First Impressions: What You Need To Know About Body Language
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Have you ever struggled with first impressions? Are you constantly misunderstood even though you consider yourself to be fairly articulate and well-spoken? Do you seem to continuously offend people unintentionally? If so, you’re in the right place. Assuming your vocabulary and grasp of the language are good, you are probably less adept at silent communication- aka body language.
It is still critical to understand and have the ability to navigate the nuances of in-person communication. The ability to accurately read and communicate through body language is crucial not only in business, but in personal relationships as well. If you aren't careful, you could unwittingly communicate a negative message without saying a word.
Truthfully, very little of what we say is vital to our message. Our posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, level of eye contact, and gestures all contribute to how the message is “heard” and received. The key to mastering communication is to understand, and be aware of your body language. Only once you have mastered this can you develop the ability to read the body language of others.
Interpreting body language is a tricky business. Certain cues can have multiple meanings, and a person’s body language can be affected by a myriad of factors such as mood, state of mind, energy level, and physical health. There is no way a single interpretation method can make you 100% sure of what a person is communicating non-verbally. But with a deeper knowledge of body language, you may be able to better gauge these silent messages.
1. It's in the eyes
The amount, duration and type of eye contact within an interaction is very telling. Pupil dilation, blink rates, direction of gaze, and widening of the eyes all communicate something important. For instance, pupil dilation is an extremely subtle yet very telling cue that a person likes, accepts and agrees with you. When you're trying to read the body language of others, this is one cue you can rely on.
Below are a few other eye cues to be aware of:
Lack of eye contact A lack of eye contact can indicate several things. It could be a sign of shyness, low self-confidence or self-esteem or submission. And it's often a sign that someone is introverted or has some level of social anxiety.
Intense eye contact (staring) First of all, staring is creepy. Most people become uncomfortable under the intense gaze of another. This kind of intense eye contact can have paradoxical meanings. On one hand, it can indicate keen interest, fondness, and engagement in the conversation. On the other hand, it can be a form of intimidation, or indicate dishonesty—especially when it occurs between two people who are well acquainted.
Looking up and to the right (eye roll) If someone does this, they're probably disengaged, bored or highly annoyed with the person or conversation.
Blinking Yes, how often you blink also tells a story. The average blink rate is six to eight times per minute. Blinking more often or in a pronounced manner indicates nervousness and stress.
2. Watch the face
The face doesn’t often lie. Here are a few facial tells:
Fake smile A genuine smile engages all of the muscles in the face. You will see wrinkles around the eyes, the ears jut upwards and all the muscles in the mouth and cheeks are engaged. A fake smile on the other hand, only includes the mouth. Fake smiles usually reveal a disingenuous attitude or interaction.
Lip biting Biting the lower lip has been portrayed as flirtatious, but this is usually not the case. Biting the lower lip or chewing the inner portion of the cheek is more often a sign of fear and anxiety.
Nose scratching Nose scratching either indicates that the person’s nose itches, or that they are lying. Pamela Meyer, the founder of a deception detection training company called Calibrate, says that when telling a lie people will often repeatedly scratch their nose, tug their ear, or cover their mouth.
3. Communication and the body
Body positioning and angles are very telling in a conversation. One of the most telling parts of the body is actually the feet. If you point your feet directly towards someone, it indicates that you are engaged, and in most cases, fond of him or her. This is an often unconscious sign that you can pick up easily once you learn to become more aware of body language tells.
Another cue attached to body position occurs when you're conversing with a friend, and an outsider approaches. If you want them to join the conversation, you will unconsciously angle your bodies outward by 45 degrees. This creates space for the newcomer to join, and is a subtle sign of inclusion, showing the person that he or she is welcome. Here are a few others:
Standing with legs apart This is a power pose. This posture signals dominance, determination, self-assurance and assertiveness.
Leaning This is a fairly simple body language secret. You will lean towards those you like, and away from those you don’t. You will also physically move closer to a person or back away, depending on your level of comfort.
Movement According to psychologist Carol Kinsey Goman, author of The Nonverbal Advantage, how you move reflects your attitude. Frequently shifting your weight from one foot to the other, or rocking back and forth is a way to pacify yourself when you feel anxious or upset. It shows that you are vacillating between unnerving thoughts or ideas, and may be unsettled in your thinking.
Mirroring Mirroring is a technique in which one person adopts or copies the physical and verbal behaviors of another. This usually occurs subconsciously and is a sign that the people know each other well and like each other. Experts in business, marketing, and sales believe that mirroring is a powerful tool that should be done intentionally in interactions. It establishes a connection, and brings an air of familiarity to situations, which is why the experts suggest using it as a communication tool in business environments.
Shoulder shrugging The shoulder shrug can be positive or negative depending on the situation. In a formal setting, such as a business meeting, the leader should refrain from shrugging while talking. The shoulders are a symbol of strength, virility and power. When operating from a position of power, a leader should make their shoulders as broad, square and still as possible. In this instance, a shoulder shrug symbolizes uncertainty, lack of confidence and weakness. On the other hand, in informal situations where relationships are more familiar and intimate, shoulder shrugging is a playful, open, and in some cases, seductive gesture.
The number one thing you should take away from this
In the end, our body language is constantly speaking on our behalf, whether we like it or not. That's why it's important to understand what your body language could be conveying, and work to ensure that your mouth and body are in agreement. You can also deter misunderstandings, and create more positive interactions by being conscious of how you feel, and how those feelings are silently articulated.