Know what your body language is saying
Volumes have been written about body language, but at the end of the day it mostly comes down to two things: What signals are you sending to others about yourself, and what emotional feedback are you giving others in response to the signals they are sending you? Body language accounts for more than half of what other people respond to and make assumptions about when connecting with you. And more often than not, you're not consciously thinking about it. By becoming conscious, you're 50 per cent ahead of the game.
Are you open, or closed?
Body language can be loosely broken into two kinds of signals: open and closed. Open body language exposes the heart and is welcoming, while closed body language defends the heart and appears stand-offish and sometimes aloof. In other words, you're constantly saying either, "Welcome, I'm open for business," or "Go away, I'm closed for business." You may be showing that you are an opportunity or a threat; a friend or a foe; confident or uncomfortable; telling the truth or spouting lies. I began this chapter with the section on attitude because when you are operating from inside a really useful attitude, your body language tends to take care of itself. Attitudes like enthusiasm, curiosity, and humility bring with them unmistakable signals of openness. Nonetheless, there are things you can consciously do to make sure you're showing your best face.
How to appear open and receptive
If you want to show that you're open for business, a friend and not a foe, without saying a word, you have to open yourself up to the world in the first seconds of every encounter. Open body language – together with open facial expressions – includes uncrossed arms and legs, ease in facing the person, good eye contact, smiling, standing or sitting erect, leaning forward, flexible shoulders, and a generally relaxed aura. Open body language makes expressive use of hands, arms, legs, and feet.
Are you holding something back, or trying to keep someone out?
Closed body and facial language, as you might expect, is the opposite. If your heart is turned away and your arms and legs are crossed defensively, and if you're hiding your hands, clenching your fists, avoiding eye contact, fidgeting nervously, and showing a tendency to move away – these are all things that signal discomfort, rejection, and apprehension. Closed body language exhibits reduced or awkward use of the limbs.
Let me add as a caveat that individual gestures, like individual words on this page, don't make much of a statement, but when two or more gestures combine, they begin to give a clear indication of how a person is feeling.
Body language technique: Heart-to-heart
For one day, point your heart at the heart of everyone you meet. this will demonstrate open body language and build trust and comfort. When another person's natural instincts ask "Friend or foe? Opportunity or threat?" you will come out on top.
Excerpted from How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less (Workman Publishing). Copyright 2002 by Nicholas Boothman.
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