Have you ever heard things like, “She’s nice, but not leadership material.” He’s just not confident enough for the job” but you know you are confident and leadership material. I know how frustrating that can be – to be judged before they even know you, maybe even before you’ve even opened your mouth! Attendees of my trainings tell me those and similar sad phrases that keep them from getting ahead all the time.
Why does that happen?
Because people make snap judgments about you, your skills and even your intelligence all based on a quick glance of your body language. I know, most people don’t like to admit it, but we all judge others from the first moment we see them even before they say hello. Here are 5 quick tips to use proactively to “cast-off “ those faulty snap judgments others might be making about you:
Tip 1: Breathe Deep. Breathing low and comfortable is one of the keys to looking intelligent and for building trust and safety nonverbally. Nerves (or habit) can make us breath rapidly. Breathing high in the chest and rapid a very common habit — the problem is the first impression you give is one of anger or panic. Do you ever hear, “Why are you angry?” or “Are you okay?” and you don’t know why? Look first at how you are breathing. Eons ago, when our ancestors were breathing high and rapid it was a nonverbal signal to the tribe of danger triggering the observer’s fight or flight response.
Today, we are rarely in mortal danger; yet high rapid breathing still unconsciously hi-jacks our brain with the fight or flight response. It also makes the voice sound high pitch and squeaky and worse yet, deprives needed oxygen to your brain. Trust me, nobody thinks or communicates clearly when their brain needs more oxygen. Practice breathing slow, deep and naturally in all situations is the number one nonverbal tip to show confidence and inspire others to be confident as well. This is often easier said then done at first. It is often a reactive response instead of a proactive approach, but with a little practice it soon becomes natural once again.
Tip 2: Posture Perfect. Your posture is a good indicator of how you are feeling including your confidence. Others “read” slouching shoulders as a sign of low confidence. Good old mom was right; your posture can determine what others think about you. A client, we will call Peter, recently was commenting on how much harder it was to make a sale and how he was feeling beaten down. He was blaming the economy, tight money, anything he could think of except taking a look at his nonverbal communication. He was shuffling around with his shoulders drooping forward, his eyes cast downward, all of his nonverbals said “beaten down”.
Who wants to hang out with, much less buy from someone that looks beaten down? Stand up straight just like mom told you, you will be amazed at how quickly the world starts looking different from the change of view good posture gives.
Tip 3: Master the Silent Pause. The silent pause expresses confidence and trustworthiness. The silent pause adds a strong emphasis to what was just said. Be sure and use a silent pause when you are finished with your most important point. “Uhms”, “ahs” and even “you know” are all forms of verbal pauses. They are distracting — the listener sees you searching for words which often has the effect of making you look less intelligent — certainly not the message most of us want to send. Your message will be more effective once you master the silent pause. To add extra emphasis to a silent pause add a hand gesture that remains frozen in place during the full length of the silent pause. Only move the hand gesture when the next words come out of your mouth. The “frozen” gesture says; “Wait, there’s more”.
Tip 4: Actively Listen. Many people say they are great listeners, yet few really are. It takes conscious effort to maintain good listening. We can start out with good intentions, yet it is easy to get distracted in today’s busy world. Active listening really is a sign of respect; remember with active listening it’s not about you. Active listening shows you care about the speaker. It is used to confirm to the other person, you are paying attention and gives you important information of not only what the listener wants, but how they are feeling too. Pay attention for consistent themes and the accompanying emotional tone. Nonverbally, active listening is demonstrated through nodding and eye contact. Verbally to show you are listening, a slight “uh” or “ah”, and the use of paraphrase or summary.
The purpose of paraphrase is to communicate that you do or are trying to understand what is being said. Paraphrase untangles unclear messages, avoids misinterpretation and can get more information to check out any assumptions. Paraphrase is your chance to pull together, organize, and integrate the major points. Include their words as often as possible as you make statements of the key ideas and possible feelings. Do not assume or add new ideas. Use clarifying phrases such as “Those are good points. May I take a minute to go over them with you and make sure I have everything correct?” or “I’m curious…”, “I’m wondering…”, “Let me see if…”. Avoid “I’m confused…” as it can leave the speaker subconsciously feeling deficient.
Tip 5: Listen to Yourself. People are most comfortable hearing a voice that is similar to their own; work to match the other person(s) tonality and pitch (low to high), speed (how quickly you speak), and volume (loud or soft). Does your audience use a connection or credible voice pattern? The connection voice pattern has a friendly “sing-songy” tone and almost sounds as if they are ending their statement with a question mark. The credible voice pattern is flat and usually drops a note or two at the end, often leaving the impression that the speaker has placed an invisible period at the end of the phrase. Work to match your audience voice patterns including tone, pitch, speed and volume. Now, this is not mimicry – do not try to match accents. It is about creating a connection. Just think of the last time you heard someone speak a foreign language and remember how much easier it is to hear a voice pattern you are familiar with.
These five nonverbal tips inspire, influence, enhance trust, build rapport and develop positive lasting business relationships all without saying a word. Understanding your nonverbal communication combined with the desire to be interested in your audience is the real key to lasting rapport and relationships.