Explaining what you want to say through words can be hard sometimes, but it’s still the easiest way to express yourself. What most people don’t realize is how much they can express with body movements while they speak. There are subtle and sometimes not so subtle expressions that indicate what we think or how we feel in that moment. Your posture, the way you sit down in a chair or even putting your hands in your pockets can tell a lot. And you thought that you were able to hide your feelings behind your speech, huh?
Communication is more than speech. According to researchers, during a conversation, a person shows her opinion 93% by non-verbal communication — tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions — and 7% by her speech. If you pay attention to someone’s hands while they speak, you will truly know if they are nervous or calm. According to Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, the human being can make themselves more powerful just by doing some poses for two minutes before a public performance, like a job interview or a speech. These poses open up your breathing, calm yourself down, and makes you feel more confident. How is that possible? When doing the key-pose, you make the level of testosterone (what makes you feel more relaxed) increase, and the cortisol (what makes you feel stressed out) drop down in your body. People in the public’s eye, especially politicians, have recognized the importance of body language and its effect to their listeners; many of them have specific training to prepare themselves better. Around the world, we have many different cultures, and the same gesture may have different meanings overseas. For example, if you hug a person from Brazil or South America, you will be hugged back because hugging is common for those cultures. On the other hand, if you try to hug a person from China or Japan, you will probably receive a stop sign or an angry face; showing feelings of affection is sometimes frowned upon. Another basic example is the thumbs up gesture: in the U.S., the thumbs up gesture means that everything is fine; it is under control. However, if you do the thumbs up for a police man in Australia, you might get arrested; for them, the gesture connotes rudeness. Like the thumbs up gesture, many others can be disrespectful or even dangerous if used in different countries. My guess is: before you go abroad, read as much as you can about the place where you are going to (culture, food, people, language). How can you use body language to reach success? According to researchers, it’s important to make use of some powerful gestures to feel more confident.
Here are four of the more well-known tips for feeling great:
* Power Posture: The more space you take up, the more power is going to show in your posture. Don’t cross your arms or legs. The most common pose for a power posture is the ”superhero” one: standing straight with spread legs and hands planted on your waist. According to Cuddy’s research, it takes just two minutes to be in that position for you to feel more powerful and comfortable going into a meeting.
* Facial expression matters: It’s not just just your posture, it’s also your facial expression. Research shows that when you spend some time smiling, it can help you to feel more positive and also reach good memories. According to Richard Wiseman, a British psychologist, if you behave like you’re confident and happy, you will actually feel like that.
* Handheld devices – Forbidden: When you put yourself behind a mobile, tablet or computer, you affect your confidence. Before a meeting or speech, avoid using handheld advice because this can distract your concentration. Try to organize your thoughts away from a touchscreen. Keep your hands out of your pockets; it’s a weak pose and can subconsciously affect your decisions.
* Use gestures while you speak: In some cultures, like Brazil and Italy, throwing hand gestures while speaking is automatic. On the other hand, it’s not common in North America or Asia. Gestures during speech is like a bonus. It won’t change your message, but can help people remember what you have said and understand better. In an important work meeting, it can be your secret key to getting an affirmative answer from your boss.
The next time you prepare yourself for a meeting, keep in mind, body language won’t say things out loud, but it does influence how people interpret you. Practice and good luck!