Ever wonder what kind of first impression you are making? The way people respond to you is determined by so much more than just what you say, how you say it, the clothes you wear, your hairstyle and makeup, and your overall confidence, or lack thereof. It’s dependent on all of those things and more…it is affected by your body language. If you want to know how you are being perceived by others, it’s important to understand some common mistakes you may be making unconsciously.
Deirdre Danahar is a business and leadership coach and consultant, who is based in the Jackson area. Well-Being spoke with Ms. Danahar about some of the dos and don’ts of body language, tone of voice and other behavioral characteristics that can make or break your chance to make a positive impression.
Crossing your arms. This can be perceived as a defensive position and conveys an unwillingness to consider what the other person is saying.
Talking too much with your hands. It can be distracting and prevent your message from getting through.
Being too rigid or too casual in your posture. If you are too rigid you risk appearing unapproachable. If you are too casual in your stance you may not be taken seriously.
Leaving out your cell phone during a meeting. This gives the appearance you are not as focused on the subject of the meeting and those involved as you are about who may or may not call you.
Strutting when you walk. You may be revealing an over confidence in yourself that others find objectionable.
Flubbing the handshake. Your handshake should be firm (avoid the dead fish at all costs), but not bone-crushing.
Fidgeting or tapping your fingers. Your inability to be still can be distracting and may convey a lack of confidence, nervousness or boredom.
Fiddling with your hair. This movement can also convey nervousness or it may be perceived as flirty – appropriate on a date, but not a business meeting.
Breaking eye contact. You don’t need to hold the person you are speaking to in a death stare, but looking down or frequently glancing away from them may suggest insincerity.
Disapproving facial expressions.Your words may be appropriate but if your expressions belie your irritation or disdain, others will get the unspoken message.
Smiling. An authentic smile goes a long way toward helping you establish rapport. But, make sure it is real. A real smile begins with the eyes, not just a showing of teeth.
Occupying over-active hands. If you tend to talk too much with your hands, ask if you can take notes or loosely fold your hands in front of you.
Feeling comfortable in your own skin. The best way to make sure those around you respond positively is to make them feel at ease.
Showing humility. True humility, not false modesty, means sharing the spotlight, and recognizing the value of others. It is also strategic to acceptance and consensus building.
Collecting your thoughts before you speak. Before you say a word, think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Moderating your tone of voice. The intonations of your voice can be just as important as what you say. Be aware of the tone of your voice and consciously avoid raising the volume or pitch.
Watching other people’s body language.Take your queues from the behavior of others. Are they fidgeting and appearing bored? Do they seem antsy to wrap up the conversation? Or, do they appear enthralled in what you are saying?
Being aware of the context. Match your demeanor to the occasion. Appropriate body language changes depending on the situation. Is it a formal business setting, a casual lunch with friends, or a community gathering? Your body language should fit the situation.
According to Ms. Danahar, we each bring unique assets to the table. In her work as an executive coach, she helps her clients recognize their strengths, knowledge and experience, and leverage them in a way that builds self-confidence and improves the effectiveness of their communications with others.
“Self awareness, as opposed to self consciousness, is the key to learning to match your verbal and physical messaging,” she explains. “To avoid misunderstandings, know what you are feeling in any given situation so you can make a choice about how you speak and what your body language is saying. When the Center for Talent Innovation looked at what matters most about how your image is perceived, they found that 67% was gravitas (what you know and how you carry yourself), while speech accounted for 28% and appearance only 5%.”
Deirdre Danahar is an executive coach and organizational consultant helping high performing people and teams be forward-thinking, enhance performance and improve their bottom line by making themselves and their communities better. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org learn more about her work at inmotioncc.com.