“Stand up straight. Come on now, shoulders back, head up, look me in the eye.”
Growing up, this was a regular saying around our house. My dad used that line as well as some well placed pokes and prods when he wanted to remind us of our posture. At the time, I just thought he wanted something to pick at Jeremy and I about. It seemed like I was never standing the right way and it felt weird consciously thinking about how I was standing. I even told him, “Dad, this is just how I stand!”
But once the testosterone hit in high school and dreams of a big chest and washboard abs came along, I too joined the posture police. Granted, I had been trained to think about my posture and even I started noticing my physique in the mirror and slumped shoulders. I wanted to change that, so I did.
But standing and trying to look like Hercules isn’t the reason I bring up posture today. Since I’ve been working on this blog, I’ve made a conscious effort to be more aware of the people around me. I try and watch and notice things about people, and think about what they’re doing. One thing I’ve noticed lately is people’s posture and what they are saying with their non verbal communication.
Comm 341 – Non Verbal Communication.
Communications was a popular major among the football team at Boise State. And from I hear from players at other schools, the same is true. I took a few classes, but one that I heard a lot of people talk about was Comm 341, Non Verbal Communication. I remember thinking, “How can they have a whole class on that topic?”
Some quick research and a few quick Googles, you see why there was an entire class dedicated to non verbals.
The famous 7% rule, first published by UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian in 1971, claims that only 7% of communication is verbal, while the remaining 93% is made up of non verbal (body language 55%, and tone 38%).
Today, although many studies and researchers have tried to disprove the 7% rule, the common understanding seems to be that a large majority of communication is non verbal, the exact percentages aren’t necessarily relevant to the idea.
So, you’re looking at over half of the communication you’re trying to send or receive has nothing to do with the words coming out of your mouth. That’s crazy!
With your body language being such a large portion of the communication that you’re projecting into the world, we all need to focus on how to use our non verbals to our advantage. In most scenarios, simply being aware of your body can help you get the correct point across.
In an article by Forbes, contributor Carol Kinsey Goman lists 12 Body Language Tip for career success. Standing tall, your actual stance, eye contact, eye contact and even perfecting your handshake are all ways to build confidence and sometimes even more importantly, the appearance of confidence.
I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum of using body language as well as letting my body language show my true feelings. Sitting in business meetings, feeling unprepared and obviously nervous, I laughed nervously at things that weren’t intended to be funny. Sweaty palms and shaky voice, I somehow managed to stumble through the pitch. Remarkably, the client was less interested in my own appearance and more interested in the product and the deal was closed.
On the contrary, during football days you had to exude confidence. On the field, even the smallest flash of weakness is like putting blood in water full of sharks. Your opponent is patiently waiting for you to slip up so he can capitalize on your mistake. But when you break the huddle each play and walk up to the line with swagger and confidence (even if it’s fake) you can break his will because he will start to doubt his own ability. He loses confidence every time he feels yours. It’s a complete mind game and the greats know how to play it well.
In the end, your body language and non verbal communication is something that everyone should be aware of and learn to harness in their favor. Whether your closing deals in conference rooms, catching TD’s on the grid iron, or about to ask out that cute girl/guy you saw across the room, the words you use may not be the message that comes across.
Check out the Forbes article and try some of Carol’s tips. They really do help and might come in handy next time you need to make a good impression.