Your expressions, body language and gestures can inadvertently convey a lot about what goes on inside of you – including feelings of nervousness, insecurity or uncertainty. Learning to tweak your body language to match the purpose of your message in a social interaction can boost your credibility and heighten the impact of your words.
But not too much. When people talk about confidence, often they will tell you that you should smile in order to appear upbeat and comfortable. However, smiling too much can work against you too. Especially if you are meeting someone for the first time, smiling too much can make you seem like you are trying too hard because you are emotionally vested in the outcome of your interaction. Same goes for nodding too much and showing too much emotion. The less emotion you show, the more likely people are to listen.
Make eye contact
Solid eye contact lets people know that you’re interested, friendly and that you mean business. Look directly into the eyes of people you are speaking to, hold their gaze for 2-3 seconds before looking away. Don’t overdo it because looking too long can make you look creepy. On the other hand, casting quick furtive glances can make you look sketchy and nervous. Try this: the next time you are in a social situation asks a close friend to observe how you interact visually with everyone around you.
Use gestures conservatively
Imagine how sketchy it would look if you are trying to tell someone that you are very happy for their promotion but your face betrays the fact that you don’t think the person is good enough for the job. By noticing and controlling your facial expressions to match your intentions, you are doing two things: First, your tone and body language will be consistent with the content of your speech – making your message more powerful. Second, you will appear more trustworthy because your words, expressions and gestures are all communicating the same message. Try this: Practice facial expressions in front of your bathroom mirror until they look natural and pleasant.
Strike a pose
There’s research out of Harvard which claims that holding your body in expansive “high power” poses can make you appear dominant and full of energy. No surprise there. So if you want to convey a commanding presence – stand tall, square your shoulders and widen your stance. Your weight should be balanced evenly with your limbs relaxed and open. Try this: Look at powerful personalities on TV. Set the volume to mute and observe their gestures. Emulate. Practice. Repeat.