Great article. It would be interesting to hear your comments about the presidential candidates. Does Hillary use power body language?
Creating a Positive First Impression Anywhere
Behavioral research-based ways to improve first impressions
Last month your colleague asked you to present your team's ideas for streamlining some of the tasks in your unit. The meeting is today. You're thoroughly prepared and confident that your team's ideas are worthwhile.
When it's time to make your presentation, you speak rapidly and profusely, waving your hands and arms for emphasis. When you sit, you sit still, smiling and looking at other people in the meeting. When the meeting's over, you're surprised to learn that almost nobody remembers your ideas or likes the ones they can recall.
As this scenario makes clear, first impressions are crucial. You make your first impression with other people within 7 seconds, and that's the one they'll carry away.
The way you gesture, sit, and smile can make the difference between success and failure in any situation. Research proves that hundreds of subtle, but important, nonverbal cues strongly influence how others perceive us: weak, powerful, credible, untrustworthy, aggressive, or passive.
Nonverbal communication is an elaborate code written nowhere yet understood by all. The way you move may provide the single most powerful impression you'll make.
This article will help you understand how to make a solid and credible first impression. But first, let's take a look at what you might be doing wrong.
Researchers say that the fewer hand and body gestures you make, the more powerful, deliberate, credible, and intelligent you're perceived to be. Women and men display different nonverbal communication. For example, in a videotaped study of how women and men entered a room to a meeting, the women exhibited an average of 27 different major movements; the men, only 12.
A woman might take off her coat, set down her files, adjust her hair and clothing, pull items from her purse, and so on. Observers of the videotape believed that women took longer to be composed than men, distracting attention from what they said in the meeting.
In conversations, women tend to "hand dance" when making a point. They may feel they're just being expressive, but they're really leaking emotion-a distraction from overall impact.
Ever wonder why men are more likely to be perceived as leaders than women? They tend to use fewer, lower, and slower movements. And most women who are leaders take the same less-is-more approach to body language. Less is more.
Every movement you make should count. If you move too much, consider going on a "body motion reduction diet." Lower and slow down your movements to reinforce an impression of deliberateness and thoughtfulness.
Less is also more when it comes to talking. Listen more. Speak less. Ask pertinent questions; don't add filler conversation. Don't be afraid of silence. Lean slightly forward, occasionally paraphrasing the other person's comments and using her name. Don't fidget or look away.
Along with slow movements, the way you use your space can make a difference. A leader takes up more space than others. For example, in a group setting where people are seated, a leader will tilt slightly forward, with elbows on the chair or table, appearing relaxed. By taking up more space, she appears to be taking charge.
Many people who feel powerless tend to draw their bodies in toward themselves, sit straight up, hold their arms close to their body, and keep their legs tight together. They'll either make too many motions or none at all.
Getting it right
Here are some tips to improve your body language:
If you were to take a photograph of a leader at rest and cut her in half, the left half would differ from the right. For example, a leader will rest her chin on one hand, not two; she'll cross her leg at the knee, not the ankle; she'll gesture with one arm, not both. People who are in symmetrical positions take up less space and have a smaller presence. An asymmetrical position conveys that a person is relaxed, self-assured, and credible.
Practice. Power building is projecting, and you can become what you practice projecting.
Thoughtfully and deliberately, you can hone your best first and lasting impression by practicing these tips, one at a time. And remember, your actions really do speak louder than your words.
Learn more about the author, Kare Anderson.
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