Here’s a fact: When it comes to communication, psychologist Albert Mehrabian believes that only seven per cent of effective communication is verbal. The other 93 per cent is non-verbal with 55 per cent being body language and 38 per cent being the tone of voice. This scientific study adds a lot of weight to the phrase “saying more with less”.
Ever wondered why body language is so important? Non-verbal communication is still communication and by making simple gestures such as smiling, crossing your arms or even sending emojis through texts, it is enough to get your message across. What’s interesting is that it not only influences those around you but social scientists also agree that it can influence our own behaviour.
Yes that’s right, our body language has the power to change ourselves.
Non-verbal gestures are also a perfect tool for maintaining the flow of the conversation, to convey information about one’s mental state, and of course to reinforce a statement.
When it comes to the workspace, all the non-verbal cues you’re giving can be crucial to get what you want. For example, maintaining eye contact helps make your presence in a meeting, letting you appear more authoritative and confident. A firm but friendly handshake when you’re meeting a client for the first time sends the message that you’re sure of what you do. Good posture demonstrates an air of confidence.
At the same time, there are some non-verbal gestures that can make a negative impression. If you want to be taken seriously at work, it’s time to ditch the bad body language. Like these top four no-nos and why.
Making yourself small. Notice how after a sprinter wins a race, they throw their hands up in the air and look up to the sky and just generally spread themselves, taking up more space than they normally would? That reflects confidence, kind of like how peacocks show off their feathers. So when you do the opposite, like make yourself small and unnoticeable by slouching over and looking at the ground all the time, you’re telling others you’re timid, unsure of yourself and lack confidence.
Crossing your arms. Apart from coming off as rude, crossing your arms while talking to someone is a reflection of insecurity or disinterest. Unless you’re trying to stop your colleague from telling you a story you don’t really care about, avoid crossing your arms when interacting with others.
Leaning back. This is one gesture that screams “I’m not interested”. Leaning back into your chair while sticking your legs out when the person in front of you is talking is a clear sign that you’d rather be some place else. Sit up straight and lean slightly closer to the subject speaking to show that you care.
Eye contact. Refusing to look someone in the eye when you’re speaking to them can be interpreted as a sign of dishonesty whereas making too much eye contact can come off as aggressive and sometimes creepy. The ideal balance? Hold their gaze for a few seconds but do it consistently.
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