Have you ever been told you can be ‘read like a book’? Are you aware when your body language is ‘leaking’, or giving you away? Words are only a very small part of communication: while you are saying the words, your body is speaking volumes! Sometimes, you don’t even have to say anything: your face or body language will have said it for you! So, if you want to make sure you send all your messages in the way you intend them, here are the top ten tips to help you:
1. Get the inner dialogue right. If your mind says, ‘Oh, dear...’ or, ‘I’m not doing this very well,’ the chances are you will give away your feelings despite your attempts to control them. If you are poised, open, dignified and focused inside, you will transmit this in your body language and conversations. So think positively and unemotionally, and your nonverbal message will match your words.
2. The eyes have it. It’s sometimes awkward to look a person straight in the eye. If you are uncomfortable with someone or with what you are about to say, you will tend to look away. Aim for steady, relaxed eye contact. Consciously blink if you feel you are staring, or if their gaze makes you feel uncomfortable.
3. What's your face saying? Do you look comfortable and confident? Or are your eyebrows raised? Are you frowning? Aim to smile with your eyes, not just your mouth. You may not realise that your brows are furrowed, or that you look worried, so aim to relax your face if the message is a difficult one. Smile gently to yourself if you want to be seen as listening or composed.
4. Your mouth and jaw can signal tension or aggression, especially if you wear a false or fixed smile. Watch for an automatic smile that says, ‘Please don’t be angry’, or, ‘I don’t want to appear rude’, when you have some straight talking to do.
5. Notice how changes in the pitch and tone of your voice can signal timidity, nervousness, sarcasm, etc. The more tense you are, the higher you will tend to pitch your voice. If you want to sound confident and in control, aim to relax and to bring down the tone and pitch of your voice. Breathing properly can also help you project your voice confidently.
6. Likewise, check your pace and volume. Too slow or quiet, and you will irritate your listener; too fast and you will sound insincere or untruthful. Make sure you listen to yourself as you speak!
7. Once you’re aware of all the above, think about your posture and gait. If you hold yourself upright and well balanced (not on one foot or slouched) you are more likely to convey that message visually and verbally. Avoid sitting on one hip or with your legs crossed, as this may send a message that says, ‘I’m not really listening to what you have to say.’
8. Beware your gestures! Some gestures bring to life what you are saying; others are irritating or distracting. Fiddling conveys nervousness; tapping indicates impatience or anger. Leave the tie, earrings and pen alone!
9. Get to know your own personal space and be sensitive to that of others. Aim to stand or sit directly in front of the other person. And if there is a height difference, make sure it is to your advantage.
10. Remember: people tend to believe more of what they see than of what they hear. So help them believe what they see with your positive visual messages.