Sunday, 29 September 2019

What Your Body is Saying That Your Mouth is Not!

Written by Robyn T. Braley

Your body language is a big part of your personal brand. And, that’s important because your brand is what others think it is.

1.    What is your body language saying about you?
2.    Do you know what subliminal messages you send?

Why Body Language Matters

Knowing can be the difference between being taken seriously or not. Strong body language speaks to credibility and trust. Shifty eyes, slouching, wild gestures and the failure to listen intently signal the direct opposite.  

What are You Really Saying?

Why does this matter? Communication is what you say, the way you say it, and how you enhance or detract from your intended meaning through your body language.

Grow your brand by being a better communicator

In my keynote, ‘Master the Power of Person-to-Person Communication,’ I use this silly illustration. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and say the following while imagining you are talking to a professional colleague you think well of.

 “I appreciate the work you do. You are one of my most valued colleagues!”

Now repeat this with a cold tone to your voice, no eye contact, body partially turned away, a stern look on your face and with your hands pointed upwards making the universal sign to stop. The visual and auditory message you’ve just communicated is in direct conflict with your message.

Now repeat the statement framed with a genuine smile, a warm tone to your voice, strong eye contact and hands extended with palms pointed upward.

You will radically change the meaning of your message. You will come across being authentic, trustworthy and totally transparent.

One to One vs Email

It’s a fact of personal and business life. Emails and direct messages rule our lives.

However, even if it takes extra effort, in-person conversations are preferable because being there provides context, visual and auditory signals, and fosters higher engagement levels.

Speaking face-to-face provides a very different communication experience than those that are online text only. (Body language tips for conversations on Skype, Go-to-Meeting, Facebook Live, Periscope and other platforms are for a future post).

An email can signal unintended meaning by seeming to be cold, removed, threatening, argumentative and even sassy. That may not be the message you really want to convey.

Have you ever read the top email of a string of messages? Have you embarrassed yourself with an inappropriate reply?

Me too! I failed to get the whole story because I didn’t start at the bottom of the message string. A live conversation is much more efficient than a string of emails and can be more efficient.

Learn More: 16 Tips For Writing Better Emails 

Non-Verbal Communication

Body language, or non-verbal communication, is a series of indicators. There is no one thing that is definitive. Distracting maybe, but not definitive.
Body language includes;1
  1.  Posture
  2.  Stance
  3.  Tone of voice
  4.  Head motion
  5.  Speech
  6.  Facial expressions
  7.  Eye contact
  8.  Listening
  9.  Hand gestures
Taking it a step further, the way you walk into a room may indicate your level of confidence. If I saunter into an office, I may be suggesting, “I’m not serious” or “I really don’t care.”

If I enter an office quickly, it may come across as threatening or alarming. A medium pace signals you are serious, confident, and eager to engage.

Gestures can enforce or weaken what you are saying. Let’s dig deeper into the illustration above. Go back to the full length mirror and try these.

  • No hands, looking up, neutral face, “I value you and what you do for our team.”
  • Make two fists, shake head left to right, look directly into eyes “I value you and what you do for our team.”
  • Hands out, palms out, fingers pointed up (stop), serious face,  “I value you and what you do for our team.” 
  • Arms extended, hands turned up and open, smile, nod head up and down, “I value you and what you do for our team.”

Simple changes in body language can dramatically impact how people feel about you and interpret what you say.

1.    Walking – be intentional, purpose driven
2.    Face – focus on eye contact, eyebrows, forehead mouth
3.    Posture – communicate confidence
4.    Gestures – emphasize, give meaning. 
5.    Frenetic movements – keep still
6.    Shadow movements – stop it!

Many people subconsciously have shadow movements. If I stand ramrod straight, hands by my side and move my little finger, of you will eventually start watching the movement and wondering what I am doing. 

Personal Space

Respect personal space. But doing this is not as straight forward as one might think. Appropriate personal space depends on culture.

In my city of Calgary, Alberta, the economy has been bleak for a number of years. The Global Petroleum Show is an energy conference that can draw 60,000+ people from around the world as exhibitors or attendees.

However, last year the attendance was dramatically down. But some companies didn’t get the memo and sent more staff than was needed.

I’ll never forget one poor lost soul who wandered into the booth of a US company. He was immediately swarmed by 5 smooth operating salespeople dressed in corporate promotional wear. I thought the man would die right there.

