Body language blunders

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Many times, people try to read others through their body language and not the spoken words. Our expert Shital Kakkar Mehra shares tips on the same for our readers

Business and political leaders display strong body language as they are aware that their audiences are constantly judging them by these non-verbal signals. US Presidents retain experts during their election campaigns, who advise them on gestures that make them appear trustworthy and capable – traits that voters admire. In my experience, I have noticed the following body language blunders which dilute credibility and display lack of confidence in the boardroom:

• Incessant nodding: Nodding is an integral part of our culture and a nod signals at a non-verbal level “I am listening to you” or “I agree with you”, both conveying a strong positive message. However, this message can be negated with fast, repetitive nods which convey anxiety or show excessive eagerness to please. On the other hand, a slow, deliberate nod utilises body language to convey agreement in a confident way.

• Poor posture: Our sedentary lifestyles and constant use of technology gadgets have led to slouching and hunching for long hours. While walking with a book on your head is no longer practiced, bad posture conveys “I don’t care” or as the Gen Y says ‘Whatever!’ Sitting and standing upright when interacting with your business associates shows “I am confident” and “I am motivated to be with you”, signals that clinch deals across the world.

• Fidgeting: Tapping your feet, drumming your fingers, doodling, touching your hair/ face – all convey the same message – “I’d rather be somewhere else”. Instead, minimise your body language gestures when you need to convey a powerful message with words, thereby ensuring your listeners are free to focus on the verbal and are not distracted by your nonverbal signals.

• Reducing physical space
: People who are under-confident tend to shrink into their own bodies, reducing the space they take up physically and in the minds of their listeners. On the other hand, when making a presentation, enhance your physical space by spreading your belongings, moving around when presenting and using hand gestures, creating the visual of being much more powerful.

• Clenching fists
: This closed signal conveys nervousness, being short-tempered or “I am not open to suggestions”. Force your hands open, as open palms show honesty, transparency and being at ease which are all positive signals. Finally, don’t read from the slides. This enables people to focus on your ability and knowledge as a speaker. You are the biggest visual! Awareness of negative signals can assist you in ensuring that your personal impact is enhanced in the boardroom.