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Body Language – Your Superhero Power or Your Arch Enemy?

Did you know that your body language can be your biggest asset or detriment when it comes to your brand? In today’s fast-paced society we now have milliseconds to make that great first impression. When someone sees us for the first time, they see our physical appearance before we ever utter a word. Our appearance includes our clothing and grooming, which we will discuss another time, and our body language. In a recent coaching session with a client, we discussed some of the lesser-known body language scenarios that I see frequently in both personal and business settings that can help, or hurt, those first impressions.

One way to use our body language as an asset is called “Fronting”. Sitting or standing facing straight on with someone (head, torso, and feet all pointing towards the other person) is a great way to let a potential client or colleague know that you are engaged, open-minded, listening and trustworthy. According to the most recent Harvard studies, being trustworthy and likable are the 2 most valuable traits you can have in business today. Once these key traits are established, you provide yourself time to prove your knowledge and expertise.

Your head and torso place a great role in the “fronting” body language position, and are obvious indicators of interest, but did you know your feet can play an important and yet subtle role as well. If your feet are parallel and facing (pointing towards) the person (either standing or sitting) you are communicating an even stronger message that you are interested and want to continue the conversation, then just turning your head or body towards them. You can also use this pose for more power when you are making a proposal or trying to get agreement on a key point.

The knowledge of fronting can be essential when you are at a networking event. Have you ever wanted to approach a person, but they are already in a conversation with someone else? Notice their body language. If your prospect is in the fronting position it means they are engaged in a deep discussion and most likely you should not cut in. If they, on the other hand, have their feet turned away from the person they are conversing with, you have a good chance to join the conversation. You can also use your feet to help you end a conversation that has gone on longer than you desired. To politely indicate it’s time to move on, discreetly turn your feet to a 45-degree angle and lean back slightly, and this subtle move will indicate that you are finishing up the conversation.

Did you know there are more than a million non-verbal cues and signals? These are largely influenced by our limbic brain, responsible for the “freeze, flight and fight” responses that are instinctive within us. In fact, in an average 30-minute conversation between 2 people, there are over 800 non-verbal cues exchanged! These cues and signals reveal our true thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Being aware of human body language can go a long way to helping you make that great first impression and understand others.

Simple cues like nodding your head and looking someone in the eye can easily create positive body language. But what if we were all doing something that created a negative non-verbal cue? It’s something we all do every day. That “something” is looking at our phones. Yes, when we are looking at our phones, especially in a seated position, our shoulders are usually hunched, and our head is down. This is called a “low power” pose, and it naturally happens when we are texting and have both hands on our phones. Our body is contracted, our posture is bad, and this bad posture can also affect mood. The “Low Power” pose is seen as untrustworthy…the exact opposite message we want to send.

What do we do? No, we can’t toss our phones, but it can be helpful to be aware of your body language when you are texting or searching the web with your phone. This is especially important when you are meeting someone new, in an interview, or in a situation where you are trying to make the best impression. In most of these cases, your phone can wait and instead you can assume your “High Power”, superhero pose for the best impression ever. Well, maybe for now, without the mask and cape for that team meeting.

Pat Gibson is a certified Image Consultant, and owner of The Artistry of You, LLC. Pat works with individuals, business owners, and companies to create a unique and lasting impression with your personal or organizational brand. If you are interested in exploring the next steps you need to take to make your mark in your personal life and career please contact Pat at 440-212-2269.