Ever listen to someone speaking and realize that something about that person just did not ring true? Something about the way he carried himself conflicted with his words. Maybe, it was his inability to look you in the eye. Perhaps, his hands distracted you. Or maybe it was the facial expressions that just did not quite match what he was saying? No, now you realize it was his stance; focused, truthful people just don’t carry themselves that way. As you will see, the body tells its own story. Often you can
- read someone and
- reassure yourself whether that person is trustworthy or someone you are right to run away from right now.
Let’s look more closely at body language.
1. The Eyes Don’t Lie
Have you ever conversed with someone who would not look at you directly? The person looked over your shoulder, above your head, at the floor, or even at someone else everywhere but at you. What did you think? The person probably made you uneasy. Most likely, you doubted that person’s interest, honesty, and confidence. Or perhaps you felt ignored. Eye contact plays a major role in how people perceive one another, and, as a speaker, you should pay special attention to it. If you make eye contact with your listeners, they’ll think you are sincere, credible, friendly, and honest. These feelings have a great impact on how listeners receive your message.
- Eye contact has other benefits:
- It allows you to establish a bond with listeners.
- It holds their attention.
- It demonstrates you are speaking honestly.
- It conveys self-confidence.
- It shows you are listening.
- It acknowledges people.
- When speaking in front of a group of people:
- Look at your audience before you launch your speech.
- Scan from one side to the other before you speak.
- Contact and connect with one person at a time.
- Hold your eye contact for 3 to 4 seconds for each person.
- Use the 4 contact, connect, communicate, and continue.
- Eye contact to avoid includes:
- Staring too long at one person
- Looking above people’s heads
- Looking up at the ceiling, or out the window
2. Hand Gestures Show Conviction and Enthusiasm
Hand gestures are the most expressive part of body language. To be most effective, make your hand gestures above your elbow and away from your body. They should be vigorous and definite to show conviction and enthusiasm. A sweeping wave of your arm to show distance will add more to your message than a half-hearted hand wave. Hand gestures also should be full and varied rather than partial and repetitious; making the same movement over and over is distracting. Make your hand gestures larger for large audiences to ensure that even people in the back of the room can see them.
- Some basic hand gestures show:
- Size, weight, shape, direction, and location
- Importance or urgency
- Comparison and contrast
- Hand gestures to avoid include:
- The parent’s pointing figure
- The fist anger and stress
- The karate chop looks violent
- Sample hand placements include:
- Hands cupped, one holding the other at the waist
- Hand at side ready to make a gesture
- Hand placements to avoid include:
- Touching the face
- Hands in the pocket
- Fig leaf position
- Prayer position
- Arms crossed at the chest
- Same placement for too long
3. Make Sure Your Facial Expression Supports Your Words
Your face unwittingly conveys cues about how your listeners are supposed to react or feel. If you are talking about a terrible automobile accident, yet you are smiling and nodding, your audience will be confused, not sad. Your facial expression must be consistent with the feelings or information you are communicating.
4. Assume the Rooted Position to Convey Confidence
- The stance you assume while standing still is important because it indicates your confidence and comfort level. If you slouch your shoulders and fix your eyes on the floor, your audience will think you are shy and weak. If you repeatedly shift your weight from one foot to another, you appear uncomfortable and nervous, and your movement may distract your audience. But when you stand straight, with your feet shoulder-length apart and your weight evenly distributed on each foot, and look directly at your listeners, you convey confidence and poise.
- This is called the rooted position. Imagine your feet have roots buried deeply in the ground. It will be impossible for you to sway or get off balance. This is the position of power and strength.
Arvee Robinson, is a Persuasive Speaking Coach, Master Speaker Trainer, International Speaker, and Author. She teaches business owners, service professionals, and entrepreneurs how to use public speaking as a marketing strategy so they can attract more clients, generate unlimited leads and grow their businesses, effortlessly.