How to Improve Your Body Language to Become a Successful Entrepreneur
Have you ever thought about why they say that ‘actions speak louder than words’? Have you ever felt that people tend to listen attentively to some individuals because of the persona they exude while others barely ever pay attention to what is being said? That is the magic of having the right body language and the most influential people in the world practice extensively to perfect their body language in order to look and sound more persuasive in everything they do and say.
In this article, we start with 1) an introduction to body language, and then continue exploring 2) types of body language, 3) truths about body language, and 4) the right body language to become a successful entrepreneur.
INTRODUCTION TO BODY LANGUAGE
Now the question arises, what exactly is body language? Body language is a nonverbal form of communication in which feelings and attitudes of an individual are communicated by conscious and unconscious postures and movements. When it comes to body language, it works both ways. You get to know what the other person is feeling while the other person gets a chance to analyze your attitude and feelings during a particular situation.
A more technical term used for body language is Kinesics taken from the Greek word ‘Kinesis’, meaning motion. Now we often think that body language is about how we move and hold our bodies, but that is far from true. Body language potentially, but not always, includes:
- The position of the body;
- Proxemics or the closeness to and the space between two individuals;
- Facial expressions;
- Focus and movements of the eyes;
- How people touch themselves and others around them;
- Less noticeable physical effects like heartbeat, breathing, perspiration, etc.;
- How a person connects with other tangible items like spectacles, glasses, cigarettes, etc.
However, body language does not encompass the pitch, intonation, variation, pauses, or volume of an individual’s voice. This is because the voice is considered a verbal form of communication and has nothing to do with kinesics.
TYPES OF BODY LANGUAGE
Here are various types of body language that indicate different attitudes and feelings of an individual when studied closely. There is an interesting infographic you might find interesting.
Analyzing facial expressions is one of the most important aspects of reading body language. When we are happy or content, we smile; when we are sad, we frown, and it is just as simple as that. But a lot more goes into picking up non-verbal cues that may show whether a person is happy, sad, angry, surprised, disgusted, scared, confused, excited or smitten.
Facial expressions are also considered to be one of the most universal forms of body language as suggested by researcher Paul Eckman. According to him, facial expressions that show happiness, anger, sadness, confusion and surprise remain consistent regardless of what culture or ethnicity one belongs to.
Our eyes are often known as the windows to the soul because they are capable of revealing a great deal of unsaid or hidden feelings or expressions; giving you an idea as to how the person is feeling exactly at that moment in time. For instance, if someone gazes into your eyes directly when having a conversation, it is safe to say that the individual is keen on hearing what you have to say.
However, prolonged eye contact can become disturbing as it may make the other person feel uncomfortable or uneasy. On the other hand, if a person tends to look away from you frequently during a conversation, it is usually because they are not paying attention to what is being said by you or trying to hide their true feelings.
Now something as trivial as blinking can tell whether a person is trying to keep a poker face or feeling uncomfortable. One often tends to blink incessantly when they are feeling shy, uncomfortable or uneasy about something, but at the same time, if someone blinks quite infrequently, it often means that they are trying to hide something.
Perhaps one of the most subtle clues that the eyes provide is through the pupils. There are times when the pupils may dilate further. This can indicate a wide range of emotions, but it is usually linked with love, flirtation, and attraction.
Mouth movements and expressions are also essential when it comes to reading body language. For instance, chewing on the lower lip usually indicates that a person is insecure, worried or scared. When evaluating mouth expressions, pay attention to these cues.
- Distaste, distrust, and disapproval is usually conveyed by pursed lips.
- When a person is worried, anxious or stressed, he or she is more likely to bite his or her lips incessantly.
- The position of the mouth can also indicate one’s true feelings. The mouth will be curved upwards when one is happy and optimistic and downwards if one is sad or has a difference in opinion.
We all try to mask our emotions sometimes but your body, especially your arms and legs, can give away exactly how you are feeling. Keeping your arms crossed when interacting with someone is a sign of defensiveness, while keeping the arms close to the body indicates the need to minimize oneself or divert attention.
There are many subtle signals that indicate your mood and feelings, but here are some signs that are hard to ignore and easy to read.
- Crossed arms usually show that the person is self-protective, defensive or shut off.
- Placing your hands on the hips while standing has a much more positive connotation. It shows that you are in control, but at the same time it can also be misinterpreted as a sign of possible aggressiveness.
