“First impressions are formed within the first 7 seconds of meeting someone.”
We are thrilled to feature Anneline Black, an expert in body language, on Women4Adventure for a 2-post series. Now living in Berlin, Anneline is originally from South Africa where she started her career as a body language expert and style consultant. She has appeared on numerous televisions shows, facilitated first-impression workshops throughout corporate South Africa and was a finalist for the Regional Business Achievers Awards (2007) hosted by the Business Women’s Association. We chat to Anneline to uncover what positive body language looks like…
At a Glance
Human beings are communicative animals, which means that we convey messages to one another by how we dress, the colours we choose to wear, how we groom, our posture, our facial expressions, our body movements, how we sound and what we say. The 7/38/55 rule by Dr. Albert Mehrabian (UCLA professor) deduced that during face-to-face communication, 7% of the message is conveyed through words, 38% through voice and 55% through the body. When we observe someone at a function, for instance, we judge them predominantly on body language (80%), and the rest on grooming and styling. Now’s let’s take a closer look at the key elements involved in creating positive body language and first impressions.
Too little eye contact is interpreted as an insecurity, lack of interest or even rejection. Too much eye contact can be seen as overly-familiar, disrespectful and even threatening. Normal eye contact should be 5 to 15 seconds when you speak to one person and less when you are in a group.
To come across as confident and relaxed, it’s important to keep your spine `tall’ and your shoulders relaxed. When talking to someone, maintain open and receptive posture by turning your body towards the person, but not in a direct `opposition´ stance. Whether you are addressing a group or an individual, stand tall and move naturally. To be more effective in getting your point across, avoid rigid or jerky movement but rather use fluid hand, arm, and leg movements. Keep your energy engaged by leaning slightly forward. We call this the ready and engaged position.
Gestures and Facial Expressions
Body language involves using the entire body, including hands, arms, legs and facial expressions. People are much more likely to be pursuaded by you and buy your ideas if they like you. Remember interpersonal communication means connecting with another person on an intellectual and an emotional level. Use your hands when you talk as it clarifies your intention, gives added explanation to what you’re saying and builds trust with your audience. When listening to others, nod your head in affirmation, but ensure that it corresponds to what you or they are saying. Look and sound alert.
Be Space Savvy
Avoid, where possible, sitting behind a desk when engaging with others, as this creates a barrier. Personal space is very important too. Take note of cues – for instance, if a person is moving away from you, you are invading their space. However, if you have too much distance between you and your audience, the greater the psychological distance will be.
Practice Voice Control
Avoid the monotonous one-tone when speaking. If someone stops listening or starts getting impatient, change your delivery. Try using contrast and variety in your voice and tone, show enthusiasm and sincerity, and remember to smile.