The Basics of Body Language (Networking & Relationships for All Working Professionals)
How to Make Sure You're Not Saying More Than You Want to in a Professional Setting
The famously misquoted findings of Professor Albert Mehrabian’s 1971 study falsely suggest that body language alone makes up 55% of all information transmitted and received during conversation or a presentation. While this may be a common misinterpretation, the truth is that body language plays a vital part in setting the right stage or betraying your true feelings about a matter.
Use these tips to master your body language for social and networking events, making sure that your arsenal contains more than small talk and a witty quip or two.
1. To Boost Your Confidence, Assume a Power Pose
Research at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools shows that simply holding your body in expansive, “high-power” poses for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone—the hormone linked to power and dominance—and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. “High-power” poses include leaning back with hands behind the head and feet up on a desk, or standing with legs and arms stretched wide open.
Try these when you’re feeling tentative but need to appear confident. In addition to causing hormonal shifts in both males and females, these poses lead to increased feelings of power and a higher tolerance for risk.
2. Practice Smiling
Smiling not only makes you more attractive and trustworthy, it also improves your health, your stress level, and your feelings about yourself. Smiling slows the heart and relaxes the body, and it releases endorphins that counteract and diminish stress hormones. Smiling has also been shown to increase productivity while performing tasks.
According to several studies, smiling can trick your brain into feeling happy, even when you feel sad as you’re smiling.
Bonus Action Steps: When you wake up in the morning, stand in front of your mirror and smile at yourself. You might feel foolish, but persist and practice smiling to yourself for a minute or two. When you’re in your car or alone at your desk, practice smiling. Be aware of the impact smiling has on other people, and remind yourself to smile more often with others.
3. To Spot a Liar, Look out for These Four "The Tell-Tale" Signals
Nonverbal cues to all kinds of unconscious giveaways tend to occur in clusters – a group of movements, postures and actions that collectively point to a particular state of mind. This tends to be crucially true of dishonesty, where one specific cluster of nonverbal signals has been proven statistically to be a highly accurate indicator of deception.
According to research conducted at Northeastern University, if you see these “Telltale Four” being displayed together, watch out!
4. When Making a Formal Presentation, Move Then Pause
Human beings are drawn to movement. If you move when you speak, you’ll effectively capture the attention of your audience. It can be especially effective to move toward the audience before making a key point, and away when you want to signal a break or a change of subject.
You can also use space to reinforce your ideas. For example, if you’re presenting three issues, talk about each of them from a different physical position.
Or if you have “bad” news and “good” news, you can present each from different sides of the stage or platform. (Just be sure to make your closing remarks while standing on the “good” side.)
But do note, avoid movement while making a crucial comment. You have the most impact when you combine movement with physical pauses in which you stand absolutely still to highlight your most important points.
Most of us tend to mirror the person we are in conversation with, especially if we feel a good rapport or chemistry with the person. Mirroring could be of something subtle like the positioning of someone’s fingers, or something more obvious like the direction both parties are facing.
To encourage the development of a conversation, try some proactive mirroring techniques. I.e. if he leans forward, you should lean forward. If she holds her hands on her thighs, you could do the same.
However, refrain from reacting instantaneously and don’t mirror every minor change in body language. That can come across seeming artificial or worse, like mockery.
6. Take Notes
Scribble notes into a notepad or piece of paper during important business meetings or discussions to appear involved and attentive. However, in the process, it is important to look “present” as opposed to being perceived as making random doodles when the presenter is delivering his message.
The key is to intersperse note-taking with routine glances at the speaker to make eye contact and regular nods to demonstrate understanding and agreement.
Try these handy body-language tips to make a positive impression and get ahead at the workplace. If you are looking for tips in a similar fashion to help your social life, check out this link for some surefire ways to jazz up your next night on the town!
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