- People usually clasp their hands behind their back or rapidly tap their fingers or keep fidgeting when they are feeling bored, angry or anxious.
- Crossed legs when sitting is a universal hint that a person is in need or privacy or feeling emotionally shut off.
The posture of the body can also convey a wealth of information about a person’s personality or how they are feeling. You can read whether a person is timid, submissive, open or confident just by studying the posture of their body. When you sit up straight, it means that you are aware of what is going on and paying attention but you may come off as bored and indifferent if you are sitting with your shoulders slumped forward.
The main signals you must be on the lookout for when evaluating the posture of a person are:
- Keeping the trunk of the body opened means you have an open posture. People with an open posture are usually friendly, willing and open minded.
- Hunching forward and keeping your arms and legs crossed shows a closed posture. Having a closed posture is usually a sign of anxiety, unfriendliness, and hostility.
Hands & Gestures
Hand gestures can be regarded as the most obvious and direct body language signals since most of them are made deliberately. Some gestures are universal while others have purely cultural roots. For instance, thumbs up or a peace sign may possess a wildly different connotation in countries other than the US.
Here are some common hand gestures that are known to indicate distinct body language signals as to how one is feeling.
- A clenched fist is usually a sign of solidarity or anger.
- Approval and disapproval are usually shown by thumbs up and thumbs down signs.
- Touching the thumb with the index finger is usually taken as a sign that indicates everything is a-okay.
- The V sign usually indicates peace or victory but in the UK and Australia, this gesture is considered quite offensive.
Proxemics is the term used for describing the distance between two people during an interaction. Proxemics is further divided into four different levels of social distance by Hall.
- The intimate distance ranges from 6 – 18 inches and often signifies a close bond between the individuals. Intimate distance occurs during close contact like touching, whispering and hugging.
- Ranging from 1.5 – 4 ft, personal distance is a social level distance that takes place among close friends or family members. The closer one stands while interacting comfortably with another person, the more intimate the relationship.
- Social distance occurs with acquaintances and individuals whom you know well enough to strike up a casual conversation. Social distance ranges from 4 – 12 ft and often indicates that you know the other person fairly well.
- Between 12 – 25 feet, public distance usually occurs at a larger level when addressing a class of students or giving a presentation at work or making a speech at a function. It is also interesting to note that public distance varies greatly from one culture to another. In Latin countries, people feel more comfortable standing close to one another while people from North America tend to maintain a significant distance.
TRUTHS ABOUT BODY LANGUAGE
There are many misconceptions related to body language that have sprung up ever since detective TV shows started showing how body language can be used to weed out the culprits. But we have cleared the decks here and separated the hard facts from fiction.
1) Experts Are Usually Wrong About Key Body Language Indicators
We often hear experts say that specific hand gestures usually have a hidden meaning, but that is far from true. In reality, hand gestures are considered ambiguous and can signify a lot of different things. For instance, you may cross your arms because you are feeling defensive or because you are feeling cold.
Also, you may be tired, and you are crossing your arms to feel more comfortable. It is possible to feel so many things and all at once, which is why reading hand gestures is not useful most of the time.
2) It’s Hard to Understand Body Language by Reading the Face
Reading the face does not prove to be effective most of the time because by the time we become adults, we learn to hide our true feelings as they show up on our face to get along at work, school, etc. We all pretend to smile, laugh or feign interest from time to time to get away with things, which is why it becomes hard for experts to tell if an individual is pretending to smile or is genuinely happy.
3) Facial Expressions Count a Lot, at Times
Micro expressions are often considered sudden leakages of true feelings that can help one understand how the person is truly feeling. Although it is possible to hide micro expressions through proper training, most of us do not do a good job at masking these little giveaways. However, these micro expressions are always fleeting; meaning they show up like lighting in the dark for a second and fade away soon before we begin to analyze them.
4) Body Language Signals Intent, Not Specific Meaning
We often make the mistake of thinking that studying body language can give you solid answers about the individual’s attitudes and feelings, but that is not particularly true. Experts believe that body language can tell a lot accurately as far as the emotional intent is concerned, but the same is not the case if you are looking for specific meanings.
This is because brain research shows that the first true signs of what we are often feeling manifest in our bodies before humans can actually process what they are feeling. For instance, you may clench your fists in anger nanoseconds before you actually realize that you are feeling angry over something.
