When we meet people for the first time we automatically and subconsciously maybe judgemental about them. We will subjectively decide whether or not we like the person, whether or not they can be trusted and if they pose a threat to us. All of these decisions are made subconsciously and very quickly, research suggests that we do this in a matter of seconds rather than minutes or hours.
But how do we do this when we have hardly spoken to the other person or never mind had time to get to know them properly?
Whether we like it or not, we cannot, not communicate. Even if we stay silent we will give out signals via our body gestures that others will interpret and make judgements about us. The point here is, do your gestures (or body language) work for you or against you? Altering our body language slightly can have a profound effect on how successful we are at interacting with other people.
In their excellent book, ‘The Definitive Book of Body Language’, Alan and Barbara Pease, conclude from their research the keys to successful and ‘attractive’ body language are as follows:
- Use appropriate eye contact. Eye contact is vital as it demonstrates that you have the other person’s full attention.
- When speaking tilt your head upwards slightly and keep your chin up.
- When listening lean forward slightly towards the other person.
- Use hand gestures to reinforce what you say. Hand gestures act like ‘volume’ controls. If you wish to emphasise that a problem is small move your hands close together, if it’s large move them further apart. That said, keep your hands below your chin, anyone who remembers Patrick Moore will know how distracting excessive hand and arm movements can be!
- Open arms and palms are most influential as they demonstrate that you are open to others.
- When talking, stand upright with feet and shoulders wide apart.
- Ensure that you smile and have an animated face.
- Be aware of personal territory or personal space and stand close enough that makes others feel comfortable.
Being aware of your body language may make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious initially, however changing what you do will enable you to make a better impression on others.
It is vital to remember that we cannot fail to communicate, even if we stay silent our body language will give others clues to how we feel, and therefore it is vital that we ensure it is working for us and not against us.