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Body Language: Actions DO Speak Louder Than Words

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. That mixture of eye movements, gestures, facial expressions and body positions that serve as non-verbal (but important) communication. In other words, body language. And the good news is that women are generally better at reading signals in faces, gestures and other subtleties that we refer to as body language than men.

Most people form quick impressions from non-verbal signals. The ability to decode others’ silent indicators and to consciously use our own to project our attitudes is critical in business. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a professor at UCLA, offers that the total impact of a message is 7% words, 38% style, and 55% body language. With those odds, we can’t afford not to pay attention to what our bodies are communicating and what others’ bodies are telling us. Small gestures can speak volumes about confidence, self-worth, and credibility. But don’t think that all you only have to concentrate on erect posture, solid eye contact and a firm handshake. There’s more to it than that.

I suggest you filter your personal actions through what Carol Kinsey Goman calls “The 5 Cs”: · Context · Consistency · Clusters · Congruence · Culture.

Context refers to the physical location, time of day, relationship of those involved, and setting of the encounter. For example, a guy at the office Holiday party putting his hand on a woman’s shoulder when the two are in a darkened office may have a very different meaning than a co-worker from the neighboring cube doing the same in the middle of the work day.

Consistency includes understanding someone’s normal behavior in order to spot deviations. If my manager is generally low-key, chances are something out of the ordinary is going on with him or the company if one day he yells at the staff.

Clusters are a group of movements, postures and actions that reinforce a certain point. If I cross my arms because I am cold that is very different from when I cross my arms and scowl.

Congruence tells you if verbal and non-verbal communication is out of sync. How many times have you assured someone else that “everything is OK” when you are frantically pacing around your office because someone has thrown you under the bus or you, yourself, have made a mistake? In this case, your actions are telling a very different story from your words.

Culture refers to non-verbal communication that is influenced by heritage. The higher the stress level, the more likely someone’s culture-specific gestures will show up.

The following are quick tips for effective use of body language:

· Ensure that body postures mirror your words

· Use eye contact and facial expressions to draw in your audience—it will make you appear more confident

· Know when touch is the right tool…and when it is not

· Practice direct eye contact but be aware that you don’t want to scare anyone to death with your intensity.

And remember that your body (language) is the most effective communication tool you have. Use it wisely!

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