5) You Can Read the Body Language of Your Loved One’s Better Than an Expert
For most of us who are interested in mastering the art of reading body language, the good news is that it is much easier to read the body language of your loved ones better than any other expert out there. Think about it; you can detect exactly when your spouse is mad at you, or your child is bored. This is because you have already spent hours trying to understand your loved one and their feelings toward you.
6) Don’t Think about Key Indicators When Trying to Read Body Language Accurately
Humans are hardwired to read and evaluate the emotions and intents of other people because we all have mirror neurons in our brains that activate subconsciously to register an emotion in another person. We can easily mimic that emotion in order to understand it better and share it. This is one of the reasons why fear is contagious; people react almost instantly to fear and take necessary steps quickly.
Also, if you want to assess the true feelings of a person accurately, it is better not to focus entirely on the key body language indicators and give your unconscious mind a chance to pick up all the right indicators that will later help you evaluate emotional intent accurately.
7) Humans Are Hardwired to Read and Understand Body Language
Did you know that you have threes brains, two of which are masters at reading and decoding body language? Yes, your third mind is your gut. Hence, the gut feeling you get when something is not right. While the conscious mind is too occupied with other chores, your unconscious mind does all the heavy work – reading and evaluating the body language of another person.
This is one of the reasons why you can sense the fear of something before it has happened or feel butterflies in your stomach when you think of someone special.
THE RIGHT BODY LANGUAGE TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR
Believe it or not, having the right body language as an entrepreneur can help you soar to greater heights. Here are some of the main body language indicators you must pay attention to.
1) Body Language for Networking
As entrepreneurs, we all know that networking is all about making a strong first impression for forging strong connections and getting more contracts. But how do you make a ‘strong’ first impression? Here’s how:
- To show that you are interested in the conversation, point your feet towards them while engaging in a conversation.
- Do not gaze overhead. People think that the other person cannot notice this, but the minute you break eye contact, it shows. This is never a good strategy when networking.
- The master of winning friends and influencing people, Dale Carnegie, believes that a triple nod can do wonders when it comes to interacting with people because it exudes self-confidence and shows that you are actually interested in the conversation.
2) Body Language for Giving the Perfect Sales Pitch
A lot of work goes into selling your business idea to new investors and having the right body language can help you do just that.
- Even though giving the perfect sales pitch is more about verbal communication, entrepreneurs usually forget to pay attention to non-verbal cues.
- For instance, if you are discussing the growth of your business plan in the near future, move your hands in the hockey stick direction to keep the investor engaged and interested in what you’re going to say.
3) Body Language for Hiring
Finding the right employee is critical to helping your business grow and as the driving force of the business, it is important to ensure that you have found the right person. In order to get to know someone better, here is what you need to know:
- Angled seating can do wonders because how you sit actually affects one’s behavior more than you realize. When your body is directly aligned with the other person sitting opposite to you, you automatically become more engaged in the conversation.
- Sitting with the prospective employee in an open space opposite a glass table will also make a huge difference because you will be able to see their hand gestures when you ask tough questions.
4) Body Language for Negotiating
Negotiation is an important aspect of the hiring process, and your nonverbal behavior can play a pivotal role in this regard. In order to feel more in control and powerful, do the following:
- Steeping is a great way of showing that you are confident and in control. Bring your hands up to your chest and press your fingertips together to exude confidence.
- Sitting high and keeping your posture straight can also make a great deal of difference by creating a strong persona.
- If you are standing, stand tall and straight to create the perception that you are in control.
5) Body Language for Managing
An entrepreneur’s job is tougher than you think because managing and creating teams is quite a daunting task that requires time, patience and expertise. However, a manager must always show he is approachable and there to help in order to create a positive attitude among employees.
Here are some body language tips you may want to consider:
- Never cross your arms when interacting with your employees.
- Smile often when greeting or speaking with your subordinates to create a friendly atmosphere.
- Loosen your shoulders and arms to look more fluid.
- Lean in when speaking with someone.
- Uncross your legs to look more approachable and less shut off.
Even though these are some ways you can improve your body language, keep in mind that there is no one size fits all when it comes to body language. The reason is that what may make you seem more confident may make another person look arrogant and cocky, which is negative. Therefore, always try to look more approachable and the best thing you can do is smile more often.
Now that you know everything about reading and evaluating body language, be inspired by the tips given above to become a successful entrepreneur and soar to new heights of greatness.
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