When we speak, we take great care to be sure that the words we use and our tone of voice are professional. This help us to portray an appropriate image with staff and clients. It is equally important to ensure that our body language matches that professional message. When body language is incongruent with speech, those listening to you may doubt your sincerity. There are four simple things you can watch for to ensure that your verbal and non-verbal communication is in sync:
- Smile. This might seem obvious that it’s important to smile, but smiling does more than make people like you. According to research by Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, when you smile, people are also more likely to remember you. This is very important, particularly if you are in a sales or customer service position. Clients are more likely to buy from you if they remember and trust you. In addition, when you smile at someone, they almost always smile back at you. When they return your smile, their brain responds emotionally to those facial movements, creating a positive feeling for them.
- Maintain eye contact. In Western cultures, people expect eye contact to be maintained about 50-60% of the time during a conversation. In business conversations, less eye contact can send the message that you are hiding something, that you are not trustworthy or that you are not confident.
- Stand tall and take up space. When you want to give a more powerful and confident image, make yourself a more physically imposing presence. Stand tall with shoulders square, using a wide stance. This signifies power, and may even temporarily increase testosterone levels, which can help you feel more confident.
- Gesture appropriately. Talking with your hands can make you seem more approachable. In particular, open gestures, such as those that allow the palms of your hands to show, give you credibility. At the same time, beware of nervous gestures, like smoothing your clothes or playing with your hair. These gestures suggest that you lack confidence.
Putting forth your best image is a combination of your appearance, your actions and your communication. When you pay attention to each of these areas, you gain credibility as well as make people feel more comfortable. Each of these habits may take a little practice, but mastering these is well worth the effort to help ensure your body tells the same story as your words.