Research shows that we judge leaders not on how they perform, but on how they look. This is even more signficant when you consider that other people form an impression of you within 7 seconds of meeting you and that is generally the impression they will take away with them. Non-verbal communication is an elaborate code written nowhere yet understood by everyone. So what you do with those 7 seconds may provide the single most powerful impression you’ll make.
It’s not how you feel that is important, it’s how the person watching you thinks you feel.
This is a common problem with body language: often your non-verbal signals don’t convey what you intended them to. You may be slouching because you’re tired, but others might read it as a sign of disinterest. You may be more comfortable standing with your arms folded across your chest , but others will see you as resistant and unapproachable, and keeping your hands stiffly by your side or stuck in your pockets can give the impression that you’re insecure or hiding something – whether you are or not.
Watch those facial expressions.
Have you ever been asked a difficult question in a group? I expect you wanted to come across as knowledgeable, confident, and likeable, but what if you clenched your jaw, raised your eyebrows or grimaced as you searched for the answer? Or did you sigh, smile condescendingly, and shake your head? And what do you think the people around you made of that? So take care about how you react.
Don’t underestimate the power of touch.
We are programmed to feel closer to someone who’s touched us. The person who touches also feels more connected. It’s a compelling force and even momentary touching can create a human bond. A touch on the forearm that lasts a mere 1/40 of a second can make the receiver not only feel better but also see the giver as being kinder and warmer. Touch is so powerful and effective that clinical studies at the Mayo Clinic show that premature babies who are stroked grow 40 percent faster than those who do not receive the same amount of touching. And even with adults in business settings, a study on handshakes by the Income Centre for Trade Shows showed that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them.
Dr Joy Bampton – Psychological Therapist to Standing Tall
References: J. Antonakis, O. Dalgas (2009). Predicting Elections: Child’s Play. Science, 323. Hofmann, W., Gschwendner, T., & Schmitt, M. (2009). The road to the unconscious self not taken: Discrepancies between self- and observer-inferences about implicit dispositions from nonverbal behavioural cues. European Journal of Personality, 23 (4), 343-366