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What is your EtiQ?

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Body language can say more than the spoken word

By Cynthia Grosso

"What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication that often times speaks louder than words. Your body language helps form the first impression that people have of you. It is comprised of your posture, facial expressions and hand gestures; and as with everything else, it has etiquette dos and don�ts, as it relates to its positive appearance.

Our intuitive mind is very perceptive to body language; it informs us as to our "gut" feeling about people. Your body language reveals the real you, as your mouth may lie, but your body will not. When people�s words do not match their body language, it causes us to be unsure about that person and many times we do not understand why.

One aspect of body language is facial expressions. It is said that the muscles in your face can produce over 5,000 different facial expressions. The two strongest areas of expression are the eyes and mouth.

 Eye contact is critical in establishing trust-worthiness and confidence. It is polite to give the person speaking your full attention. It is important therefore, to watch the face of the speaker and not to roam the room with your eyes. Eye contact shows the person we are speaking with that we are listening; it is how we show interest. But look away every so often to gather a thought or reflect on what is being said.  Constant eye contact tends to intimidate people and makes them feel as if they are being stared down

A smile is another part of facial expressions and is a powerful gesture. Your eyes, as well as your mouth can smile.  You will be happy to know the lines about your mouth and eyes are not wrinkles, but a positive attitude meter. Your smile is a powerful tool in business, as it makes you approachable and open to do business.

Your face can express fear, shock, happiness, anger, disappointment and a multitude of non-verbal communications. However, just as importantly on a professional level, you often times must also be able to mask those same expressions.  

Gesturing is another form of body language. Using gestures can enhance what you are saying and make it more interesting�. too large a gesture however, can make it more dangerous!

Outgoing and confident people are more likely to use gestures.  Not gesturing also speaks of you. It is important to learn to use your hands, as it is considered a sign of honesty.  I suggest you use your hands and keep them visible.  Do not place your hands in your pockets, as people may view you as hiding something. 

It should be noted that while it is important to gesture and use your hands, other than the gesture of the handshake, you should rarely touch a person in a business setting.  People have different acceptances for physical touch and a good rule of thumb is just to avoid it.

Body language tips for being viewed as more confident, trustworthy and credible:
Walk with purpose

  • Move smoothly
  • When introduced to someone, be aware of his space
  • Stand straight without slouching
  • Stand with your feet 4 to 8 inches apart facing the person with whom you are speaking.
  • Keep your arms at your side; do not put your hands in your pockets, behind your back, on your hips or cross your arms.
  • Keep your chin parallel to the ground, do not lower your head or look at the ground
  • Nod your head in acknowledgment of what is said
  • Gesture with hands open
  • Sit up straight
  • Do not plop down into the chair

Your poise and posture, the tilt of your head, and your facial expressions all are indicators of interest and respect for the situation�. even before you open your mouth. How you carry and project yourself will have more influence on people you first meet then what you actually have to say verbally. Understanding and improving your body language is important. How others view you is crucial to your success. 

Source: Article published in the Post and Courier

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