Our presence in this world includes an element that speaks volumes for us and this element is neither one’s choice nor avoidable – BODY LANGUAGE. Our body language is actually an implicated blend of our mental state of being, thoughts and emotions of our entire body in the form of postures, actions and expressions. Body language conveys major clues about you or other people such as one’s confidence, flexibility, assertiveness, interest, openness, intelligence and empathy.
Let us now see 10 methods by which we can master our body language:
- Eye Contact: Maintain regular eye contact with the speaker allowing spaces in between. When you are talking, connect with the audience through your eyes more than your words because most eyes show genuineness and confidence. Avoid over-blinking since it suggests inconfidence.
Have a genuine look and a gentle expression. Avoid all micro-expressions coming from sudden power-cut, an itching in the body etc. Arrogant stares should be avoided at all costs. Looking at the watch reflects disinterest; at own feet or ground indicates shame or guilt. Screening or covering the eyes expresses hidden emotions and interpreted as the absence of willingness to look at or face things.
Eye contact also conveys that you are listening to the speaker which motivates him/her, thus making the communication process a success whereas its absence is an absolute failure. Also, express through eyebrows but don’t overdo it. You’re there to express, not dance through your face!
- Palms, arms & shoulders: Palms should be facing down on podiums, tables etc if you have to show authority and leadership. Hand gestures must always be appropriate, humble and relevant. Avoid aggressive movements and offensive gestures.
Shoulders indicate power and responsibility; hence they shouldn’t be drooping. Instead they should be broad. If at all you are walking, don’t sway your arms here and there. Hands crossed against chest imply a person who tries to hide something, giving incomplete or incorrect information. Don’t make that danger sign with the cross of arms to the chest.
- Sincere smile: A big grin might feign interest but a lack of smile means you are not interested at all. A genuine smile pleases people but a smile with an evident bitten lip leaves an impression of being cheated or played with. Gestures such as licking lips express inconfidence.
Having butterflies in the stomach is understandable but don’t let it show on your face. Maintain a smile as it brings in appreciation, trust and respect. Occasionally jokes make us laugh, but this doesn’t mean you will fall off the chair or will be the most audible in the entire scenario.
Be the emotionally balanced version of yourself by not reacting loudly to mishaps, accidents or events. Nodding the head while communicating means listening but neither avoid it nor overdo it. Keep a balance between the two. Subtlety is a boon, being crass and loud is a bane.
- Reduce overall movement: Your body language should never reflect extreme relaxation or casualness. Hence, the flipping or playing with the hair must be limited. Licking the lip, biting nails, sucking the thumb or biting the lip is a strict no-no, and must be done away with. Avoid touching your face which includes forehead, itchy nose, cheeks or sucking your teeth.
Pacing up and down the room shows impatience and excitement; shaking legs indicates nervousness; unnecessary limping and jumping on toes means restlessness while rubbing one’s ankles together means impatience and willingness to end something.
- Stand with ease and take space: A person shouldn’t hide or take too much space if standing or sitting amongst a crowd. While standing, the space between the legs must be equal to the distance between the shoulders, neither more nor less.Males must stand with a straight back, 180 degree facing neck, eased shoulders, chest out, stomach in and avoid all stiffness. Females should avoid flimsy standing postures, unnecessary slouching or leaning. The clue here is to exude confidence and not be overtly casual.
- Handshakes: Handshake should be firm. Loose handshake indicates lack of interest and confidence. On the other hand, a crushing handshake may indicate a willingness to look down upon others, express power, superiority or even hatred.
Biting nails conveys utter impatience, nervousness and frustration. Hidden hands or hands in the pockets indicate our desire to maintain confidentiality; clasping hands means holding onto something tightly and a lack of openness; fidgeting hands or shivering hands mean nervousness. Pointing the wrong fingers such as small finger or middle finger is absolutely unacceptable. Pointing pens or fingers directly at others is considered offensive.
- Mouth gestures: Do not open your mouth too wide; it doesn’t win you any brownie points. Additionally, do not nod when you don’t know or understand something. Avoid slangs in any language. Offer to give opinion if you are more than sure with ‘I suggest’, ‘may be’ or ‘perhaps’. Do not stand too close to someone. You may accidently spit on them or they can smell your breath; which can be unpleasant and is certainly against etiquettes.
- Inherent coolness: Your presence must be unique and shouldn’t convey harshness and arrogance. Use tricks, interaction and humor but not at the cost of others. Be polite in your disagreements. There is no need to turn red with a loud scream. Social congregations expect humility.
- Mirror Work: Practice your speeches, content, check appearances etc in mirror. A mirror helps to build confidence and helps you in identifying shortfalls. It helps to build your charisma and gives you a heads-up on how you look, act or speak beforehand. It helps to build self-worth and trust.
- Grooming: Grooming is one of the most important aspects for any presentation. I would like to address that through the following tips:
- Hair must be trimmed neatly. Gel or hair sprays can be used to manage the same. No stray hair please.
- Nasal hair must be neatly trimmed
- For the men, their moustache and beard must be shaved or stylishly well maintained
- Ears must be clean
- To avoid bad breath, mint or substitute must be used
- Tie must in its right place and matching the overall clothes
- Clean and ironed clothes only with stiff collars and cuffs
- Belt must not be tied loosely
- Shoes should be polished and laces tied
- Use a mild perfume if at all used. Don’t smell with a mixture of aftershave, cologne, deodorant and perfume
- The women should trim their nails and should avoid loud nail paints.
- Heels should be worn only if you can handle them without falling
- Wear decent jewelry
As said before, body language speaks volumes, hence one must be extremely cautious about it. Remember an impression can be made easily with few efforts rather than being scoffed at or being an embarrassing point of reference for others!
Contributed by Chayan Jain (Class of 2011-2013, IBS HYDERABAD)