Have you ever thought about how much of what you say is actually done without words? You are constantly sending non-verbal messages about your real thoughts and feelings using body language. Do you try to match your facial expressions with that of the speaker or do you usually keep a flat, neutral expression? Are you not aware of your facial expressions when you are speaking or listening to someone?
Studies show that what you say only accounts for about 7% of the message you convey. The remaining 93% is non-verbal; 55% of that is based on what people see and 38% is transmitted through tone of voice. This says a lot! Think about what this means; in the workplace, people can see what you are not saying. If your body language doesn’t match your words, you are in trouble.
The importance of eye contact Making eye contact is a very important way of letting another person know that you are interested in what they have to say.
This isn’t to say that you have to maintain eye contact constantly, but you should keep your eyes on someone for about 10 seconds at a time.
During a conversation, about 60% of the time should be spent looking at the person you are speaking to. If you avoid making eye contact or maintain eye contact for very brief periods of time, the other person will think they don’t matter and that you aren’t interested in them.
Looking at them for too long will make you seem too aggressive, and this is something that you want to avoid.
Facial expressions Facial expressions, such as lip movements and eyebrow movements, are also very important aspects of non-verbal communication. Lip movements:
A simple smile sends a positive message to someone in almost every situation in the business setting. For a person who is looking for reassurance, that simple smile may give them the confidence they need to continue in an important presentation or speech. Just as a simple nod lets a person know that you agree with what they are doing or saying, it may be all a person needs to be a success if in doubt at all.
Pushing your lips forward may signal boredom, disagreement, or lack of interest.
Pursing your lips may signal disagreement, frustration, or lack of interest.
Eyebrow movements What you do with your eyebrows sends important signals.
A frown sends a negative message; it may signal disagreement with what is being said, it may mean that the person who is frowning can't hear you loudly enough, or that they do not like what they are hearing.
When a person's eyebrows are raised, it may signal surprise, excitement, or may even be a negative expression of disbelief.
Maintaining a relaxed neutral position of the eyebrows is best in many cases to avoid misinterpretation.
Mouth positions Believe it or not, the way you move your mouth can show emotions and indicate acceptance, agreement, and disagreement.
If you purse your lips or twist them to one side, it can mean that you are thinking about what you are hearing, that you don’t like what you are hearing, or that you are holding something back.
A smile generally means acceptance and agreement.
A relaxed mouth in a neutral position generally signals seriousness.
Head positions How you hold your head also provides information regarding certain feelings and personality traits.
If you hold your head straight, it usually means that you are confident and authoritative. People will take you seriously in this instance.
If you hold your head to the side, it gives the impression of being more friendly and open. A "yes" nod generally means you understand what the speaker is saying, and can also mean that you agree with what is being said. When someone is speaking, be careful how much you use the "yes" nod, as it may be interpreted as agreement, rather than understanding what is being said.
The obvious "no" nod signals disagreement.
Turning your head to one side may mean that you are straining to hear someone speak because they are speaking too softly or are difficult to understand.
Holding your head down may be viewed as being shy or insecure.
Arm positions How you hold your arms when you are speaking or listening lets others know how you feel.
If you are the kind of person who tends to cross their arms when others are speaking, it usually means that you are being defensive, and can also mean that you don't want to listen to what the person is saying or that you aren’t interested in what they are saying. It can also mean that you disagree with them. It could just mean that you are cold, but unless you’re shivering at the same time, one of the above will most likely be the case.
If you are the kind of person who talks with their hands and moves their arms about, this can sometimes be viewed as enthusiastic, but sometimes may be interpreted as inexperienced by some. The best place for your arms is by your side. This position makes you look comfortable and relaxed.
It is also acceptable to fold your hands in front of you, or keep your hands touching at the finger tips, tip to tip.
Body angle Are you the kind of person that sits forward in their seat, or do you let your back rest on the back of your chair? It means something!
If you lean towards a person it may mean that you want to hear more or that you are having difficulty hearing what the person is saying. Some people associate leaning forward with someone who is anxious, nervous, or unsure of themselves.
Leaning away from someone means that you are relaxed and comfortable.
Posture Posture has always been important. Did your mother ever tell you to stand up straight? If she did, it is because good posture makes a good impression.
If you stand tall (and sit tall), it means you are alert and enthusiastic.
When you are hunched over or slumped in your chair, people will think you are tired, sad, or maybe bored.
Hand positions/movements Pay attention to where your hands are.
When sitting down at a table, keep your hands visible. The best place for them to be in on the table. Resist putting them in your pockets or on your lap.
Also, avoid putting your hands above your neck, fidgeting with your hair, or rubbing your face, as this can be viewed as unprofessional, nervous and/or insecure.
If you a person who likes to hold a pencil and tap, this is something that can be indicate nervousness or boredom, as well as being distracting to other people in the room.
Leg positions and movements Most people look at what the upper body is doing, but how we position and move our legs when standing and sitting may tell what we are thinking. Sitting with your feet flat on the floor:
Men who are comfortable and relaxed usually sit with their legs slightly apart and feet flat on the floor.
For a woman whose feet are flat on the floor, the proper way to sit is to have their knees lightly touching together.
Sitting with your legs crossed:
While some people believe that sitting with your legs crossed always indicates anxiety, I believe that this is perfectly acceptable for both men and women, especially when upper body positions are relaxed and comfortable.
If a man or woman has their legs crossed and constantly bouncing them can indicate impatience, nervousness, or being anxious/uncomfortable in the situation.
For people who wrap their legs tightly around each other, it is possible that this may be perceived as being defensive or anxious.
Sitting with your ankles crossed:
When a man or woman sits with their legs out in front of him and their ankles are crossed, it usually means they are relaxed.
When a man or woman sits with their knees bent and their ankles crossed under them, it may mean that they are uncomfortable.
If a person stands with their legs about shoulder width apart, it usually indicates they are comfortable and relaxed.
Standing with legs together or less than shoulder width apart is sometimes perceived as anxious, although many people stand with their legs together when they are cold as well!
Some people stand with their legs crossed, which may indicate that they are shy or introverted.
Standing distance away from people If you want to establish a good rapport with people, pay attention to how far away you stand from them.
In the American culture, it is customary to stand about three feet away from someone you are talking to. We often refer to this our "space bubble." Generally speaking, women tend to stand closer together than men do. If you are talking to someone and they back up, it is mostly likely because they feel you are standing too close to them.
Someone who stands too close to someone is viewed as aggressive and pushy.
Someone who stands too far away, may be viewed as stand
In the American culture, it is customary to stand about three feet away in the business world, however do what the person with you is comfortable doing. If they back up, it is either because they need more space or maybe you need a breath mint.