Personal Image – Positive Body LanguageBy Angela Marshall, 15th Jan 2015
Our body language is the way in which we show what we are thinking and feeling through conscious and subconscious gestures. Our body movements and facial expressions give out lots of messages. We can say one thing but mean another and our body language will show this, as it is largely controlled by the subconscious.
We need to ensure we are giving out the right messages. We need to appear confident, trustworthy and, in the right situation, powerful. We also need to recognise other people’s body language, so we can adapt our body language in given situations e.g. if a person feels threatened we can put them at ease.
Learn to understand both yours and other people’s body language. Ask for feedback from friends or colleagues or review any videotapes of you making a presentation. You may see things you would never have believed or realised you did before.
Here are a few tips on positive body language:
- Facial expressions – convey happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise or dislike. Learn to use expressions to get your point across.
- Good posture – head up, shoulders back and in a comfortable position. It conveys a positive message, whereas slouching shows a lack of confidence or sloppiness. It will also affect your breathing and therefore your voice. Ensure you sit upright as much as possible.
- Eye contact should be given regularly, about 75% of the time. Steady eye contact will give the impression to a person that you are honest, confident and receptive. Generally, men give more contact when speaking and women when listening.
- A smile is a much underrated business tool. It conveys enthusiasm, happiness and interest. It is a sign of friendship and fosters goodwill in business. It also helps to relax the muscles in your face.
- Your voice conveys a variety of feelings – anxiety, concern or interest. It can betray your mood, sound positive or negative. When talking, you need to consider pitch, tone, rhythm and speed of your voice. Your voice is particularly important on the telephone – ensure you speak clearly, concisely and at the correct level of tone. Smile when leaving a greeting or message on the telephone.
- Give active signs of listening – nod or comment e.g. ah, oh or mm.
- A handshake leaves an impression with other people. It says how professional, confident and sophisticated you are. A firm handshake is important; nobody likes a limp handshake or one that squeezes your hand too tight.
- The use of space is important. A powerful individual feels quite comfortable taking a lot of space and will use expansive gestures. A shy person will feel less significant and will take less room. There are 4 spatial zones – intimate, personal zone, social zone and public zone.
Personal space is highly variable, and can be affected by cultural differences and personal experiences. For example, those living in densely populated places e.g. cities, tend to have a lower expectation of personal space. Research has revealed that there are four different zones of interpersonal space:
- Intimate distance ranges from touching to about 18 inches (46 cm) apart – reserved for lovers, close family members and friends.
- Personal distance begins about an arm’s length away; starting around 18 inches (46 cm) from the person and ending about 4 feet (122 cm) away – used in conversations with friends, to chat with associates, and in group discussions.
- Social distance ranges from 4 to 8 feet (1.2 m – 2.4 m) away from the person – reserved for strangers, newly formed groups, and new acquaintances.
- Public distance includes anything more than 8 feet (2.4 m) away, and is used essentially for larger audiences e.g. speeches or lectures.