Part 1 – Body Language
Our communicating confidently series will take you through some of the key elements that send signals to others about your level of confidence, competence and credibility.
We all respond better to people who are comfortable in their own skin, who look confident and can communicate effectively. Studies have shown that you have between 30 seconds and 2 minutes to make a first impression and that people will hold on to that first impression for a long time, even when the evidence is contradictory. For example, if the first impression I make is positive but then I make a mistake, people will make excuses about my mistake for me in order to support their first impression: they might think “Oh she’s having an off day” or “Maybe she needs a bit more time to think”. The same happens if I make a bad first impression. It takes quite a lot of contradictory evidence to change that first impression, so you can see how important it is to get it right.
The way we build an impression or perception of someone is complex, suffice to say there are some key elements that you can be more aware of to help you create a positive impression.
Non-verbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. It is the single most powerful form of communication. Nonverbal communication cues you into what someone is actually feeling. More than 75% of the signals you send to others are non-verbal.
- Eye contact
- Facial expression
Here are some of the ways you can use these signals to create the impression that you are confident (even if you have to fake it a little bit!).
The eyes have it.
Confident people give good strong eye contact. We tend to hold eye contact for seven to ten seconds, longer when we’re listening than when we’re talking. It’s important to get the balance right and not use too much eye contact which gives off an aggressive or creepy vibe, use darting eye contact which makes you look unsure or agitated or use too little eye contact which conveys disinterest or a lack of confidence.
Posture tells a story.
Have you ever seen a person walk into a room, and gain immediate credibility? The effect is largely about body language, and includes an erect posture. The brain is hardwired to equate power with the amount of space people take up. Standing up straight with your shoulders back is a power position; it appears to maximize the amount of space you fill. Slouching, on the other hand, is the result of collapsing your form; it appears to take up less space and projects less power.
Facial expression sells confidence.
People look relaxed, approachable and calm because of what their face is saying.
- They smile genuinely so it reaches their eyes.
- They avoid the wide eyes, furrowed brows and raised eyebrows that signal discomfort. There are three main emotions that cause these expressions: surprise, worry, and fear, so unless you are genuinely surprised, don’t use them.
- Their facial expression matches their message eg. they don’t smile when having a serious conversation.
- Make gestures above the waist. Those below the waist suggest failure, defeat, and despair.
- Gesture from the shoulder not the elbow so that the gesture is expansive and relates back to how much space we take up.
- Use strong, open palm gestures to convey trustworthiness.
- Use strong, palm down gestures to convey power. Limp hands often indicate a lack drive, passion or strength.
Movement mimics feelings.
People who move around calmly and unhurriedly are perceived as having more confidence and clout than those who scurry bout like mice. Exaggerated movements including fidgeting or excessive nodding signal agitation or anxiety.
Their walk is also a tell-tale signal. Confident people walk in a purposeful, business-like manner. They don’t saunter which looks sloppy or dash about which indicates stress.
If you want to convey confidence, competence and gain credibility be aware of these key elements of body language. In the next installment of the Communicating confidently series we will cover the voice and how to use it to best effect.