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Your Body Language Speaks Volumes: Is It Helping or Hindering You?

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Your hand and facial gestures and the way you sit, stand and make eye contact say more about you at any given time than the words you speak. In fact, according to studies, your body movements account for 55 percent of your communication, while 38 percent of what you say comes from you voice, tone, pauses, etc., and only 7 percent is comprised of the words you speak. When used properly, body language is a powerful tool to strengthen your communication skills and your professional impact.

Both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication is important to relaying and reinforcing your message while exuding confidence and poise. If what you say orally doesn’t sync with what your body language is conveying, then not only are you sending a mixed message you risk the opportunity of leaving a good impression. People want to work with people they like and trust. Using your body language effectively presents favorable results.

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your body language or nonverbal communication is the single most powerful form of communication. When you’re nervous or uneasy, your body language becomes more pronounced. In today’s global, competitive workplace, putting your best foot forward is increasingly important when striving to succeed in business.

Think about it. How many times, for example, have you watched a presentation where the presenter displays poor body language? Rather than listening to what he or she has to say, you’re focused on their swaying, their poor posture, their many “ums and uhs,” and so on. He or she doesn’t make a good impression and you lose interest.

Now take the presenter who stands tall, uses hand gestures effectively, modulates his voice and makes eye contact. You’re engaged in his or her talk, you’re listening. He or she has captured your attention.

Understanding body language to improve your personal and professional impact takes practice. The first step is recognizing the power of good nonverbal communication. You should strive to match your techniques with your authentic behavior. After all, it’s about showing approachability, warmth and genuineness. Mastering positive body language will not only help you become more confident and poised, it will help you gain business success – hands down.

Follow these seven body language techniques to enhance your professional presence:

1. Smile. A genuine smile makes others feel welcome, and it makes you more confident, trustworthy and approachable. What’s more, smiling is good for your health! It improves your stress level and your feelings about yourself. Studies also report smiling increases productivity while performing tasks.

2. Maintain eye contact. Keep your head up and look the person in the eyes when talking or when they’re talking to you. Hold the gaze for three seconds, anything longer can make the person you’re talking to feel uncomfortable. Maintaining eye contact shows you’re engaged and listening. It also says you’re interested in them and the conversation.

3. Stand and sit tall. Keep a relaxed posture whether you’re sitting or standing with your back straight but not stiff. Relax your shoulders. This “communicates” confidence and you’re comfortable with your surroundings.

4. Use hand and arm gestures. Talking with your hands is an effective way to incorporate gestures into your conversation – don’t flail them around and avoid pointing. Rather, use your arms and hands with your palms up, for example. Emphasizing words with your hands, help you appear more confident, congenial and credible.

5. Keep feet still. Keep your feet planted. When feeling nervous or stressed, people often (unknowingly) will tap, fidget, shuffle or sway their feet. Be mindful of the way you stand or sit and keep your feet still. This will also help you develop good posture.

6. Use facial movements. Thrust your chin upward slightly, nod, smile. These simple gestures reflect empathy and shows you’re in agreement and you can identify with their situation. Use laughter when appropriate to create a sense of comfort and happiness.

7. Slow down your speech. The average speed of talking is 140 words per minute. Talking at a fast pace can be like a caffeine jolt to listeners. By slowing your speech and taking pauses, you’ll appear more confident and thoughtful – and it helps calm the nerves.


Nancy SchnoebelenAbout the Author: Nancy Schnoebelen Imbs is an empowering professional development consultant, dynamic motivational speaker and author. Highly dedicated and results-oriented, she has the skill and passion for helping individuals become more confident and successful in business and beyond. She and her company Polished help clients focus on key adjustments that result in meaningful impact and effectiveness.

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