By Milda Urban, Summersalt Yoga founder
Did you know that more that 90% of our communication is nonverbal and is done by our facial expressions, body language? It’s fascinating to say the least. But it also makes you think – am I communicating/expressing myself right then? Does my body language say the same as my words or am I sending mixed signals or am completely misunderstood?
Body language also communicates not only the message, but your own feelings about yourself, your confidence, it gives signals to the listener should they trust you, take you seriously or feel superior, dismiss you and your ideas.
Women are still learning
Women still have quite a hard time sometimes to match their verbal message to their stance and body language. We want to be perceived authoritative, taken seriously, be heard and included in the conversation and decision making, unfortunately our bodies often say otherwise.
Many of that is the result of social conditioning and upbringing – girls have to be small, nice, quiet, sit “politely” and do not make too much noise or take up too much space. It is hard to break out of these habits and norms, but once you do – the outcome is just incredible.
A lot of this may seem taken out of the man’s playbook, however, it is actually from a playbook of general human psychology and animal kingdom as well (yep, that’s right).
Try implementing these tips and tricks and see how does the reception of you and your ideas change.
Claim your territory, take up space
Stop trying to fit into the corner, fold yourself or keep your arms closed and feet under the chair. Lean back, spread and plant your feet, do not be afraid to gesticulate, lean over the table when talking. Do not cross your arms – remember that open arms show open mind and welcome position and closed arms tell everyone you are not interested, disengaged or stubborn. If it’s hard to kick this habit try holding something in your hands, e.g. coffee cup.
When animals try to claim their space and territory they try to make themselves bigger, showing to others that they are serious and mean business. It shows that you are not diminishing yourself and neither should anyone else. Just look how widely spread most men sit and how tiny women make themselves. See the difference in confidence too?
Point the feet where you want to go.
If your feet are inward or towards the nearest exit it means your direction is also inwards and not to the people you’re talking to.
Steepling. What now?
It may sometimes feel unnatural, especially for women, but pressing the fingertips of both hands into each other (that’s steepling) is a universal sign of confidence. Do that during the meetings or important conversations to send a signal.
Do not fidget (bite nails, twirl hair, touch your face, shake foot) – it shows that you lack confidence and gives the other side advantage or feeling of superiority and takes away your power. It also takes away attention from what you’re saying.
Strong handshake and eye contact
This one is familiar to everyone – dead fish handshake is not only gross, but also tells the other person that you do not feel confident. Same goes for eye contact – if you’re shying away from looking someone in the eye you sure do not take yourself seriously, even seem less trustworthy. We obviously do not suggest crushing someone’s hand or giving the death stare – find the middle ground and stay there.
Stop the nodding
No, the assuring nod does not tell the other person or people that you are confident, have strong opinions and can contribute something unique. It tells that even though you seem friendly, but you are easily impressed, agreeable and possibly – pushover. But you’re not, right? So stop the nodding!
Eek, that’s a touchy one – we, women, are told to smile so much it evokes stress and combat mode. However, natural smile coming from the heart does not mean we’re trying to be dumb dolls, but are relaxed and confident in our position and ourselves. The serious frown we sometimes take as a mask and armor simply backfires on many occasions and ends up looking like disengagement or worse – comic.
One of the techniques suggested when negotiating or talking at high stakes meetings is to subtly mirror the other person’s body movements and posture. No, you do not have to become a mime, but you can try out this theory by trying to channel their position and so register as their friend and not someone unfamiliar or foreign.