Your body is WAY ahead of the message. If your arms are crossed and your eyes are on the floor, you are making yourself smaller. If there was a bear in front of you, well, you would be lunch. You didn’t need to tell the bear you were afraid, your body already communicated it. Sometimes we just need to remember we are a part of the animal kingdom, and most animals communicate through body language (outside of a roar or two).
Eliot Hobbe is a communication specialist and he writes that people make a decision about you in 4 seconds. So when you walk into that interview, that presentation or that meeting with your boss, you better stand tall. I can remember telling managers when I worked for Sizzler restaurants, that I made a decision about hiring hostesses in 30 seconds. If the applicant made eye contact, smiled and walked with confidence…they were hired. Limp handshake? No. Slumped shoulders? No. You can’t have a host or hostess shrinking away from the public and body language says it all.
Here are some tips to confident body language (to keep away the bears):
1. Posture. Think about your posture. Concentrate on having your shoulders back and your chin lifted. This can be difficult for some folks. Maybe you are self conscious about your weight, your height, your _______(fill in the blank). Get over it. When someone walks into the room with confidence, people aren’t noticing those “defects”. Whatever you focus on becomes reality. If you “feel” short, you will be short. If you “feel” fat, you will be fat. If you “feel” confident, you will be confident. Watch your posture.
2. Handshake. Handshakes are critical. The Goldilocks (not too hot or too cold) of handshakes is not too firm (think vice gripe) and not too limp (think fish). Two or three shakes vertically up and down (do not go overboard or you will look anxious). Hands should be equal. There shouldn’t be one taking control over the other (think upper hand). Neither hand is on top or bottom, they are mirrors perpendicular to the floor. Probably the most important thing to remember is to not hold a cold drink in your right hand. The last thing you want to convey in a handshake is “cold”. Holding a warm beverage is ideal as this will convey “warmth”.
3. Wonder Woman. Power stance can make the difference. Olivia Cabane Fox wrote about this in the Charisma Myth. Stand in a room before your presentation, interview, critical meeting or new social event for two minutes. This can be in a bathroom or private office. Stand with your feet apart like Wonder Woman or Superman. Put your hands on a desk leaning slightly forward or (if you are in a bathroom stall) put your hands confidently on your hips. Stand there for two minutes. Done. Crazy right? It’s a fake it till ya make strategy. You will be more confident. Your testosterone goes up and your cortisol goes down. It’s that amazing. You can make your own power and confidence.
4. Mute your Hands. Don’t overuse your hands. It’s great to make a point just don’t use that for the whole conversation. Palms open implies honesty and openness. Do not touch your face as it can appear as if you are deceitful or hiding something. And above all else, don’t touch your neck. It will say that you are vulnerable. Use your hands with purpose but sparingly and keep them below your face and neck.
I know all of this is overwhelming but if you work on one or two and practice them, eventually it will become a new behavior and you will begin to represent yourself the way you’d like to. I am notorious for crossing my arms; I’m working on it and try to make sure I have a sweater for “cold” situations like conference rooms and auditoriums. Crossing your arms closes you off from others. And that does not project confidence. Don’t be lunch for the bears.