BodySpeak: 5 Ways You May be Sending the Wrong Message (and what to do about it)
‘What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Body language is a universal form of communication. Sometimes, though, our messages get mired in our mannerisms. When the information our body sends is different from the message we intend to relay, we can easily end up being misunderstood.
Take Samantha*, for example. Samantha, a professional in her mid-thirties, has trouble making eye contact. The whole thing stemmed from an uncomfortable conversation she had months ago, where she was publicly lambasted by a superior for a simple error at work. It has since blossomed into full-blown body language evasion.
Samantha’s inability to look at others was taking a toll on her success. After all, it’s hard to do business with someone whose soul you can’t see. Her flagging confidence led to fewer sales, seriously affecting her – and her company’s – bottom line.
It was a concerned colleague who suggested that Samantha seek help. We worked together to rebuild her image, from the inside out. It wasn’t easy, but Samantha is once again able to express herself with composure and pride.
Ensuring that your point is being well received can be as simple as adjusting your body language. Here are 5 suggestions to help you overcome some of the most common body language blunders:
Listen with your eyes: It’s easy to be distracted by electronic gadgets, but whenever we look away from someone who is speaking we inadvertently send a message that we’re not paying attention to what they’re saying. When you are in conversation with someone, show that you are fully engaged by making eye contact with them instead of with the screen in your hand.
Get a grip: A handshake can set the tone of a relationship, especially in business. Yet most of us really don’t know how our handshake feels to others. Is it too limp, too strong, too soon? Make sure that your handshake sends the right message by standing up when you shake someone’s hand, grasping their palm instead of their fingers, and having a comfortable, firm grip.
Open up: Crossed arms can be read as a barrier, so make a concerted effort to have your arms naturally by your side. You can also add depth to conversations by using your hands to enhance your point. Practice open body language by looking in a mirror or asking a trusted colleague or friend to provide feedback about how you’re coming across to others.
Say ‘Cheese’: A sincere smile comes from the heart and speaks volumes. Smiles are universally understood because they are a direct reflection of our choice to be pleasant and welcoming. Start sharing your positive outlook by intentionally smiling more often.
Create your own virtual reality: Even when we’re not present, other people can see us through the messages we send electronically. Demonstrate your level of confidence by creating a virtual image that mirrors your physical presence. Let others know that that you mean business by communicating professionally no matter how you are connecting.
Cultural, generational and even technical factors can also play a role in how we are perceived by others. Don’t let your meaning get mixed up. Whether you’re in the same room as someone or sending messages in absentia, always remember to stand tall, beam with confidence and warmly welcome everyone who crosses your path.
*name changed out of respect
Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO™, a corporate civility and executive etiquette consultant who helps individuals & businesses gain confidence, earn respect and create courteous corporate cultures.
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©Copyright 2011 Sue Jacques. All rights reserved. You are welcome to copy, quote or share as long as the content is intact and the writer is credited. Thank you.