Did you know that it only takes 7 seconds for someone to make a judgement about you upon first meeting? So with only 7 seconds to work with, you can leave a strong first impression… or completely fail to. First impressions can determine meaningful life outcomes, such as who we hire or promote, who we want to seal a deal with, who we trust to elect, and even who we ask out on a date. This initial instinctual assessment is based far more on what we see and feel about another person than on the words they speak. On many occasions we form a strong view about a person before they even speak a single word! Consequently, body language, or non-verbal behaviour, is very influential in forming impressions when first meeting someone.
In business encounters, most body language experts agree that body language accounts for between 60% and 80% of the impact made around a negotiating table. Overall, we make our final decisions more on what we see than on what we hear. Controlling your body language up front is thus critical to help heighten your personal impact and enhance your leadership qualities in order to elevate your level of attraction and to gain the respect of others.
Below are six secrets of attractive body language according to Allan & Barbara Pease in “The definitive book of body language”.
Face: Have an animated facial expression and make smiling a part of your regular repertoire so as to increase engagement with others. Make sure you flash your teeth.
Gestures: The audience remembers twice as much when you gesture, so be expressive, but don't overdo it – less is more. Keep your fingers closed when you gesture, your hands below chin level, and avoid crossing your feet or arms, which will prevent the audience from interpreting your gestures as defensive and negative.
Head Movement: Use triple nods when talking. Research shows that people will talk three to four times more than usual when the listener nods their head using groups of three nods at regular intervals. Tilt your head when listening and the listener will begin to feel trusting towards you because you appear non-threatening. Keep your chin up.
Eye Contact: Provide the amount of eye contact that makes everyone feel comfortable. Unless looking at others is a cultural no-no, lookers gain more credibility than non-lookers.
Posture: Lean forward when listening to show interest; stand straight when speaking to display confidence and control.
Territory: Stand as close as you feel comfortable. If the other person moves back, don't step forward again.
Mirror: Subtly mirror the body language of others. Mirroring another person's body language and speech patterns is one of the most powerful ways to build rapport quickly. In a new meeting with someone, mirror his or her seating position, posture, body angle, gestures, expressions, and tone of voice. Before long, they'll start to feel that there's something about you they like: they'll describe you as “easy to be with”.
And finally, be aware that not only does nonverbal body language govern how other people think and feel about us, but it actually governs how we think and feel about ourselves! This means that if you can work on your own body language, you can shape your mind to exude presence, confidence, comfort, and competence. The social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, shares an easy way (“power posing”) that anyone can change not only other people’s perceptions of them, but even the way they feel about themselves. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalise it.