Your candidate smiles and shakes your hand. All things you’d expect from someone who is happy to meet you. As soon as you sit down, however, they consistently look at their watch, the wall clock, their cell phone… Since 93 percent of communication is non-verbal, signs point to they aren’t really that happy to meet you.
It’s important in the business world to have a clear understanding of your body movements. Everything your mother told you to do when you meet someone is true, and it still applies to your professional life. What are you saying to your candidates, coworkers and higher-ups without speaking?
“Give them a firm handshake!”
From beginning to end of any business meeting, you will find yourself using one of the most infamous signs of professionalism: the handshake. The art of the handshake is one that has been analyzed, broken apart, and practiced to perfection. Why? Because this one gesture is used to greet and depart, and is pivotal in leaving a great impression.
A great handshake shows confidence, excitement and sincerity. A firm, palm-to-palm grip with, at most, two pumps will leave your new acquaintance with a positive view of who you are. Tight squeezes allude to insensitivity while loose, limp grips show a lack of enthusiasm and passiveness. Too many pumps or hand-over-hand shakes are unprofessional and show insecurity or nervousness.
“Stand up straight!”
Something as simple as the distance between your two feet can affect opinions of you. Feet that are too close together leave the impression that you are hesitant, nervous and unsure of the conversation. A wider stance that incorporates relaxed knees and a centered core will look solid and demand attention.
Similarly, using this demanding stance may leave your coworkers or clients feeling challenged, so be sure to use when appropriate. Practicing the mirror technique is the best way to ensure your posture is both confident and friendly. The mirror technique requires you to observe the posture of those you are speaking with and then mirror their gestures, movement and vocal tone. This will ensure that the way you are talking, the words being used and the posture you choose will all match the situation you are in.
“Use your inside voice!”
The words you say will carry different meanings depending on the tone of voice used. Simply using a lower vocal pitch can heighten the understanding of your words. Higher pitched tones seem apprehensive, less-empathic and less powerful. This is especially important when conducting phone calls where the only means of understanding is the voice.
Before speaking on the phone or in the office, hum. This simple vocal exercise can remind your body and brain the best pitch for your voice, while also waking you up. Run through what you need to say while you hum and you’ve got no reason to worry about that missed cup of coffee!
“Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
Eye contact is an important piece to all these gestures and movements. Without eye contact, an entire presence can be changed. In general, a safe length for professional gazes is 3-5 seconds. When used properly, you will look knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Eye contact can be a challenge with international meetings, however. Knowing the culture of the other individual will be helpful in understanding all gestures of the acquaintance. Something as simple as the area where someone was raised can affect eye contact. For instance, those from smaller towns are more apt to engage in longer periods of eye contact while those from large cities may avoid eye contact all together.
“Get your hands out of your pockets!”
Use your hands while you talk. Hand gestures keep your arms engaged, giving conversation fluidity, avoiding awkward, limp arms. Don’t be a robot, though. Keep your gestures smooth, loose and natural. Great hand gestures can help downplay and even cut back on the “uhs” and “ums” in conversation while helping to mentally clarify your thoughts.
“But you have such a pretty smile!”
The last and most important part to any conversation is the smile. It’s scientifically proven that people prefer a happy face. Additionally, the person wearing the smile is more confident and happier. People who show those pearly whites live 7 years longer on average.
Whether you’re a hiring manager speaking with a an office buddy, a recruiter interviewing candidates, or the CEO meeting with new clients, knowing the way your body is perceived is important. Bring your smile, engage your arms and remember to think positively. The way you feel will ultimately bring out the best in your body.