Body Language – How to Demonstrate Personal Power Through Non-Verbal Communication

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion. ~ Dale Carnegie

The first impression you make on others is non-verbal. As a matter of fact, people only hear part of what you say. More than 50% of your message is ‘read’ through your body language and another 30% or more through the tone of your voice. It’s truly a case of “what you do speaks more loudly than what you say”.

Body Language is a complicated and diverse science. Experts spend years trying to analyze the different stances and gestures humans make-and interpreting what they mean. For this article, however, we need only focus on a few simple rules of good non-verbal communication.

PERSONAL SPACE: We all have a sense of our own presence and do not like to have it ‘invaded’. It’s important, then, to honor another’s personal space. Generally, if you are closer than arm’s reach, you risk making the other person nervous or irritated. When that happens, they will usually lean or step back. That indicates an attempt to get away from your perceived threat.

Standing or sitting too close can also signal insecurity on your part. It shows that you are trying to hide yourself or absorb confidence from the other person. Maintaining your own space demonstrates your confidence and power.

Leaders are usually somewhat unapproachable. They present a sense of authority by maintaining their personal space and distance. Then, as they ‘invite’ others into their personal space, they share that sense of power with those around them. I once got into a hotel elevator with a TV personality. Although we didn’t speak, I felt honored to share that space for eleven floors.

Success Tip #1 – Leave some extra margin between you and others until you are ‘invited’ into their personal space by a word or gesture. If you are offering a hug or handshake, do so. Then move back a little bit to honor their sense of space.

BODY STANCE: Our stance, including our arms, says volumes about our mood and attitude. Standing rigid, with your hands on your hips, automatically sets up barriers. It tells everyone around you that you’re in an aggressive mood, whether you are nor not. People will be hesitant to approach you.

Have you ever tried to have a ‘conversation’ with your teen – or spouse or employee – while you were standing in that position? They’ve already tuned you out before you even say a word!

Crossing your arms is another unconscious barrier. If you’re in the audience, it tells the speaker that you are not receiving the message. If you are the speaker, it disconnects you from your audience.

Personal control, through your stance and gestures, tells the audience that you are confident and professional. It contributes to your charisma, your positive vibe.

Conversely, if you are worried or negative, your unconscious stance will repel people. I’m sure we’ve all walked into a room and known when someone was in a bad mood, even before anything was said!

Success Tip #2 – Keep your arms loose and casual. If you are seated, place your hands comfortably in your lap. Keep your fingers relaxed and open.

Success Tip #3 – Use small, controlled gestures, especially when appropriate with your speech. They add to your personal power. Don’t put your hands in your pockets. It makes people wonder what you’re after and distracts from your message.

Success Tip #4 – Whether you are speaking in a social situation or from a podium, stand still! The way you stand speaks volumes to others about your sense of confidence. Stand tall and relaxed. Too much movement is distracting. Don’t pace, tap your fingers or rock back and forth. In conversation, nod your head to show understanding.

USE APPROPRIATE PHYSICAL CONTACT: When you meet someone, be the first to extend your hand for a handshake. Share a quick hug. Use touch to communicate friendliness and compassion.

Action speaks louder than words. Practice showing an open, welcoming attitude and stance to those around you. Be comfortable and use good body language to increase your personal presence and influence.