Clients are the lifeline of your business success. Strong and positive communication that connects and endears clients and customers to you is critical. Body language is another piece in the pie of communicating your message. Like the familiar adage goes, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” We are constantly communicating, even when we are not speaking. So, think twice before you react to something nonverbally – whether it be a facial expression or a shift in posture – because people will notice. According to scientists, the way your body speaks tends to be more true and trustworthy than your verbal language.
Body language and reading people’s nonverbal signals can be a game changer in business. Comprehensive research in this area shows that we use a variety of universal signals in our communications. These signals are understand irrespective of our culture or upbringing.
Statistics show that 55% of what people believe about you is based on the visual, 38% is based on tonality and 7% is based on words. So you can see that much of what people believe is shaped by unspoken communication. As a leader, it is worth the investment of time and resources to understand and improve your body language, so that your voice is correctly interpreted on all levels.
The Power of Connection
Manage your presence and maximize your leadership influence by leveraging the power of connection. Your posture, body movement, tone of voice, hand gestures and facial expressions can all be used to help you embody the brand of The Complete Leader. Your ultimate goal is to think, look and act like a leader whose presence creates a connected community that encourages active participation and engagement. How you show up and the presence you create matters. Practice body language that magnetically attracts and conveys your message with trust.
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Think about the way you want your presence to be perceived, and how you want your message to be heard. Become keenly self-aware by making sure to align your body with your heart, so that you say what you mean and mean what you say! Remember that people associate all sorts of feelings behind what they see visually – such as aggression, submission, compassion, defensiveness, excitement, deception, etc. Pay attention and note what body language is acceptable and unacceptable for a given audience.
As a business leader who struggles with ADD/ADHD and an iron deficiency, I’m aware that I can sometimes be restless, fidgety and sometimes feel cold – all of which affect how I hold myself physically. Therefore, I must be be mindful of my limitations. If not, my body language is likely to betray my intentional message by sending nonverbal cues that create mixed signals in the hearts and minds of others.
Open vs. Closed Body Language
The goal is to make sure that your body language is aligned from the inside out. It’s important to understand the difference between open and closed body language. Whether you naturally use either one can be due to many different reasons. But you must remember that how you show up physically makes an impression that will impact the value of your leadership presence and brand – whether it’s intentional or not. Here are some examples of the two types of body language:
Open body language is typically seen as approachable and welcoming, and creates a perception that you are accepting and relaxed. It is commonly displayed by:
- Legs not crossed: This is an open and relaxed position.
- Arms relaxed and not crossed: Open arms indicate openness and welcoming feeling.
Closed body language, typically perceived as cold and rigid and will likely make it difficult for people to connect with you. It may be caused by the desire to hide or self-protect. It is commonly displayed with:
- Arms crossed: This stance is often read as defensive or hostile. (Personally, I have to pay special attention to this one. I often struggle with feeling cold and crossing my arms helps me feel warmer and more comfortable.)
- Legs crossed when seated: Crossed legs can indicate caution. One leg over the other at the knee may indicate stubbornness.
- Legs crossed when standing: This may mean someone is insecure when combined with crossed arms. But by itself, it can signal interest.
Body language also includes personal space. And it’s important to be mindful of maintaining the appropriate personal boundaries as you interact with others. Unintentionally infringing on another’s space could make them feel uncomfortable, conveying the wrong message. So here are some helpful guidelines for observing the proper personal space:
- 12 feet: This personal space is more neutral and ideal in public settings. The purpose is to avoid physical contact while in an observation mode. It is great for speaking to a large group.
- 4 feet: This personal space is comfortable and ideal for social interactions such as business settings. It allows you to easily start and engage in conversations with others during business.
- 18 inches: This space is ideal for interactions with people that you know and trust such as friends and family. It allows contact, such as shaking hands, to naturally take place.
- 6 inches: This space is reserved for close relationships with people that you most trust. Beware of “stranger danger!” This spacing zone can be used as a power play in situations where an unfamiliar person is trying to interrogate or intimidate you.
- 0 to 6 inches: This spacing is typically reserved for intimate relationships and contact. Other than with a spouse or close family member – you might find yourself in this situation in places like a crowded bus or elevator.
Maintaining the proper physical space comes more naturally to some people than others. But, whether you’re out at a networking event or working one-on-one with a client, be sure to keep in mind the appropriate personal space guidelines to keep your physical presence in alignment with your message and the situation.
The bottom line is this: we all want to be heard, respected and understood by the people we come in contact with. So take some time to look within. Self assess and identify how your body language might keep you from being perceived as approachable and personable. Come up with specific ways that you can enhance and improve your nonverbal communication that will increase your power and influence. And, stay tuned here for part two where I’ll talk about some specific moves you can use to enhance your power!
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