The power of nonverbal communication
Within seconds of meeting, people have already formed their opinion of you. They don’t know you, but they’ve taken in how you’re dressed, the way you carry yourself and, most importantly, your body language.
Are you struggling to make meaningful connections? Do you have a hard time getting your point across? It might all come down to your body language. Building powerful social connections is the best way to not only lead a fulfilling, joyful life, but to create a strong network that can help you reach your goals. Whether you’re looking to form these connections to advance your career, you’re dating and need to project a different image, or you simply want to seem more confident and capable, taking the time to notice and modify your body language is the best thing you can do to bolster your communication efforts.
Eye contact is the most important factor in nonverbal communication. Making eye contact shows that you’re engaged with your conversation partner and interested in what they’re saying. When you make strong eye contact, you’re displaying confidence and authenticity. If you’re looking at the ground or in the air, you’re showing that you’re uninterested or insecure. A good point of reference is the 80/20 rule. Make direct eye contact with your partner 80% of the time and allow your eyes to wander for 20% of the time as you take in their points and gather your thoughts.
Arms and hands
What are your hands doing when you’re speaking to others? Are you crossing your arms across your body? By flailing your arms around or nervously twiddling your fingers, you make yourself seem untrustworthy. Likewise, by crossing your arms, you appear closed off from the conversation. Relax your arms by your side and steeple your hands by making your fingers touch to form a triangle. These small gestures make a world of difference when it comes to appearing confident and engaged in your conversation. Lastly, when it comes time to give a handshake, provide a firm, steady grip. You don’t want to aggressively squeeze the hand or let your hand lay limp. A firm handshake showcases reliability and can be a major make-or-break factor during a first impression.
Posture and presentation
Are you standing slumped over? Are your shoulders hunched in? If your posture is lacking, it can make it appear that you lack confidence, sincerity or domain knowledge of the topic. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and your head held high. Chances are, you already feel more confident just by improving your posture. Good posture makes you seem more approachable, and when your body is openly facing your audience, you seem more interested in their response, too.
Create an alter ego
As performance coach and advisor Todd Herman suggests, sometimes you need to create an alter ego to enhance your communication skills. Do you see yourself as an introvert who has a hard time connecting with others? Well, what if you thought of yourself as a gregarious, confident person who easily made social ties? When Todd was a guest on The Tony Robbins Podcast, he discussed the need for creating a secret identity. “It’s understanding that there are nuances to your life, and then designing the version of yourself that you want to show up in each of them,” said Todd. If you need to deliver presentations for your job, but hate public speaking, form an alter ego who is an amazing public speaker with powerful body language. You have the capacity to tap into that mindset whenever you get up on that stage, but can still return to your normal self once you’ve finished delivering your speech.
Ask yourself this: When was the last time you accepted the word of someone on television who was fidgeting? Actors, newscasters and politicians are all trained to curb their fidgeting so that their message is more believable. You accept what they’re telling you because their delivery exudes knowledge and self-assuredness – even when they’re wrong. The next time you find yourself nervously fidgeting, stop for a moment. Take a breath, stand up straight and fold your hands either on top of one another or on the table or podium in front of you. Using this moment to recollect yourself should help you cease fidgeting for the time being. As you continue this habit, it will become easier to cut off the urge to fidget as soon as it starts. Eventually, you’ll stop fidgeting altogether.
When you’re truly looking to form lasting connections through effective nonverbal communication methods, you can harness the power of deep listening. Deep listening combines different tenets of nonverbal communication, such as maintaining steady eye contact, working to be truly present and engaged in the conversation, offering nonverbal feedback such as smiles and nods and positioning your body in a way that’s close to your conversation partner while retaining good posture. When done together, the result is deep listening, a state in which you are fully absorbing what your partner is saying, and they feel able to communicate with you openly and honestly.
There are so many ways that you can add value to any conversation, group meeting or social interaction, but they’re easy to overlook if you’re not carrying yourself in a way that sparks conversation and connection. Nonverbal cues and gestures can say infinitely more than words can on their own. By refining your body language and presenting yourself in a way that exudes sincerity, confidence and knowledge, you’ll deepen your existing relationships and create meaningful new ones, too.
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