By the SMU Social Media Team
Everyone has heard the expression “actions speak louder than words”. From a quick flick of your hair to putting your hands in your pockets to crossing your legs, a seemingly innocuous action can convey much more than the spoken word. Non-verbal cues such as body gestures, posture, facial expressions and eye movements, reflect your mental state and can clue people in on what you’re thinking or feeling.
Whether you’re attending a social event or presenting at an important meeting, mastering the art of body language can give you a leg up in any situation. Ready to pick up some tips and tricks?
Here are some common situations where the right body language may just help you seal the deal:
Scenario: The Interview
An impressive résumé can score you that elusive interview but how you perform at the interview matters even more. The pressure is on when you know that every word you say and move you make will be scrutinised.
Lean backwards in your chair. Doing so can make you seem overly relaxed and possibly even a little obnoxious. Instead, lean forward slightly, with your body facing the interviewer. This indicates a keen interest in what the interviewer is saying, and an openness to thoughts and ideas.
Make sure your facial expressions mirror your words. Having a deadpan face while espousing how passionate you are about something will come across as contradictory. It’s a dead giveaway that you’re insincere if what you’re saying doesn’t quite match up with your body language.
Scenario: The negotiation
After a couple of rounds of high-level talks and power discussions, it all finally boils down to this. Powerful negotiators are great at reading non-verbal cues to help them assess the situation and decide on their next move.
Stare. It’s not a staredown or a competition to see who can hold the gaze the longest. While you do want to appear firm and confident, locking eyes with someone for an extended period of time can appear aggressive and a little creepy even. Be natural and maintain friendly eye contact throughout the conversation. It’s ok to break eye contact occasionally—it’s even natural.
Mimic the actions of the other party. You’ve probably heard this phrase before: Imitation is the best form of flattery. When it comes to early negotiation, this is a great way to subtly connect and establish rapport. Mimicry also tends to make the other party feel at ease and hence more likely to view you as honest and trustworthy. But the key is to keep the mimicry subtle and not appear intentional.
Scenario: The presentation
You’ve got all the key information down pat. The presentation’s loaded on the laptop. That’s all you need right? Think again. Part of prepping for a presentation includes practising proper body language, which will make you appear more relaxed, in control and confident.
Pace up and down the room as it’s highly distracting. You want your audience to remember the key points of your presentation, not how many steps you clocked walking back and forth. Plus, it’s a sure giveaway that you’re a bundle of nerves and possibly unsure of what you’re presenting. That doesn’t mean you have to plant yourself in the same spot the whole time. It’s ok to make use of the physical space around and take a couple of steps around to address all corners of the room; just be mindful not to overdo it.
Make eye contact with different people within the audience and smile. This will make them feel like they matter and they’re more likely to pay close attention to you and what you’re presenting. Also, use an expressive tone during your presentations—there’s nothing more boring than a monotonous speech. But don’t overdo it, make sure to match your tone of voice with the intention of your words.
Now that you’ve learnt some tricks, don’t let body language work against your words. Use it as a tool to enhance your message and become a more effective communicator in any situation!