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Body Language Matters, Even Over the Phone

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 15:00
Body Language Matters on Phone

Many business people have an intuitive sense their bodies can speak for them. But how many appreciate that their bodies also can speak to them?

Body language is more powerful than we thought, can change self-image

In her 2012 Ted Talk (watch video below), social psychologist Amy Cuddy introduced the business world to “power posing”—standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident. Based on her ground-breaking research at Harvard, Cuddy’s premise was that “body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves.” Her study included physiological elements and revealed that the way we manage the position and gestures of our bodies can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and may contribute to our chances for success—or failure.

“You control your body, but your body also controls you. Simple gestures, simple postures—each makes a dramatic impact on how you think, feel, and perform,” writes Jeff Haden, a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, in a recent post to LinkedIn Pulse.

Whether meeting in person, online or over the phone, body language matters

“Body language should help, not hurt,” says Entrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin in a recent article. "Even when the chat isn’t in person, how you hold yourself impacts how you connect with others and whether you present the best version of yourself.”

And to do that very thing, here are a few Dos & Don’ts from pieces by Zipkin, Haden and Forbes Emotional Intelligence guru Travis Bradberry:

DO: Stand Like Superman

According Cuddy’s research, two minutes of power posing—standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky or standing like Superman with your hands on your hips—will dramatically increase your level of confidence. Try this one somewhere by yourself before you step into an audio, video or in-person meeting where you expect to feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated.“I do it for a few minutes before every speaking gig because it definitely works,” says Haden.

DON’T: Slouch

“Where are your shoulders?” asks Zipkin. “If they’re over your toes or your lap with your back curved into a C-shape, you’ll seem uncomfortable in your own skin, turning people off. To convey confidence, hold your shoulders over your hips. Point your toes toward the person with whom you’re speaking, not the door, and lean on nothing,” she explains.“Slouching is a sign of disrespect,” adds Bradberry. “It communicates that you’re bored and have no desire to be where you are.

DO: Smile Early & Often

“Smiles put those around you at ease and signal to yourself that you’re doing what you’re supposed to,” offers Zipkin. “It may just help give you the confidence to land that client or nab that dream gig.”

DON’T: Scowl or Allow Any Generally Unhappy Expression

According to Bradberry, “Scowls turn people away, as they feel judged…” even if the expression has nothing to do with your mood or the meeting at hand.“Frowning, grimacing, and other negative facial expressions signal your brain that whatever you are doing is difficult. So your body responds by releasing cortisol, which raises your stress levels,” Haden adds. “Stress begets more stress…begets more stress…and in no time, you’re a hot mess.”

DO: Maintain Eye Contact with Colleagues

Sustained eye contact, Bradberry advises, “communicates confidence, leadership, strength, and intelligence. While it is possible to be engaged without direct, constant eye contact, complete negligence will clearly have negative effects on your professional relationships.”

DON’T: Make Eye Contact Too Intense

A piercing gaze may be perceived as aggressive or an attempt to dominate, says Bradberry.“On average, Americans hold eye contact for seven to ten seconds, longer when we’re listening than when we’re talking,” he elaborates. “The way we break contact sends a message, too. Glancing down communicates submission, while looking to the side projects confidence.”

Body language can be heard over the phone

These tips apply not only for face-to-face meetings, but online meetings as well. Standing or sitting up straight helps you breathe and projects a stronger voice. Although people in your remote meeting may not see your smile, it definitely comes through in your tone. The same thing applies if you are unhappy or annoyed. It is easier to make eye contact if you’re using video, but even if you are meeting using audio conferencing, focus on your computer or phone so you aren’t distracted.

The key to managing body language is acting as though someone important always is watching you intently. That’s because someone is—and that person is you.


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