What happens when the words you speak and your body language don’t match? Audiences will ultimately believe body language every time. Our minds are naturally constructed to surmise intent from our unconscious reading of other people’s body language.
With that said, our unconscious minds are very good at reading the intent of the people by what it sees. When people speak to us, we unconsciously compare their words and body language. When they’re not aligned, we will believe the body language as opposed to the words spoken.
In other words, when we are in a business setting, the audience can see what you are not saying. So if your body language doesn’t match your words, you are wasting your time.
Matching Your Verbal And Nonverbal Cues
- Eye contact. Eye contact is the most obvious way you communicate with someone. When you are looking at the other person, you show interest and give people the impression that they are important. When you fail to make eye contact, you give the opposite impression. It has been recommended that maintain eye contact about 60% of the time in order to look interested but avoiding an aggressive impression.
- Arm placement. The best place for your arms is usually by your side. This will make you appear confident and relaxed. When using gestures, spread your hands apart in front of you, with your palms facing slightly toward your audience. This indicates your willingness to communicate and to share ideas. Using too many different arm gestures can be distracting so be cautious. Always avoid crossing your arms or folding them over your chest as this can indicate that you are shutting your audience out.
- Facial expression. If you want your audience to be receptive, be aware of your facial expression as this is another form of non-verbal communication. A smile will always add warmth and sends a positive message. And conveniently, facial expressions are universal. The facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are the same across cultures.
- Posture. Your posture is directly related to the confidence you possess and project to the audience. If you are slumping, you’re telling the world that you lack confidence and that you’re uninterested in the other person. When you stand or sit up straight, you project a strong message of confidence and interest in the other person. No one is interested in doing business with someone who has no energy.
- Your voice. We have heard the phrase “it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it”. Vocal cues such as the rate, pitch, and volume that you use can have a dramatic impact on how your message is interpreted by your audience. Pay close attention to your timing and pace in which you are speaking, how loudly you are speaking, your tone and inflection, and the sounds that you use to convey understanding from your audience in response.
It’s a vital lesson for all public speakers who are preparing to communicate an important message. Be aware and clear on your non-verbal cues as well as your verbal ones, always make sure that they are consistent.
What you communicate through your body language and nonverbal signals affects how others see you, how well they like and respect you, and whether or not they ultimately will trust you.