Americans tend to be more in your face and in your space than Canadians. I think he simply wandered into their booth looking for a free pen. He must have felt he was being sweated under the spotlight of an RCMP or FBI interrogation.

A pleasant smile will open doors leading to
forming relationships.
Power of a Smile

Never underestimate the absolute power of a smile. A smile is the one of the most important tools in the communications toolbox.

I ask those in my conference sessions to make the most intense grumpy cat face that they can. Then I ask them to turn to the person next to them on the count of 2.

Next, I ask them to make the smiliest smile face they can make! On the count of 2, turn to the same person. The room always explodes in laughter.

There is more to a smile than you think.

  • Smiling makes you attractive to others.
  • Smiling causes others to smile back.
  • Smiling triggers positive endorphin activity.
  • When you smile, you automatically hold your shoulders back
  • When you hold your shoulders back, you take in more oxygen when you breat
  • Oxygen energizes physically and emotionally.
     Now you know why smiling makes your feel better.

Putting it All Together

Go back to the mirror. Try to say the simple command below with exactly the same tone 
and volume. Say, “GO” using these gestures. Now, try them again changing the timing of 
each gesture. Each message will be different simply because of gestures.

  1.        Go – pointing your finger
  2.         Go – two handed gesture, open palms
  3.         Go – clenched waving fist
  4.         Go – melodramatic hand flourish
Eye Contact

Interpreting the meaning of eye contact varies according to culture. In many places, eye contact makes people feel engaged as they talk and listen. However, there are rules.
  •    Too much eye contact makes you seem aggressive and even creepy.
  •    Too little eye contact signals disinterest, lack self-confidence or you are sketchy and have something to hide.
  •    Looking down indicates you are ending your part of the conversation. It could also suggest you feel you are out of your depth.
  •    Break contact every 5 seconds.
  •    Periodically look up or off to the side. It suggests you are listening and absorbing information, and thinking about what is being said.

Active Listening

Have you ever said, “Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall.” Does this picture represent your day-to-day experience on the job? 

Does this describe talking to;

Team-members in the field?
Managers at head-office?
Your clients?
 Your spouse?
   Active Listening involves more than just listening. There are 7 guidelines.
  •  Stop talking. NOW!
  •  Observe body language for inconsistencies between what is being said verbally and what the speaker is saying verbally.
  • Do not doodle, shuffle papers, look out of the window, pick your fingernails or pick your whatever. 
  • Nod your head (yes or no) to agree, express support or “wonder and amazement.”
  • Inject verbal signals.
  • Take strategic notes without being so absorbed you stop sending physical signals.
  • Do not interrupt. Ever. Speak only when the time is right to do so
We’ve already noted that staring as you listen is a bad idea. I suggest following a pattern that I call the listening triangle. You won’t feel uncomfortable and neither wil the person talking.

  1.     Look at one eye for about 3 seconds.
  2.     Move to the other eye for 5 seconds.
  3.     Look at the mouth for 3 seconds
  4.     Repeat the rotation.
To Smell or Not to Smell; Always Choose the Latter 

How you smell definitely influences how your are perceived. Bad body odor, strong perfume, emitting intestinal gas (a.k.a farting), bad breath, stale tobacco odor or smelly cloths will focus people on the "smell" and not on what you are saying. 

Much of the still photography shot for my company Unimark Creative Inc is done in manufacturing plants, warehouses or jobsites. 

We had shot great photos of a construction clients warehouse and various jobsites. We decided to take office photos. 

My photographer - who took amazing photos - had strong B.O. that day. In some of the small office confines, it was almost nauseous. I was forced to have one of those tuff conversations before the next shoot. 

Wrapping it Up

It seems like I have just started. There is so much more that I will share in future poses about body language. If you are struggling in this area, pick one trait that you need to fix.

Work on it! Think about it. Work on it some more. 

Be intentional about knowing what your tendencies - often subliminal - so you can improve.
Soon incorporating strong body language will become normal practice. 

It’s a matter of attitude! It’s a matter of deciding you want to be a better communicator.

What do you Think?


Please give me your feedback below. I'd love to know what you think! 

Robyn T. Braley is a brand specialist, writer, and speaker. He is also a media commentator and Rotarian. Robyn is the President of UniMark Creative which does website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. He speaks at business conferences and also blogs about branding. 

Contact Robyn

Follow on Twitter: @RobynTBraley 

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