What Your Body Language Says

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Do these people look approachable? Do they look like executives? Would you hire them based solely on their appearance?

Nonverbal communication, or body language, is a vital form of communication. When we interact with others, we continuously give and receive countless wordless signals. All of our nonverbal behaviors—the gestures we make, the way we sit, how fast or how loud we talk, how close we stand, how much eye contact we make, even the clothes we wear—send strong messages. According to experts, a substantial portion of our communication is nonverbal. Every day, we respond to thousands on nonverbal cues and behaviors including postures, facial expression, eye gaze, gestures, and tone of voice.

Image courtesy smarnad/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy smarnad/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Human beings are genetically programmed to look for facial and behavioral cues and to quickly understand their meaning. We see someone gesture, like give a high five or a thumbs up, and automatically make a judgment about the intention of that gesture. Look at some of the nonverbal communication in this graphic. Even without the words beneath, it’s easy to infer what is being communicated. And they don’t even have facial expressions. Nonverbal communication is loud, with or without words.

Sometimes, what comes out of our mouths and what we communicate through our body language or what we are wearing are two totally different things. When faced with these mixed signals, the listener has to choose whether to believe your verbal or nonverbal message. This is why it is so important to pay attention to your nonverbal communication. When it matters, you want people to hear what you are saying more than how you are saying it.

Nonverbal Communication Matters

You should focus as much on how you say something as the words you are choosing. Since nonverbal communication is constantly speaking for you, make sure it is accurately describing your thoughts.

I recently watched a TED Talk given by Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, where she studies how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments affect people from the classroom to the boardroom. Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves.

Her training as a classical dancer is evident in her fascinating work on “power posing” — how your body position influences others and even your own brain. This fascinating research on power posing can be used in everyday situations, but is especially useful in stressful situations (like job interviews or speeches).

Key concepts include:

  • Holding one’s body in expansive, “high-power” poses for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol.
  • In addition to causing hormonal shifts, power poses lead to increased feelings of power and a greater tolerance for risk.
  • People often are more influenced by how they feel about you than by what you’re saying.
  • The research has broad implications for people who suffer from feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem due to their hierarchical rank or lack of resources.

“Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.” ~Amy Cuddy

So the next time you have a situation that requires more confidence, try this power pose for 2 minutes. Someone recently said they did this in their car before an interview and had the best interview of their lives. Try it and let me know the results. You can be sure that I’ll be doing the Power Pose before my radio interview tomorrow morning!

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