your body speaks volumes
By tim brown in Editor Picks
The body. You take it everywhere you go. And while we do what we can to dress right, eat right, look right and speak correctly, there’s another element that can build or break your brand. It has to do with your body—or how you use what you have.
My first real high school job was as a sacker at a food store. My trainer, who was far shorter than I, changed my life with one thing: he walked fast. Incredibly so. Honestly, his legs were half the length of mine but that man MOVED. Everywhere Jeff went, he was walking at breakneck speed. So I did, too.
Crazy thing is I noticed people got out of our way and maybe even showed a bit more respect. I felt they thought if I was walking that quickly, I must be determined and know what I’m doing and where I’m going, which I did…most of the time. (Clean up on aisle 7!)
So it began. If walking quickly had that much of a positive effect, what else in the Body Language Department would help shape me into a leader?
Your Resting Face. How do you look when you’re not talking? Do you have a natural frown? Is it more of a flatline on your mouth? What about a slight upturn on the ends? Practice in front of your favorite mirror (because asking someone would be horrifyingly honest). Assess. Adjust and see the world respond more favorably to you. Just with a slight upturn.
Sit up. There’s time for slouching, but in most meetings, the better your sitting posture, the more it communicates your positive esteem, and that can only help.
Stand. The posture is the obvious tip when talking about standing. Shoulders back. No hunching. Spine straight, etc. But what many overlook is what to do with their feet. The key is to stand still. Shuffling feet makes a person look uncertain, nervous, even unsure. Some people shift their weight and legs frequently. None of those actions build confidence in another. Instead, stand with your feet still, and move when it is deliberate.
Hands. I’m often asked, “What do I do with my hands when talking?” I’ve found the best thing to do is to be natural. If you naturally speak with your hands, do so, but not to the point of distraction. Keeping your hands still, clutched together or stiff at your side looks rigid and unnatural. Be natural and you’ll be fine.
Eyes. We can tell a lot by watching the eyes of another. Most people can keep good eye contact when they’re listening but begin to dart glances all around when they’re speaking. Two tips: 1. Continue to keep good eye contact when others are speaking. 2. Maintain that eye contact with them – to your best ability – when you speak. Avoid looking all around. Avoid always looking away. Focus on them and when you do look away, make it purposeful, deliberate and natural.
Mouth. One quick tip is to not sit with your mouth open when you’re not speaking. I learned this lesson the hard way when I asked a consultant to critique my TV interview. She said, “Everything was fine but I would like you to keep your mouth closed when you’re not speaking.” As I reviewed the video, I saw she was right: I looked like a deer in headlights with my mouth open. Even though I was calm through the interview, it didn’t come across that way to viewers.
Ditch the quirks. Everybody has interesting quirks. Some giggle, blink too rapidly, dart their eyes, twiddle their thumbs, etc. I even have one client who speaks well on TV but noticeably tilts his head to the right when he talks. The solution? Ask a trusted friend who will be candid with you to tell you your quirks. That can be a huge step to eliminating the ones that don’t reflect you at your best.
Speak up. I realize this bonus item isn’t part of the non-verbal tip list, but one of the best things we can do in meetings is to listen and offer our input. That shows we’re engaged, we’re listening and we have ideas, many of them great ideas from a fresh perspective. I challenge our team to have a role in each meeting they’re invited to and to speak up several times.
The body is a wonderful instrument when we use it right to lead others to be their best in teams. Applying these practical suggestions can help build our brand as a leader.