The human brain is exceptionally good at reading the physical cues of communication, even if we aren’t immediately conscious of them.
Psychologists widely believe that this perception is a built-in component of how our brains are wired, rather than something we learn from a young age. This is evidenced by a number of behavioural experiments that achieved consistent results regardless of the participant’s language or culture. Science!
These physical communications can affect our emotions in the same way that a cute dog can affect our ability to behave like a normal adult. Smiling or laughing can make you feel happy and Simon the tiny French bulldog can make you speak like a three year old.
By controlling the way you carry yourself and the language conveyed by your body, it’s in your hands to influence the people you interact with, which can be a huge advantage in an interview and pretty much any other interaction where you want to have your way.
Here are some ways you can harness your hidden body language powers to your advantage.
When we talk to people, we like to know they’re listening. By using simple non-verbal cues like nodding, maintaining eye contact and facing the speaker, you are displaying what is called active listening.
As powerful as it is polite, this display of merely listening shows the other person that you are engaged in the conversation and will make them more likely to return the favour.
And as an added bonus, it also declares that you’re not a jerk!
Strike a ‘Power Pose’
Aside from sounding awesome, ‘power posing’ is essentially the act of opening your body to take up more space and has been shown to be an incredibly effective confidence booster.
To demonstrate this technique, I want you to stand up right now, take a wide stance and place your hands on your hips. Feeling powerful? I bet you feel like a regular Vladimir Putin.
A Harvard Business School study conducted by Amy Cuddy and her associates showed that students who stood in two different power stances for two minutes prior to a job interview performed better than those who did not.
Be aware of your facial expressions
Just as our emotions can dictate our facial expressions, our facial expressions can actually influence our emotions. Research has shown that people who spend hours frowning, even as a result of something as trivial like the sun being in their eyes, are more likely to feel negative emotions.
Negative attitudes in the workplace can also effect the mood of your colleagues, because let’s face it, no one likes Debbie-downer.
By simply sporting a positive facial expression, you are far more likely to influence the people you interact with, as well as your own emotions. It’s win-win.
Think of the most polished public speakers you’ve ever seen and picture them in your mind. I can wager that most, if not all of them, use some form of gesticulation while speaking.
And then there’s Tony Abbott, who is always holding a small box.
Gesturing while speaking has been shown to aid the mental processes of communication, as well as make a good impression on those who are listening.
A study published in 2009 pointed out that while this is a useful technique, the gestures should be meaningful to what is being discussed. Maybe Tony missed that memo.
Furthermore, people who use gestures generally give presentations that are far more memorable than those who don’t, which is probably why they made it on to your list of great public speakers.
Your challenge now is to work a few of these techniques into your personal comms strategy and see if you can start having a greater influence on those around you. Even if they don’t immediately realise it.