will come across more professionally by sitting forward in the chair or leaning on the table, perhaps forming a ‘steeple’ with the fingers, which is much more likely to be interpreted as listening with interest.

If you are running a meeting, research has shown that individuals who lean forward tend to increase the verbal output of the person they are speaking with. You will notice certain interviewers on TV will use this to great effect. However, body language experts advises against leaning too close or too early towards the other person as this may be perceived as encroaching on their territory.

The new American White House Press Secretary’s first press conference showed some interesting body language. His body adopted an aggressive posture, belligerent head and hand movements sending negative signals and alienating his audience.

Positive body language to use during difficult or tough meetings include having hands visible and keeping them open rather than clenched, crossed or folded which are all barrier positions and come across as defensive. Sitting upright and looking alert but relaxed and not constantly touching the face, as this signifies nervousness or even that you are not being truthful.

The body never lies

You should always aim to look alert in a business setting. There’s nothing worse than having a blank face – you know, ‘the lights are on but nobody is home’ look. Foot tapping, ankle wobbling, shifty eye contact can also come across as nervous and uncomfortable. Avoid unnecessarily touching your face, lips, eyes, or neck area and it goes without saying that rooting around your ear or nose cavity is extremely poor form.

The old adage ‘the body never lies’ couldn’t be more true and the more you understand body language and its effect on others, the better you will be in communicating with others in a business setting.

Derek Bbanga helps professionals enhance their soft skills to win in business with his company Public Image. 

Email: derek.bbanga@publicimageafrica.com

Twitter @derekbbanga

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