Your body language is always conveying a message even if you might not be aware of it. Professor Albert Mehrabian, currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology, states that “communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal. The non-verbal component was made up of body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent)” which proves just how important it is to be aware of what message your body language is conveying.
Smile – First impressions are key, and a smile is the easiest way to connect with someone. You will find when your smile is genuine, the person it is directed at will most likely mirror your smile. This instantly has the effect of taking control of the situation and setting a positive tone.
The Handshake – The trick here is finding the happy middle between a limp handshake and a crushing one. Try and match the same amount of pressure as the person you are shaking hands with. You want it to be firm and decisive without being overpowering.
Posture – Biggest piece of advice here is never slouch! Stand straight, tuck your shoulders back rather than curling them forward. You want your body to project a feeling of being comfortable in the situation. If you slouch or fold your arms in front of your chest, this makes you seem closed off rather than approachable. Further, plant your feet in a wide stance with your weight distributed evenly, this gives the impression of standing firm in who you are and what you are saying.
Fidgeting – Any form of fidgeting, be it rubbing your palms together, repeatedly touching your face, twirling your hair etc. makes you come across as nervous. You want to always be aware of what your hands are doing which leads us to the next point...
Gesture – While fidgeting is to be avoided you also do not want to be completely motionless throughout the conversation. This can also be interpreted as feeling ill at ease. Gesturing is an excellent way to underline what you are saying. For example, gesturing with your palms up conveys that you are honest, trustworthy, and have nothing to hide. Make a point about being careful not to over-gesture too as this also comes across as a bit nuts.
Eye-Contact – Maintaining eye-contact is key to establishing trust and sincerity, and when listening it suggests that you are ‘actively’ listening, and interested in what is being said. (It also expresses that you have nothing to hide; shifty eyes make you seem exactly that, shifty).
To summarise, you need to build a relationship with whoever you are speaking to - you want your verbal and non-verbal cues to reflect confidence, openness and to develop trust.
As the age old saying goes “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”. If your spoken word does not align with what your body language is communicating, it can create discord - you may not be taken seriously, or be seen to be hiding something/being dishonest. Evasiveness and dishonesty are not qualities you want to be remembered for, especially as a legal or compliance professional.
Confidence starts in your head, so you need to believe that you are in fact the right person for the job. This combined with using confident spoken and body language will help to create endless opportunity for you in your career