Non-verbal cues are a powerful communication tool. Body language can set the tone for a conversation or clue us in on how a person may really feel. Someone may say they agree with or understand what we’re saying, but the expression on their face and change in their stance might transmit a different message. This is why it’s valuable to have important meetings in person, when possible.
What I find fascinating, though, is how our body language not only influences how others judge us, but how we judge ourselves and how it affects our work performance.
I recently watched the TED Talk with social psychologist and Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy. She talked about how our body language can shape how we view ourselves. Amy tells us not to fake it until we make it, but rather fake it until we become it. In fact, Amy lived her own advice and despite experiencing a drop in her IQ level due to a traumatic head injury, she went on to achieve amazing things.
There’s something to be said about Amy’s situation. Manipulating your brain into thinking that you are confident may actually result in truly being it.
How can we become more aware of our body language and use it to our advantage? Consider these tips as you plan your next big meeting or presentation.
Positive body language changes your attitude
According to Amy’s research, when people feel personally powerful, they are better connected with their own thoughts and feelings, which better connects them with others—whether one on one or with an audience. This leads to improved performance and added credibility.
Spend a few minutes practicing power poses before entering into an intimidating or high-pressure situation. Amy describes power poses as expansive and open. Hold your arms and legs away from your body like you just won a big race. Also, try “The Wonder Woman” stance. By doing so, your hormone levels are raised and cortisol levels are lowered, which leads to a poised and powerful feeling.
Our attitudes typically follow from our behaviors and not the other way around. If you mimic the body language of a powerful person, it can make you feel the same. However, shouting something positive about yourself requires a significant shift in attitude and may not be as easy. Read more about this on Business Insider.
Actions speak louder than words
In business, first impressions are critical. A certain tone is instantly set simply by the way your arms are crossed or how your body is positioned. Renowned body language expert and author Jan Hargrave shares tips for appearing more self-assured and setting a positive tone:
- Straighten your posture. Slouching portrays insecurity and discomfort.
- Keep eye contact. It shows you are interested and invested in the conversation.
- Don’t fidget. Resist the urge to play with your jewelry (I’m guilty of this!) or touch your face. It can cause you to seem anxious and self-conscious.
For more advice from Jan, read this article on TonyRobbins.com.
It can be a tough habit to break, but if you continue to make yourself aware of your body movements and physical cues, altering them will eventually feel natural.
Even getting a small boost in confidence is well worth the time spent practicing your power pose.
I recommend watching the full-length TED Talk with Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (click image at top of article).
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