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Befitting Body Language

Posted by Sathyamurthy www.sathyamurthy.com on March 16, 2006

“He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of every pore.”

Sigmund Freud

BODY language is a largely unconscious, yet a revealing aspect of our true selves. It’s not what we say but how we say something is important. Many a time we speak volumes without even uttering a word. Communication is a package deal of verbal, non-verbal and vocal cues. Through extensive communication research, it has been discovered that words account for a tiny seven percent of a message’s impact. The rest comes from non-verbal cues, such as voice tone and facial expression. It’s only when we interpret all the cues, that we get the whole message – or what you end up with is a partial communication.

Remember how we’ve been taught not to believe everything we hear? Only believe what you sense and see, such as body language and its associated meaning. If someone compliments you with a smirk on his face, are you going to feel flattered?

Body Language is also the most powerful method of validating your words. Even if you say the most meaningful sentence with a deadpan expression, nobody will believe you. Your expressions, body, gestures and vocal pitch must match your words. Body language is what gives meaning to words; it causes the message to reach the heart and brain.

There are instances when words fail us in our efforts to convey a message. Often, we don’t reveal how we feel about people or what we actually mean when we say something. Sometimes a `no’ means a `yes’ or a `maybe’ implies `no’. So, to make the meaning of our words clear, we use body language. We use body language all the time.

Since humans are social creatures, when two people come into contact, they begin exchanging non-verbal communication signals. Just the very presence of another person marks the beginning of communication. It’s not possible to be not communicating when amongst people.

Also related to non-verbal communication is self-presentation – appearance. Would you dress up in your best to go to the local grocery for milk? On occasions like interviews, public performances and formal events, one may choose to manipulate impressions in order to impress upon others about one’s desirable qualities in an effort to strengthen self-image.

Culture is a strong determinant of body language – of how we use and interpret it. It is wise to remember that meaning of certain gestures varies from culture to culture. Workplace culture has its own set of rules and interpretations. Out here you really need to be more specific and meaningful, so your gestures should match your words.

Nobody has the time or patience to find out what you really mean, why you are behaving in a certain way, or what your underlying issues may be. There’s a lot to be said about people at the workplace from the way they sit or stand, shake hands, look and speak, move and use their body. You can read people by observing their facial expressions, vocal qualities, hand gestures, body movements, posture, etc.

They can be judged at the intuitive level by observing all of these movements. Body language is especially important in the corporate world as it can be used to influence decisions and turn the tide in your favour.

In order to send the right messages at work, be conscious of how you use your body:

Don’t be stiff: Use the body – it ought to move. It speaks when words fail you. One who says the right words but doesn’t use his body to send compatible signals comes across as insincere, impersonal and ineffective person.

Don’t gesticulate too much: Be aware of how much you are using your body. Too much gesturing can be annoying, distracting and makes you appear hyperactive. Remember to use your body to score a point, not lose one.

Don’t just tell, show: When you’re making a presentation, attending an interview or holding a meeting, show them how good you are. Use gestures, expressions and, in fact, perform to hold your audience’s attention.

Imbibe mannerisms: Imagine which mannerisms you like and adopt those that best suit you and your purpose. If you like a certain way, work on it. Don’t adopt mannerisms that are incongruent and awkward with what you are as a person. Gestures are meant to be natural, not artificial. Or the whole purpose of using gestures gets lost as they are supposed to substantiate and give credibility to your words.

Dress appropriately: Our outer garb is also a reflection of how we want to appear and what statement we are trying to make. Clothes should enhance your purpose, not distract it. These are conscious forms of body language wherein we try to make an impact on a select audience.

It is fascinating to understand body language and use it to our advantage. Apart from making communication more effective and interesting, an understanding of body language will go a long way towards improving our ability to make out when a person is lying and sense where one’s opponent’s interests lay.

By SALMA ALIAKBAR

Source: http://www.hindu.com (India’s national newspaper)

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