Body language is an aspect of non-verbal communication that a lot of people overlook. Whether it comes to business or personal relationships, it communicates a lot of things.
In fact, have you ever wondered what you say when you’re not speaking at all? It turns out that you’re saying a lot. Unless you’re always in disguise or always acting, you constantly send out messages that reflect your true thoughts and feelings.
The Importance of Body Language
Studies have shown the importance of body language in conversations, with or without words. They say that words account for only 7% of the messages that you convey. The remaining 93% are all completely nonverbal — 38% on the style and pattern of your voice and delivery, and 55% on what people see.
So in the business setting, be conscious of this percent. It has to meet your message. It’s what people see.
Facial Expressions and Gestures
There are many ways you express ideas through it. The first step to making body language work for you is to identify and then control them.
Your face is one of the most expressive parts of your body. It shows your reactions to internal and external events. Controlling or at least becoming aware of your facial expressions and gestures is part of making body language work for you.
- Eye contact – This is the most obvious form. When you look at someone or something, it shows interest. No eye contact, conversely, suggests that you are bored, disinterested or disrespectful. So maintain eye contact 60% of the time to appear interested but not overly aggressive.
- Facial expression – Body language conveys moods to a degree of explicitness. If you smile, that shows that you are positive about the situation, and this appropriate in most cases. It shows warmth and confidence, and makes others more receptive to you. Obviously, you shouldn’t smile when it’s a serious situation.
- Mouth gestures – When you zoom into the actions of your mouth, you’d find that it also gives body language clues when you’re not speaking. Pursing or twisting your lips suggest that you are holding something back, like criticism or displeasure.
- Head position – lastly, the angle and position of your whole head has something to do with body language as well. If you keep your head straight, it projects a self-assured and authoritative image. People will take you seriously. If you tilt your head to one side, it’s a more friendly and open invitation.
Posture and Body Language
Your whole body communicates, not just your face. Controlling body language in your arms, feet and posture are also important in the business setting.
Here are a few aspects you should target:
- Angle of your body – Much like eye contact, the angle of your body communicates interest. In body language, leaning in says “tell me more”. Leaning away means you don’t want to hear more.
- Distance – Similarly, if you’re too close to others, you might seem pushy and aggressive. Stand or sit too far, and you might look disinterested. Find the happy medium in this body language that would make you and others comfortable.
- Posture – Much like the position of the head, standing or sitting straight conveys alertness and enthusiasm. It is like slumping or leaning makes you look tired, and that’s bad for business.
- Visibility of hands – In the business world, in some cultures, your hands need to be seen. It should be out of your pockets and not kept behind your back or under the table. Also, don’t rest your hands above the neck, like in fidgeting with your hair or rubbing your face.
- Arm gestures – Your arms also say what your words don’t. Waving them about shows clear enthusiasm. But too much can also convey uncertainty and immaturity. The best practice with this body language is to keep them at your side. When done naturally, it would make you look confident and relaxed.
- Arm placement – Similarly, the placement of your arms convey meaning too. Crossed or folded arms shut other people out. Though you might just be feeling cold, that would still send the wrong message to many people.
- Legs – And though you might not think it’s important, the body language in your legs also means a lot. Too much movement and you may convey a sense of nervousness. How and where you cross them also send a message. The most offensive or least professional thing to do is to leave your leg or ankle on top of your other knee in a figure four. That’s an arrogant way to rest. The best position is still to keep your feet flat, or legs crossed at an angle.
With this body language guide, deliver the right messages for the good of your business.