Body language, as well as what we say and how we say it, contribute to our first impressions. Whether we’re in social situations, casual meetings, networking, or interviewing for a job, we are always sending messages. Are they the ones we want to send?
When we communicate verbally through words, we minimize the chance that others will misinterpret or misunderstand us. We can also clarify our meaning as we go. Body language or nonverbal communication, however, can be more ambiguous. Our gestures, eye contact, tone of voice, and facial expressions may leave first impressions that perfectly reflect us…or not.
Catherine Johns, Chicago Hypnosis Center, helps people achieve their goals in several professional and personal areas. She notes that we often do not understand the implications of our body language and offers these tips for creating a positive presence in a business context:
- Posture. Sit or stand in an upright vertical position so you communicate a sense of ease and strength.
- Movement. Move with purpose and avoid aimless swaying or rocking.
- Gestures. Generally, use gestures to emphasize a point. Powerful gestures have a distinct beginning and end. Avoid hair-fluffing or fiddling with jewelry.
- Eye Contact. Maintain steady, attentive eye contact … with a smile or positive look when appropriate.
- Dress. Different contexts may have different dress codes, but for business purposes, conservative dress lends to authority and credibility.
- Language. Avoid nervous fillers (um, like, uh), and learn how to effectively pause and listen.
- Voice. Your voice reflects your interest in the conversation, your energy, your emotions, and other personal qualities. You might remember, Johns says, “if you’re making a statement, make it sound like a statement…with a period at the end.”
In our diverse world, we should be aware of cultural and gender differences whether communicating verbally or through body language. We can also ask others how they perceive us. Was their first impression influenced by our body language?
Hands on hips, tongue in cheek, fingers in hair, or foot in mouth, we’re always saying something even when we’re not talking.