When meeting people for the first time our body language plays a big part in the way we communicate. We often make an impression of someone from the signs they give out through their facial expressions or where their arms are positioned, and this can be a useful communication tool when meeting somebody with only a short period of time to make an impression.
This is not only important for everyday interaction, but also in the world of work and business. It is where making an impression really counts, because you are in meetings, hosting important conferences and just generally networking. Your body language can make the difference between a successful business conversation and a failed one.
Your arms give off a lot about your mood. When you have conversations with people, you will find someone who has folded their arms seems closed off from you and unconfident. Having your hands in your pockets appears nervous and also impolite. Being so closed off makes you unapproachable and may put off people from asking questions and taking an interest in your business.
Equally, you will notice politicians emphatically using arms to appear passionate about what they are saying. In the business environment it is important to strike the right balance, and exaggerated arm and hand movements can be irritating.
Fidgeting can show people you are not confident about what you are saying or even give off the impression that you are bored and not interested in what another person is discussing. This includes biting nails and playing with hair or stroking your collarbone, which incidentally is also a sign of flirting, so be careful with that!
Visual aids in business situations like conferences are a good way of getting your message across whilst also giving your hands 'something to do' to avoid that nervous fidgeting.
Your eyes can really make your emotions transparent. Eye contact is an important tool for showing that you are taking an interest, but be sure not to stare directly into someone's eyes in an aggressive manner - you're not Paul McKenna. Gestures like nodding and the occasional 'hmm' help to get that balance right.
The eyes can also give away whether a smile is genuine or not. It doesn't hurt to smile in business as it gives off positive signals and shows you are happy to be in whichever meeting or conference you are in. But no Cheshire Cat grins, remember you want to be positive but also remain professional.
Don't slouch as you not only appear unconfident, but also lazy, uninterested and not authoritative. Your stance should be straight but approachable. When speaking to someone, lean in to show interest but without invading personal space.
Having your legs at shoulder width is known as the 'power stance' but use this wisely. You want to exert authority but not appear arrogant or unapproachable. When sitting, (particularly men) do avoid the 'figure four' position, with one ankle on the other knee. It screams arrogance and can put someone off even before they have spoken to you.
If you are part of an international business, say one which involves many overseas business conferences it is worth briefly researching hand gestures and the body language of that country, as something totally innocent here can be considered extremely rude elsewhere.
Remember to be aware of your body language, but not let it dictate your business meetings or conferences. You don't want to be thinking about so often that it distracts you. With practice it will become second nature to you and you will definitely notice the benefits.