A Key Element of Influence, Success, and Power
Whether you are courting executives in a board room, trying to capture the attention of your crush at the bar or seeking to motivate your team, the way you move your body in relation the people around you, makes all the difference in the world.
When used effectively, body language sounds powerful signals that you are successful and influential.
Law of the Jungle
Humans have evolved to be highly reactive to the facial expressions and physical positioning of other people. In more rugged and dangerous times, being able to assess an individual in regards to safety was a prime concern.
Though most of us are far safer than we were when our ancestors developed the skills which make us so affected by people’s body language in the modern day, we still react powerfully to the subtle and unspoken physical language of those around us.
There is a great deal of behavioral science research which has suggested that nonverbal cues such as what is commonly referred to as body language can actually be way more influential to others than any of the actual spoken words coming out of your mouth.
Think about that for just a moment.
Even with the best sales script, game plan or pick up line, if the delivery is off, the whole performance falls flat.
Yes, word choice, facts, figures and rhetorical skill will always matter but if you aren’t actively practicing the art of body language, you could be leaving points on the board.
Strike a Pose
To command attention, influence decisions, earn respect and amass personal and professional power, consider the following cues:
1. Stand Tall, Stand Proud.
When you stand tall with good posture, your shoulders back and your head tilted upwards slightly you have affected a very powerful and commanding pose. This is the kind of physical positioning that means business.
You will always be more influential and seem more powerful if you are standing tall versus standing with a slouched position or sitting. Keep this in mind if you are getting ready to present in any way.
If you have to sit, affect an aire of confidence and superiority by placing your legs firmly on the floor, spread your legs to match the legs of the chair and place any tools or personal belongings neatly around you but seeking to take up space.
When you occupy a larger physical space, you command more respect. You can absolutely take this cue too far, so make sure you practice to find the right balance.
2. Spread it Out
When you are presenting, speaking with or otherwise seeking to influence another person, widen your stance, bend your knees slightly and try to place your body weight comfortably in your lower body.
Think about the sort of position an athlete takes as they prepare to drive to the hoop, swing for the fences or tackle their opponent. You want to appear that you are solid, firmly rooted in the ground.
When your legs are closed together, it is defensive and may be perceived by others as fearful. Spread yourself out and use your body to project power.
3. Speak Deep, Speak with Intention
In business environments, those with higher pitched voices tend to be perceived less favorably than those with a deeper voice. Even if you were not blessed with a naturally deep voice, you can still practice speaking slightly slower and with added intention.
Use pauses in a thoughtful way to build interest, support your position and leave time for your words to sink into your listener. Practice presentations and focus on the way you say keywords. A slight shift in pitch, tone and timing could be all it takes to close the deal of a lifetime.
4.Practice Projecting Power
Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School became very well known following a TED Talk she gave entitled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”. If you have 20 minutes, I highly encourage you to check out that presentation.
If not, here’s a kernel of insight from her research and that presentation: if you affect a “High Power Pose” and hold it for 2-5 minutes before presenting, you actually lower hormones related to stress and boost those supporting confidence.
So, what is a high power pose?
Think of something like the classic arms up over the head, fists clenched, I am the champion of the world kind of pose. Another could be the one Amy mentions in her TED Talk: “The Wonder Woman Pose”.
The idea is to place your body in a position which is universally perceived as powerful, dominant and alpha. Holding it for 2-5 minutes, such as in a bathroom stall or your office, will actually lead to physiological changes as proven by Harvard’s best and brightest.
Next time you have a big presentation or want to make a huge impression, practice this and take note of your results. The more you believe in the power, the realer it becomes. Sort of like magic.
5. Positive Eyes, Exceptional Results
Eyes have been described as the windows to the soul and the way you look at other people could be a whole body language training package in and of itself. Always maintain positive and attentive gaze with anyone you are seeking to influence.
If you are constantly looking away or averting your attention from eye contact, it can be perceived by others as displaying weakness and fear. Clearly these are not the qualities you want to harness in the boardroom, on your date or with your team members.
To generate success with other people, look at them with interest, warmth and sincerity. Allow times for your gaze to naturally fall away from theirs but return and continue to build rapport.
The way you look at other people could be one of the single greatest opportunities for you to influence them. The right look, really is everything!