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Every day we present our thoughts and ideas to business prospects, teachers, organizations, coworkers and family.  Whether you are giving a sales presentation to a large number of individuals or casually sitting across from two people at a table, use the following tips to ensure your non-verbal signals bring the success you want.  The more positive and confident your interactions, the greater your success in building a relationship that will last for many years.  

  • Your energy.  Be aware of the energy you are transmitting!  Is it motivating, positive, exciting, confident, or worrisome and pre-occupied?  Set a positive tone with your facial expressions, sincere eye contact and friendly, yet controlled body language. Non-verbal signs of defiance, angst, fear or frustration will send the listener packing, even if your words are saying something entirely different!
  • Hands. It is said that eyes and hands are open and closed with the person’s mind.  They tell so much about your current state of mind and how you really feel. Hands should face palms up with fingers open (welcoming them into your “space”) or hang comfortably at your side.  If you are new at speaking and feeling uncomfortable, hold a pen in your hand.  One hand in your pocket briefly is acceptable but both hands in your pockets gives the impression of either being arrogant, lacking confidence or hiding something.
  • Pointing.  Pointing a finger or a pen in someone’s general direction immediately puts them on the defense.  When asking an individual a question or to sign a paper, hold your pointer or pen like you would if you were writing, at an angle. It seems like a very small matter but can give a strong message subconsciously.
  • Touching. A friendly touch on the shoulder is often meant as a welcoming gesture, however, note their response.  If they recoil, smile and back away. Touching sometimes reminds individuals of an unpleasant experience and is not anything personal against you. We just always want to be respectful of their reactions.
  • Eye contact.  In the U.S., eye contact is a necessary for honest, productive conversations; however, in some countries, looking someone in the eye could be considered disrespectful. Good eye contact gives the impression that you are trustworthy, confident, credible, and serious about your conversation or presentation.
  • Your eyes.  Avoid darting eyes, scanning people’s shoes, or any eye messages that give the impression you are not completely engaged in a conversation with them.
  • Statements or questions.  When people raise their voices at the end of a statement, it sounds like they are questioning themselves rather than making a statement.  The listener may think, “If you are not sure of what you are talking about, why should I take your seriously?” Result?  You can be overlooked in business meetings and presentations.  Approximately 80% of voiceovers on television are done by men because of their lower pitch, because it lends to their credibility.
  • Letting others finish your sentences.  If individuals tend to interrupt, your first mode of defense is to raise your volume slightly.  If that does not work, hold up your index finger while slightly raising your volume.  If they didn’t get the message, raise your hand in the “stop” position.  As a last resort, hold your hand up in the “stop” position and say, “Excuse me, I wasn’t finished yet.”  This act should keep you in control and maintaining your composure.
  • Adjust your mode of speaking.  Pace your intensity and speed according to the type of group you are talking to.  Be more energetic if talking to someone of like manner and do not overwhelm someone with a strong voice if they are quiet and reserved.

Non-verbal messages can diffuse hostility by maintaining a composed demeanor.  Restraining your own body language when someone is angry with you can actually have a calming effect on them.  Keep your voice low and limit gestures while preserving a relaxed posture to discourage others from a potential rant.

Bottom line: always check to ensure your body is saying the same thing your mouth is. You goal is to have the most clear, concise, confident message possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rita Rocker is a national inspirational and educational speaker, communications and image specialist, and a career and virtual presentations coach with Transformation Academy, LLC.  She is the author of “A Guide to Marketing Yourself for Success”, and a contributing author to “The Unstoppable Woman’s Guide to Emotional Well Being -The Total Woman in Leadership and Success Guide for the Unstoppable Entrepreneur.” She has appeared on national television and radio talk shows on self-esteem and communication. A former Mrs. Nebraska and active in numerous professional organizations, Rita is on the Board of the Small Business Association of the Midlands and co-director of greater Omaha’s Affiliated Women International. Rita provides life and career-transforming programs to mature teens and adults. Contact Rita at rita@transformationacademy.com.