Movin’ On Up: Nine Body Language Dos and Don’ts to Help You Win in the Business World
Today’s business world is more competitive than ever. As the economy continues to struggle, competition for jobs, clients, sales—you name it—continues to be tight. If you’re not winning the jobs, clients, or sales you think you deserve, you might want to take a closer look at what you’re saying—not just verbally, but nonverbally. Your body language is just as important as the words you use.
If you’re sure that you’ve been saying all the right things, but you still can’t get ahead, consider what you’ve really been saying to potential employers or customers—not just verbally, but nonverbally. While you might be saying, “I’m the person for the job,” the message you’re conveying through your body might be very different.
Have you ever heard the expression, "It’s not what you’re saying—it’s how you’re saying it’?” That’s true not only with verbal messages but with your unspoken (nonverbal) messages as well. Words are only a small part of communication. The most influential parts of communication are your nonverbals. And in an ideas-based economy like the one we have today, your ability to influence others and get them to really listen to you is what will set you apart from the majority in your profession or industry. Your nonverbals play an important role in making that happen.
True communication goes beyond words and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message. When you have control of your nonverbal language, you can communicate confidence with passion, persuasion, credibility, and candor—factors that will help you soar above your competition in the business world.
Read on for a few nonverbal dos and don’ts:
Don’t fill the air with um, ah, uh, and you know. It is natural to pause when you speak—it gives you a chance to breathe. What’s not natural is to fill the silent pause with um, ah, uh, you know, and other sounds. Verbal pauses are distracting and muddle what you are trying to say, because the audience sees you searching for the next words. Meaningless extra syllables or words make you look less intelligent. Your message will be more effective once you eliminate them. This may take practice.
If you say a word and hang on it before you actually know what you’re going to say next, it becomes a bridge word. The ums, ahs, uhs, and you knows are warning signs that you need to breathe. When you run out of oxygen and your brain starts feeding unintelligible words to your mouth, stop talking and start breathing. Working to eliminate the verbal pause may feel uncomfortable at first. However, the number of times you use it will decrease the more you practice. Practice often means saying a verbal pause and noticing that you did it. If you catch yourself doing it less often, then you are making progress. Eventually, the silent pause will replace the verbal pause. Remember, you don’t have to fill every minute of airtime with noise.
Don’t use the fig-leaf pose. By placing your hands to cover the groin region, you’re making yourself look visually smaller. When you place your hands in the fig-leaf pose, your body says, ‘I’m harmless,’ or, ‘I’m afraid’. Not exactly the way to convey the level of confidence that a new employer might want to see in a new hire or that a client wants to see in the genius he needs to help improve his business.
Do use hand gestures systematically. When we use only words to convey our message, we make it necessary for our audience to pay very close attention to what we say. Using gestures systematically, especially when giving directions or teaching, makes the audience less dependent on the verbal part of the presentation. The visual reminder created by gestures allows the listener two ways to remember: auditory and visual. It thereby increases the likelihood of accurate recall.
Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Thumbs hanging off the pockets and hands deep in both pockets both say something similar to the ﬁg-leaf hand gesture, “Geez, I hope you like me.” Hands deep