Body language gives people a clear impression of who you are. Dr. Gary Genard who has just published Fearless Speaking about overcoming your speaking fear through practical tips and hands-on exercises, has agreed to share with us some tips on how to make body language work for you. If you’re getting back into the work force your body language for an interview sends important signals. Here are some body language examples and how to make nonverbal communication work to your advantage!
Dr. Gary Genard Shares 3 Body Language Examples
Imagine these three scenarios:
In the first, you’re listening to a woman speak at the PTO. And you’re thinking: “This person’s hands sure are busy.”They seem to be dancing everywhere, always present between the speaker and her audience. In fact, she seems more concerned with showing than saying—as though her gestures were taking the place of words. Pretty soon, you realize that you’re not paying attention to what she’s saying; instead, you’re just watching the show.
Now imagine a professionally dressed young woman giving a sales presentation. She’s poised and focused, and delivers her points concisely. But while discussing the company’s exciting new product . . . she begins rubbing her belly. “That’s odd,” you think, before bringing your attention back to her presentation. But the seemingly absent-minded habit returns. The third time this happens, you no longer care what she’s talking about—you’re just waiting for the next belly rub.
In our final scenario, you meet a friendly woman at a fundraiser for the local hospital. When she mentions her name, you realize she’s a star at the institution, having raised a ton of donations over the years. She’s petite, so you’re wondering why she seems to be trying to make herself smaller. With her hands clasped in front of her, her shoulders hunched, and a way she has of crouching down toward the floor, it’s as though she’s performing a magic trick: “And now, ladies and gentlemen . . . The Amazing Disappearing Woman!”
Is Your Body Language Communication Showing What You Think?
Three Scenarios, Three Impressions
The three scenarios above are real, not imagined. In each of them, the person speaking was communicating important information to everyone present. The problem is: what these women were displaying in terms of physical presence was almost certainly not what they wanted to convey!
If you’ve ever sat at a meeting and wondered why a successful female executive asks, “Can I say something?” you realize that women don’t always project an image that matches who they are or what they have to offer. And if you’re interviewing for a job, returning to the work force, or speaking out in your community, you need body language that strengthens rather than detracts from your presence.
Let’s look at what these three women were conveying by their nonverbal communication in terms of the choices available to them:
- Relaxed vs. Tense Personality: The first speaker, the woman with “busy hands,” constantly reminded her audience that she was anxious and tense. She couldn’t speak for herself because her hands wouldn’t let her! Gestures that are relaxed, spare in number and fluid on the other hand announce that a speaker is confident. Equally important, keeping your hands from constantly creating a barrier between you and your listeners shows openness and accessibility. And that allows others to open up in response.
- Focused vs. Unfocused: Whether we’re chatting or delivering a formal presentation, we need to stay focused on our message and how it’s being received. (Think of how often that isn’t the case when we’re multi-tasking or half-listening!) People can tell whether they’re front-and-center on our radar screen, and our bodies show it. The young woman who rubbed her belly absent-mindedly wasn’t focused on her listeners and committed to reaching them. How important can others—from colleagues to family—feel if we treat them that way?
- Strong vs. Weak Self-Image: The Amazing Disappearing Woman wasn’t able to vanish as much as she seemed to be trying to do so. Confident people own the space they stand, sit, or move in—it’s simply a case of occupying what’s rightfully theirs. Apologize physically for the place you’re taking up in the world, and people will treat you accordingly. Claim your space and they’ll treat you with respect, even if you didn’t just raise a million dollars!
Your turn . . .
- Are you aware of the body language you’re showing? Can you share any body language stories that might help others in their professional or personal life?
- If you’d like more on body language and speaking with confidence, take a look at my new book Fearless Speaking. It’s a self-guided course for overcoming nervousness, anxiety or self-doubt about your speaking and presentation skills. And you can download the first chapter free!
What did you learn about how to make body language work for you?