Every day we present our thoughts and ideas to business prospects, teachers, parents, organizations, friends or even the one in line next to us. Our first interaction will leave a lasting impression…so make it the best one! Since 55% of our message is non-verbal, make sure your body is relaying the same message as your mouth. Whether you are giving a sales presentation to a large number of individuals, sitting across from two people at a table, or trying to raise funds for a worthy cause, use the following tips to ensure your non-verbal signals bring the success you are looking for. The more positive and confident your interactions, the greater your success in building a relationship that could last for years. Following are signals that can either enhance, or destroy, future relationship:
Your energy. Be aware of the energy you are transmitting! Is it motivating, positive, exciting, confident, worrisome, pre-occupied? Set a positive tone with your facial expressions, sincere eye contact and friendly, yet controlled body language. Non-verbal signs of defiance, angst, fear or frustration could propel the listener to the other side of the room, even if your words are saying something entirely different from what your body is projecting!
- Hands. It is said that eyes and hands are open and closed according to the person’s present state of mind. They tell so much about you. Hands should face palms up with fingers open (welcoming them to come in to your “space”) or at your side. If you are new at speaking and feeling uncomfortable, hold a pen in one hand. Having one hand in your pocket briefly is acceptable but both hands in your pockets gives the impression of either being arrogant, lacking confidence or hiding something.
- Pointing. Pointing a finger or a pen in someone’s general direction immediately puts them on the defense. When asking an individual a question or to sign a paper, hold your pointer or pen like you would if you were writing, at an angle. It seems like a very small matter but can give a strong message subconsciously.
- Touching. A friendly touch on the shoulder is often meant as a welcoming gesture, however, note their response. If they recoil, smile and back away. Touching sometimes reminds individuals of an unpleasant experience and is not anything personal against you. We just always want to be respectful of their reactions.
- Eye contact. In the U.S., eye contact is a necessary for honest, productive conversations. In some other countries, looking someone in the eye could be considered disrespectful. Good eye contact gives the impression that you are trustworthy, confident, credible, and serious about your conversation or presentation.
- Your eyes. Avoid darting eyes, scanning people’s shoes, or any eye messages that give the impression you are not completely engaged in a conversation with them.
- Statements or questions. When people raise their voices at the end of a statement, it sounds like they are questioning themselves rather than making a statement. The listener may think, “If you are not sure what you are talking about, why should I take you seriously?” Result? You can be overlooked in business meetings, presentations or as a valuable part of the team. Approximately 80% of voiceovers on television are done by men because of their lower pitch lends to their credibility. Soft or high-pitched voices can give the impression of not being capable or able to manage the task as successfully as someone else.
- Letting others finish your sentences. If individuals in your audience interrupt, your first mode of defense is to raise your volume slightly. If that does not work, hold up your index finger while slightly raising your volume. If they still didn’t get (or heed) the message, raise your hand in the “stop” position. As a last resort, hold your hand up in the “stop” position and say, “Excuse me, I wasn’t finished yet.” This act should keep you in control and maintaining your composure.
- Adjust your mode of speaking according to the type of group you are talking to. Be more energetic if talking to someone of like manner and do not overwhelm someone with a strong voice if they are quiet and reserved.
Non-verbal messages can diffuse hostility by maintaining a composed demeanor. Restraining your own body language when someone is angry with you can actually have a calming effect on them. Keep your voice low and limit gestures while preserving a relaxed posture to discourage others from a potential rant.
Bottom line: always check to ensure your body is saying the same thing your mouth is. You goal is to have the most clear, concise, confident message possible.