Six Body Language Movements That Send the Wrong Message

December 9, 2015
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Many people don’t realize that we communicate with much more than words.  Our nonverbal communication, or body language, which includes our facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and even our voice inflection are critical to message delivery.  In fact, a person’s voice inflection, facial expressions and body language can make up over 90% of their message. 

Whenever you are face-to-face with a customer, team member, prospect or partner, your body language is critical.  Here are six body movement mistakes to avoid. 

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Slouching.  Whereas sitting up straight shows that you are paying attention to your audience whether one-on-one or group settings, slouching sends the opposite message.  Your audience may assume that you are bored, not focused or worse yet—that they are not very important to you.  Dale Carnegie’s 6th Human Relations principle is to, ‘Make the person feel important and do so sincerely,’ so sit up straight.

Drumming your fingers.  Unconscious habits such as drumming fingers, tapping a foot, etc. can be interpreted as your simply not wanting to be there.  Not only are these movements irritating, but they can definitely distract the person to whom you are speaking.  He or she may assume that you are impatiently waiting for the meeting to end, so make a conscious effort to stop these movements.

Avoiding eye contact.  One of the first rules of etiquette I taught my children is to look people I the eyes when you are talking to them because it demonstrates respect and confidence.  Avoiding eye contact can be interpreted as having something to hide and may make the other person feel uncomfortable.  On the other hand, staring too much, can also can make the other person feel uncomfortable.  Use a healthy balance of eye contact to show that you are listening intently and respectfully.

Not facing your audience.  Remember that what you actually say is equally important to how you say it.  You may have your audience’s full attention, however you won’t know it if you are facing your presentation or the wall.  Demonstrate your active listening skills by always facing your audience.  As an added bonus, you’ll be able to see and interpret their non-verbal communication so you can adjust your pitch, presentation and/or dialogue accordingly for maximum success.

Checking your phone or email.  One of the biggest pet-peeves of prospects, clients and colleagues is when a person is nose-down in their smart phone or laptop.  Dale Carnegie’s 7th principle is to, ‘Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.’  Paying undivided attention to the speaker demonstrates respect and responding kindly shows empathy which reinforces trust. 

Watching the clock.  Checking the clock or your watch multiple times during a meeting says, “I cannot wait to get out of here,” to your contact.  Dale Carnegie’s 4th Human Relations principle is to, ‘Become genuinely interested in other people.’  If you are so concerned with the time, your audience naturally surmise that you would rather be somewhere else, with someone else. 

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