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Become More Aware of Body Language

Imagine walking out of a conference and asking three participants to relate five facts the speaker said. Could they do it? Unlikely! Imagine asking those same people, "Do you think the speaker was honest?", "Do you think the speaker was friendly?", "Do you think the speaker was smart?". Everyone will have an answer. Why? Some will say, "It's a gut feeling." Others might say, "It's just my intuition."

It's not a gut feeling. It's not intuition or a sixth sense. It's body language! We are all experts at reading and interpreting very subtle body language signals. These are signs speakers may be unaware they are sending and listeners may be unaware they are reading. How do we become more aware of this powerful communication medium?

Experts tell us that non-verbal communication (body language) is responsible for 85%-93% of communication. That leaves the verbal message with a paltry 7%-15%. Is it really true? What message do you get when someone's tone of voice reeks of sarcasm all the while they are saying, "Sure glad you showed up."? Do you keep the verbal message or the vocal one?

What are the major components of body language that we must monitor in order to come across in a professional, credible, businesslike manner?

Voice: The tone of voice is responsible for upwards of 50% of all nonverbal communication. The ideal voice is deeper in pitch and slightly louder in volume. This voice lends credibility, authority and persuasion to the speaker. Be aware of pitch rising at the end of a sentence when there is no question (e.g., "I joined the company four years ago?").

Posture: Our posture tells people how we feel about ourselves. Stand grounded and centred. Make sure your body weight is equal on both feet. Standing tall and slightly forward implies strong self-esteem and confidence. Beware of looking like a pushover by shifting your weight from foot to foot or having one hip extended.

Eye contact: Make meaningful eye contact with your listener. Allow your eyes to be expressive. Be aware of breaking eye contact too often or flitting around the room excessively.

Gestures: Allow your hands to speak with you and show your enthusiasm for your subject. This makes you a more interesting speaker. Energy, enthusiasm and caring are often equated with speakers who are more animated in their bodies and their face. Avoid a non-expressive body, especially when discussing important topics.

Remember a few simple truths:
  • How people read your body language will determine what they think of you.
  • The credibility of your information depends as much on how you say it as it does on the information itself.
  • Perception is truth! People's perception is their reality. If they see you as smart, confident and capable; then to them; you are! Make the most of it.

Act As If ... you were very smart, highly confident and the most capable person you can imagine being. This frame of mind will help you project your best image, which is what you are aiming for.

Workplace Today ©
Bina Feldman is a corporate training consultant and communication skills expert specializing in personal & professional development.