Body Language – What You Don’t Say May Be Used Against You
Body Language Speaks Volumes
Did you know that up to 93% of communication is Non-Verbal! So most of what you communicate to others is conveyed by:
- Tone of Voice
- Eye Movement
- Hand gestures
- Facial expressions
Not only that, but do you realize which part of the human anatomy communicates more than any other single part? It’s the Eyes. No matter what you say, if the emotion behind the words doesn’t reach your eyes, the words will take on whatever meaning your eyes are conveying. In addition, while eye contact is critically important, staring is a huge no-no. Why? Because out-gazing someone, or staring intently, can be a way to convey dominance and put the other person at a disadvantage. So use your eyes with care!
Just for fun, even if you’re happily employed, find a buddy, pair up and then ask any difficult interview question such as, “What did you like least about your last job?” Then let the other person answer. Pay attention to eye contact. When your partner is finished with the answer, give feedback about their eye contact with you. Then ask them for feedback about your eye contact with them.
- What was comfortable?
- What was uncomfortable?
- Did the emotion conveyed by their words match what was being conveyed in their eyes?
- Who made more eye contact, the speaker or the listener? Why?
According to Susan Bixler, President of Professional Image, an image consulting firm to fortune 500 companies:
“As a speaker, it becomes uncomfortable to go beyond about 5 seconds of eye contact. With 5 seconds you’ve made the connection, beyond that it becomes too intense. Also, taking your eyes away – casting them upwards for instance while you’re formulating an answer to a question – underscores your thought process.”
But how about body language? We all know that you express interest in what a person is saying to you by leaning in toward them. However, leaning in can become too much. For instance, when you sit on the edge of your seat and/or invade the other persons space this can become very uncomfortable for one or both of you. Sitting on the edge of your seat can make you look anxious and uncomfortable. On the other hand, invading the other person’s space makes you look aggressive and overbearing and is a sure-fire way to make the other person uncomfortable.
If you’re job-hunting and concerned about the impression you’re creating during your interviews, try the exercise above but pay attention to body language and try different spatial relationships. When you’re done ask each other:
- What happened?
- What was too much space like?
- What did it feel like when someone invaded your space?
- When someone invaded your space, how did you respond?
- How was your posture? (Keep in mind that, in general, posture should be straight but not stiff, relaxed but not too casual.)
- How was the other person’s posture?
- What was your/their reaction or response to that posture?
In An Introduction to NLP, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Joseph O’Connor and Ian McDermott talk about the importance of not only paying attention to the body language of others but of using your own body language as a way to put others at ease and influence them in your favor. I want to underscore that comment because I think many of us forget just how effective it can be to use this technique to diffuse tense situations. Whether in an interview or in a difficult discussion, conscsiously managing your own body language in such a way that you influence the other person to relax, sit back, dial back the tense or aggressive level of emotion can be tremendously useful.
What exactly is Mirroring? It is a way of subtly doing the same thing as the other person which begins to imply a certain rapport. And how can this diffuse a tense situation? Try this exercise (secretly!) the next time you’re in a difficult situation and see what happens:
When the other person is tense, subtly and incrementally begin to mirror their posture. Then, slowing relax your posture. See if they unconsciously mirror you. If not, did your relaxing trigger something in them – like backing away? If so, you can counter-act that by undoing what you did – simply sit up and lean in a bit. Go back to the subtle mirroring, then try again. If, on the other hand, the person relaxed and leaned back, even if the discussi0n is still heated take this as a good sign that there is still some rapport and they feel a connection. In response, continue to work slowly toward a relaxed, non-aggressive posture that conveys a certain ease and goodwill.
The big bonus? If you’re feeling self-conscious, just by paying attention to the other person you can usually diffuse your own self-consciousness.
Just for fun, check out the original book on the subject, Body Language by Julius Fast
© Copyright Cindra Lee Henry / Cindra’s Studio. All Rights Reserved.