A to Z of Soft Skills: B for Body Language
If you remember Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada, you know the power of non verbal communication! The way she strides in with arrogance and makes people cower with one look establishes her as the devil! Our body language communicates a lot despite no words being involved. Our expressions, posture, smile, eye contact (or lack of it), stance, gestures – there are tons of non verbal cues that we subconsciously pick up and interpret along with the spoken words.
And this silent communication assumes roles of great importance in different situations – during interviews, while presenting, talking to an irate customer, when you convey bad news, or assert yourself. What our body says in these situations is as important, sometimes even more, than the words we use. So, let’s dive into the world of communication without words and see how we can use it effectively. I have also included useful resources on the topic from various sources.
Remember all the times that our teachers told us to sit up? When I start a module on body language or posture in my training programs, people tend to straighten up a bit in their chairs! Have you noticed how you sit up in a meeting when someone calls your name? (I am assuming that boring meetings generally lead to a slouch!) This happens because there is a mind-body connect. Our bodies reflect what we feel. And hence it is important to feel positive to convey a confident body language. A few quick tips to project confidence non verbally:
Don’t fidget. With your phone or the stationery in front of you.
Make eye contact. When you talk to people or when people talk to you. Do not get distracted by notifications on your phone.
Use gestures confidently. Watch great speakers and learn. Practice them, in front a mirror if need be. Letting your hands fall on either side of you while standing or hiding them in your lap while sitting is a sign of under confidence.
Smile. From projecting friendliness to hiding nervousness, a smile can take you a long way
Relax your shoulders. Don’t slouch or keep them stiff. To relax them completely, try this – take your shoulders all the way to ears and then let them fall in one quick motion. They will naturally settle in a relaxed position.
Sit straight. This will automatically keep you alert and make you look confident.
Nod when you listen to people. This conveys that you are actually listening (And I hope you really do!)
Stand on both feet. Don’t lean on one foot and alternate between both feet.
Wear heels. Yes! Both men and women. No! I don’t mean stilettos for men! Even an inch of heels for either gender can do wonders for your gait and stance.
Firm handshake. Practice it till you get it right. There’s no bigger turn off than a limp hand that doesn’t know what to do.
I began this post with the concept of a mind-body connect – our body language reflects what our mind feels. Now let’s talk about the reverse equation – the body-mind connect. Can we use our body to make our mind feel confident? This is the question that led to research that transformed the way we look at the function of body language. Amy Cuddy, an American social psychologist, explained her research in her TED talk in 2012. Holding our body in an expansive pose for even 2 minutes makes our physiology change for the better. Our stress hormone, cortisol plunges and the feel good hormone, testosterone shoots up. This makes us feel less stressed and more confident and assertive.
I love the concept so much that I did a 2-part series on power pose on this blog.
There are simple ways in which you can make power pose a part of your life:
- Practice the wonder woman pose for just 2 minutes before a stressful meeting. Hands on your waist, feet planted apart and look up with confidence.
- Don’t hunch over your cellphone. Definitely not before an important meeting, at the waiting area.
- If you can’t power pose at all, just imagine yourself in an expansive pose and the benefit is just the same as real posing.
Here are a few more tips to do use power pose effectively.
You can also watch my video on power pose and how to use it in your daily life.
Whether we speak or not, our bodies are always communicating something. What do you want your body language to convey?