Effective leadership relies on effective communication, but many leaders focus only on verbal forms of expression while overlooking nonverbal signals. But as body language expert Carol Goman points out, people can send nearly 1,000 different nonverbal signals during a 30-minute negotiation. So I thought it would be a good idea to talk about some of the really effective and useful – but often overlooked – techniques and nuances of body language.
- Anthropologists use the term “postural echo” to describe the body language of mirroring another person’s posture. When our posture and body position is a direct reflection – like when you’re looking at yourself in a full-length mirror – it tends to put people on our same communication wavelength.
- Strike a good spatial balance. If you inadvertently cramp someone’s personal space they’ll perceive you as a hard-selling, aggressive type who wants to dominate and control. But if you lean too far back in your chair it can make the person sitting across the desk feel that you are too nonchalant and that you are not taking them seriously or listening to what they have to say.
- Also try to echo the delivery of the other person to help establish rapport and resonate on the same energy level. Maintain approximately the same amount of eye contact, use similar hand gestures to emphasize your points, and modulate your voice to match theirs.
- If they become argumentative, speak in a quieter and calmer voice while making small circular “massaging” gestures with your hands because those techniques tend to soothe and pacify people who are becoming a little too dramatic and argumentative.
Keep in mind that your words and your body talk need to be in alignment, otherwise people will be confused by your mixed messages. If you use your power gestures when trying to convey empathy and sensitivity, for instance, you’ll probably come off as insincere. Meanwhile if you use a gentle voice and submissive, conciliatory gestures while trying to inspire the troops to go into battle you’ll sound too weak and complacent, undermining and contradicting your bold message. So line up your words with your body talk for maximum success.
Predictable Promotion Exercise:
Because it’s an election year we are being bombarded by politicians and their prepackaged stump speeches, but you can use this as an opportunity to study body language.
Turn off the sound while you watch speeches and press conferences on TV or on YouTube. Study features like hand gestures, posture, and facial expression.
You’ll notice that the best speakers nod and smile, for instance, when looking for positive agreement. They always keep their hands up at least at waist level, they never cross their arms, and they avoid putting their hands to their faces – which usually indicates that someone has something to hide.
While watching other public speakers who really know how to get the most from body language, pick out one new technique that you can add to your repertoire, and then practice it at work.
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Sarah Hathorn is a leadership development mentor, executive presence coach, image and branding consultant, public speaker & author. She is the founding CEO of her own successful company, Illustra Consulting, and the creator of the proprietary Predictable Promotion System™.
Blog, Ezine & Website: www.illustraconsulting.com
Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS