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Socially and in business we are all generally trying to make a good impression, generally we smile and hold contact with the other person’s eyes as we shake hands. The flip side being that we give off an abundance of other unconscious signals that other people will ‘read’ instantly and instinctively.
So, what exactly is Body Language?
Body Language is all the non-verbal communication we make, both conscious and unconscious. How we judge other people and how they judge us:
You've been asked to deliver a presentation to a high profile, potential new client. To create a good first impression, you arrive full of energy and enthusiasm. You talk fast, you quickly and firmly shake hands, your gestures are vigorous and to the point. Have you sufficiently impressed the client with your passion and inspirational pitch?
Probably not. Portraying a credible first impression is often more about talking and less about moving. It's about using a slower, lower manner of speaking with fewer gestures. Subconsciously, we associate self-confidence and empathy with a controlled body style. The client likely thought you were either trying too hard to impress or were buzzing with caffeine!
The CEO stands rooted behind the lectern, displaying little obvious body language. But her content features an abundance of real-world examples, strong metaphors and visuals that amplify rather than distract. She also throws in a little self-deprecating humour. Yet aside from good eye contact and the occasional head movements, she could be a statue on the stage. Does this lack of body energy have the effect of passing out sleeping tablets to the audience?
Quite the opposite! The speaker was rated highly by the audience for authenticity, compelling content and strong storytelling ability.
In the first scenario the individual lacked self perception in portraying the right body language, either through the subconscious messages their own actions sent, or by misinterpreting another person's body language. We clearly see in the second scenario that it is just as possible to ignore the body language "dos" and "don'ts" and still achieve a successful presentation.
It is not all black and white when it comes to the golden rules of body language. While people consciously read your body language, they subconsciously react to your body signals. Your body needs to work in congruence - that means giving off signals that are in tune with what you are saying.
Finally, learning about body language is not all hard work. Remember, it takes 42 muscles to frown but only 17 to smile!
Try it - it works!
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