You must make certain the verbal and nonverbal components of the message are consistent with each other. For example you cannot be talking about openness and sitting with your arms and legs crossed. You must use an erect but relaxed posture with easy gestures while leaning slightly forward toward the other person or audience. You must make strong, dynamic and purposeful gestures but not be overly aggressive. Use illustrative gestures and vocal alterations to emphasize key words and phrases. Of course steady, continued eye contact is important but do not stare. Staring is socially unacceptable and sometimes frightens people. Staring is an eye characteristic that in the movies denotes a slightly off-balance character or a homicidal maniac. Also use a loud enough voice so that you are certain you are heard and the message is correctly delivered and be ready to interrupt with a rebuttal when necessary. You do not want your message compromised by an inappropriate question or outburst. Be ready for negative responses with positive answers. If you are one on one with a person then sometimes lightly touching their hand at key points in the conversation will highlight, make them take notice, or emphasize that particular point of the conversation. You must always seem confident, ready and in control.
Now for the parts of communication to avoid or you will be perceived as unassertive.
We will start by saying that you must control nervous behaviour. All of us at times feel slightly less confident when we are talking, but our language must not show this. We cannot lick our lips, touch our face, play around with our hands or hair, move about in our chairs, or move our feet excessively. Keep your feet flat on the floor and do not cross your legs. These will show others that you are nervous or not ready. A tense posture, excessive smiling, and continuous visual attentiveness while others are speaking are signs of weakness or insecurity. We must also notice and control hunching of our shoulders or covering the mouth with the hand. The last point is sometimes considered an unconscious signal of a lie. Do not clear the throat, this is done in private before the meeting and facial and eye expressions must match the words you are speaking. Do not grab the other person to highlight a point, that is an indicator of anger or desperation. Evasive eye contact, looking down or at the ground often and speech patterns interrupted by too frequent pauses or fillers such as umm and ah have to be avoided.
We will end by stating that although a person’s likability, assertiveness, and power are strongly affected by their body language, some other nonverbal behaviours will influence the judgement. Cultural norms will influence this last judgement. For example in Japanese culture the highest priority is to be seen as powerful, while in American culture the highest priority is to be seen as likeable by your peers.
- Body Language in the Boardroom (forbes.com)
- Presidents Obama & Putin: Body Language Recap (psychologytoday.com)
- The 6 Most Common Body Language Mistakes That Jobseekers Make, And How To Correct Them (businessinsider.com)