This is the 4th article out of 10 about “10 things you can do that require zero talent to improve your life”. If you would like to read the intro to the series click here.
I think this is a very overlooked area of personal development and we need to put more emphasis on how we present ourselves. We may get by with poor body language around those we know but if we come across poorly to people we are just meeting or need to develop a relationship with we may not get another chance. Experts differ but most agree that over 50% of our communication is non-verbal body language. When I first heard those statistics I was surprises because whenever I think of communication I instantly think of verbal communication. My goal in this article is to provide some basic tips on how to improve your body language to become more confident meeting new people and wet your appetite to learn more about this overlooked area of communication.
When you think about it we really do communicate a lot about ourselves by our body language such as, confidence, happiness, approachability, openness, nervousness, and so on. The thing I want to stress is the more and more digital our world becomes the less skilled many people are in verbal and non-verbal communication which leaves a huge gap for you to set yourself apart from your competition. You can (and I encourage you to) dig a lot deeper into the science of body language but if you just start with the below quick tips I think you will find it worth your time to investigate further.
1. Hand Shake
When you meet someone you want your first impression to be a good one. Usually this begins with a quick “hello” and a handshake. You want to do a split second assessment of who’s hand you are shaking as you don't want it to be too rough if it is a woman or elderly individual. Simply give a firm 1-2 shakes and smile and thats it! It seems so simple and yet so many people mess it up with an overly strong handshake, a weak handshake, or an awkward handshake. Can’t you remember a time someone awkwardly shook your hand? I bet you didn't spend too much time with that individual.
2. Eye Contact
We don't trust people who don't make eye contact. If you don't make eye contact with the person you are speaking with you come across as untrustworthy, nervous, afraid, and immature. I understand some people are just naturally more shy and this can be a struggle but it is something you have to work on if you want to be taken seriously as an effective communicator. It may seems strange to say this but it is something you have to practice. If you need to practice this start with family and close friends. Consciously in conversations make an extra effort to give them consistent eye contact while talking and listening.
3. Body Posture
Don’t slump! Its physically bad for you and it makes you appear shorter as well as less confident. Also be aware of sitting up straight in your chair especially when you are talking to someone. Lastly, be careful of consistently crossing your arms or legs while speaking with someone. This gives the signal you are not open to what they are saying to you and that you are withdrawn and closed off.
Just bringing awareness to these basic body language principles will help you stand out from the crowd and help you develop your personal and professional relationships as well as make you more confident. These are so basic sounding that you may think you do them well already. I challenge you to think about it more closely and really analyze if you are doing these as good as you think. You may be surprised with the amount of improvement you can make.
J. Matthew King, Co-founder