Recently, when my young adult children – ages 21 and 25 – traveled to NYC during the height of the recent racial upheaval, I was met with fear. The reality is that as Americans, we are still suffering from the plague of poor race relations. There is mistrust and the reality is that we are all more likely to be judged by the outside rather than the inside. Yes, we have been taught the value of respect for authority, social responsibility and leadership. But, if we use the wrong body language, we can easily appear as a threat.
Leading well means taking responsibility for being complete – meaning our outside matches the inside. So, as a branding expert who also specializes in etiquette, I realize that body language adds an important element to the credibility of our leadership brand. As The Complete Leader we must recognize that it goes well beyond that. If there is a time to create a presence of peace in our world, it is now.
So, what if our body language could actually contribute to peace in the world? I believe it can.
Studies have shown that 70% of our communication happens through our body language. And much of this is unconscious – both for us and for the people we are communicating with. Your audience will read your non-verbal communication without even realizing it. And chances are, you will hold yourself in certain ways you may not be aware of, as a matter of habit. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness can threaten how you are perceived by others.
Today, take control!! Consider how you want other people to feel when they’re around you. What words do you want to come to mind: welcomed, accepted, loved, understood? Decide for yourself, and then think about how you can incorporate these gestures into your life starting NOW. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact here are two easy ways to communicate peace and acceptance to those around you:
1. Smile From the Heart – The smile happens when the corners of your mouth are turned up towards the eyes. It is typically referred to as the “ultimate gesture.” Universally, it is the symbol of friendship and peace especially when it comes from the heart. So, don’t fake it, because the insincerity will show! People are attracted to positive people.
To create a presence of peace, keep your lips relaxed. Avoid puckered or pursed lips, where your lips are compressed. It is a negative gesture that communicates disagreement, disbelief and skepticism.
2. Make Proper Eye Contact – The eyes are said to be the window of the soul, and are often referred to as the most expressive part of our face. When making eye contact, avoid the stare or gaze. It can mistakenly communicate a threat or romantic interest.
To create a presence of peace avoid the following:
- Rubbing your eye with one or both hands. This can communicate that you don’t want to see something that you perceive as overwhelming or distasteful. It could also mean that there is information that you are hearing you don’t want to know.
- Rolling your eyes can communicate annoyance, disbelief and frustration.
- Darting eyes and excessive blinking can communicate dishonesty or nervousness.
3. Extend Your Hand as a Symbol of Peace – Did you know that the handshake originated during the period in history where it was customary to carry weapons? When approaching someone, especially an enemy, and extending your hand was a way to communicate that you didn’t have weapons and came in peace. In these times of violence and unrest, we can use handshakes to acknowledge others. Handshakes are important. A firm handshake makes a positive first impression and conveys strength, warmth, honesty and confidence. When shaking hands, always grip web to web, remembering that handshakes can have several different meanings depending on the way you position your hand:
- Palm down. When shaking hands, your palm faces downwards. It communicates submission.
- Palm up. When shaking hands, your palm faces upwards, communicates dominance.
- Parallel palms. When shaking hands, your hands are parallel and perpendicular to the ground, communicating that you are equals.
Body language can help to underscore the things we say verbally. Don’t let your body betray you! When your body language aligns with what you are saying, it builds trust, credibility and creates a bridge that leads to peaceful engagements.
Want to build a leadership brand that conveys peace? Well, empower yourself and rise up! Become known as The Complete Leader. The next time you get the opportunity to smile, make it your business to make eye contact and extend your hand. And, do it with intention and with a warm and peaceful heart.
Become aware and intentional about how you show up in the world by learning and leveraging powerful body language that exhibits peace. When you do, you will lead well and stand out in the crowd during these turbulent times.
Now over to you: Which one power pose will adopt today to foster more peace in the world? I’d love to hear your answer. Let me know in the comments below.