Have you ever thought about what your body language says about you? Take a look around at people in college, at work, or even just in the street. Notice how they sit, how they carry themselves when they walk, and how they stand when interacting with others. What can you tell about them from their posture? Probably quite a lot! Indeed a lot of human communication happens without even saying a word, so it is worth being aware of your own body language and what it says about you. It could be the difference between getting accepted on an apprenticeship, getting a job offer, university place, or promotion.
Your body language has a huge impact on how you are perceived by others, and while it may seem unfair, it is a large part of the human subconscious and how we judge one-another. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression – so being aware of the signals your body language is sending out is important – especially if you are trying to stay calm for a job interview or other stressful situation!
Here are a few examples of things to look out for, and what to do to counteract them:
- Making Yourself Small
This is a common thing to do when feeling intimidated or unsure. Making yourself smaller by slouching and hunching over may be a subconscious attempt to avoid attention, but it also makes you appear weak, fearful, or even lazy and unmotivated. If you notice that you are doing this take a deep breath and straighten up your posture. Sit or stand up straight and relax your shoulders back and down (rather than hunched up near your ears!). You may also want to angle yourself slightly forward too as this will make you appear more alert. A good posture is often associated with confidence, so try to keep yourself upright and looking assured, rather than small and hidden.
- Failing To Face Others
Angling your body away from others can make you seem like you are disinterested or simply want to make a quick get-away. Instead of appearing like you don’t care about the other person, try to face them and subtly mimic a few of their gestures. Make sure to do this without being too obvious – otherwise they may notice and think you are just odd. Simply adopting a similar pose to the person you are talking to can make you appear to be in harmony with them and what they are saying, creating at least the appearance of a closer bond between you.
- Making Nervous Gestures
Touching your face, fiddling with a pen or your hair, or jiggling your leg up and down while sat down are all examples of nervous gestures. They can indicate nervousness or even a lack of interest in what is going on. Just be aware of your hands and any other signals you may be sending out! Appearing calm on the outside, even if you are not feeling it, is the key here!
- Crossing Your Arms
You may be tempted to cross your arms in an effort to stop any nervous gestures, but this in itself creates a negative, defensive display. You are protecting your body with your arms which can make you come across as anything from scared to cynical or angry. Let your arms relax by your side to appear more calm and confident. If you are in the habit of crossing your arms try holding a notebook or file in one hand to stop you from crossing them.
- Handshake Errors!
A confident handshake is a wonderful thing – but don’t get that confused with crushing someone else’s hand! A lot of men in particular get confused between having a firm handshake and trying to break every bone in someone else’s hand. However, women, on the other hand (no pun intended) tend to make their hand-shakes too soft and insipid. If in doubt, match the strength or the other person’s handshake – ideally neither too firm nor too soft.
- Too Serious?
Don’t underestimate the power of a smile. A warm smile can be friendly and show that you are confident and comfortable around other people. Plus a smile can help relax you too – even if it is forced! Try to smile when you first meet people and again when you finish speaking with them – they will think better of you for it!
- Eye Contact
Eye contact is important, but can be a tricky one to get just right. Too little eye contact will leave you looking shifty or intimidated, while too much eye contact is just weird! As a rule of thumb try to have eye-contact for about 50-60% of the time you are speaking with someone. Notice the colour of the other person’s eyes if it helps you to remember whenever you go into a meeting or discussion with someone else. However, don’t hold their gaze for too long as that can come across as aggressive or creepy.
Making sure you give out the right signals can help you to get ahead and promote yourself as a confident and capable person. Give yourself the edge by watching out for your body language – especially In stressful situations!