How to make body language your super power – and get what you want
Find out why body language is so important, and how you can use to it to act and feel more confident in difficult situations.
Want to be perceived as a trustworthy professional? To feel and be recognised as a confident person when you walk in a room?
We form opinions of people we meet for the first time quickly. If we believe they know what they’re talking about, we’re more likely to trust, recommend and even buy from them.
Equally, if our first impression of someone is poor – if we aren’t convinced that they’re confident, then we’re less likely to trust. recommend and buy from them. Even if, behind the visible nerves they are the real expert.
So how can we convince people that we’re someone they need to listen to and trust? The answer is in your body language.
Why your body language is so powerful
While people may not always verbally tell you how they feel about you, they will always show you, even if they don’t realise it. So it’s crucial that you pay attention to the body language of others.
Recently, researchers from Princeton and Harvard have published evidence that demonstrates how our body language impacts our communication.
They discovered that while WHAT you say is certainly important, HOW you say it may be even more influential.
This means that we all have a super power: our body language. It tells the world how confident we feel and conveys your competence-likeability factor.
Body language can count for over 55% of your communication
In a short interaction involving a handshake, I can sense if the other person feels confident about their abilities, if we will enjoy working together, and my brain will look quickly for signs to know whether I can trust them. All of this can be learned from just a handshake.
Collectively, your body language and voice quality count for over 88% (body language accounts for 55% and tone of voice 38%) of the effectiveness of your communication.
When someone can’t see you, such as during a phone call, your voice becomes even more important. And even in text form alone, your words have immense power, as it is easy to tell the attitude and energy of a person who sent us a warm or a nasty email.
How to use your superpower in difficult situations
Good non-verbal communication skills can help you to stay cool and collected under pressure (and help reassure others), decrease resistance and increase buy-in in key moments.
Imagine you are under pressure – perhaps you’re giving a talk, a sales pitch or are in a job interview – and someone asks you a challenging question to try to test you. Powerful, confident body language will help you convey your answer in a way that is reliable and convincing.
Or there may be an instance where you need to give delicate feedback to someone, or discuss something where you may expect resistance. In this situation, it’s important to remember that your body language and voice quality will largely determine the response or reaction of the other person.
How to use body language to feel more confident
As a leadership coach I work with many elite athletes, and one thing I’ve learnt from them is to prepare my body before embarking on something challenging.
Harvard professor Amy Cuddy recently confirmed that two minutes of power posing, standing tall, holding your arms out or toward the sky, or standing like Superwoman, with your hands on your hips, will dramatically increase your confidence.
Trust me, it works. Just make sure you do this while alone, not right in front of your boss or peers!
Seven ways you can use body confidence to be more likeable
There are also a few body language techniques that will help you to convey a high level of competence-liability factor. Here are seven things to try:
- Use meaningful gestures.
- Maintain strong eye contact.
- Make sure you stand comfortably and confidently firmly on two feet and without shifting your weight from side to side.
- Use a firm, dry handshake (be aware of cultural differences).
- Show good listening skills, by taking an interest in others and using open-ended questions.
- Use open and empowering postures.
- When gesturing to others, use open hand gestures with your palm facing up. This communicates acceptance, openness and trustworthiness.
These tips may feel rehearsed at first, but if you practice them they will eventually feel natural to you. Use your body language super power to project confidence, show others you’re meant to be there and get better results, quicker!
Gabriela Mueller Mendoza is an empowering coach and professional speaker. A former IT consultant for blue-chips companies, she helps women in tech giants, engineering corporations, academia and NGOs in over 80 countries.
She’s also the author of How To Be A Smart Woman In STEM which seeks to empower all women in STEM with the tools for success.
Photo by Gerardo Marrufo