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Networking – don’t forget you say as much with your body as you do with your mouth

Thu 22 September 2011

As recently cited by the new Dragon, Hilary Devey, on last week’s program, ‘You’ve got two ears and one mouth – so use them accordingly’.

Listening is key to engaging with someone. Showing another that we are physically listening is also important. How would you feel if you were talking to someone and they were constantly looking around or yawning in your face? 

As you will identify from the above example, body language plays a big part in the way we communicate.  And when you meet someone for the first time, first impressions stick – and so let’s take a look at some of the ways we can use our ‘body language’ to create the right impression.

1.    Let’s be open...

When you are open and relaxed with someone, they tend to mirror your behaviour, and so they too, will be open and relaxed with you.  A simple gesture such as crossing your arms, or legs when someone is talking to you – can be seen as a direct sign that you’re not open to listening to what they have to say.  You’re putting up the barriers and closing down communication. So be mindful of this. If you do it because you’re genuinely cold – then say so...

2.    Turn towards them

When speaking if you turn your body to the other person this shows respect and that you are genuinely interested.  It’s effectively ‘opening the door’ and inviting them in to talk freely and openly.  If someone talks to you with their back to you – how does that feel? So it makes sense to turn towards them.

3.    Eye to eye contact

Now, don’t go over the top on this one. Glaring at someone intensely can be a complete turn off and you can look a bit OTT. Conversely, talking to someone without ever looking at them is a bad a talking to them with your back to them. Making eye contact when you first meet someone is important – it shows confidence and interest in that person. If you look away it can come across as you being unconfident or perhaps having something to hide. So, get the balance right.

4.    Relax

Your posture and facial expression will speak volumes about how you are feeling on the inside, keep your shoulders relaxed and not hunched up. If you’re talking to someone who has their arms constantly crossed you tend to feel a bit shut out so try to keep your arms open – it makes you look more relaxed and should make the person you are speaking with feel more relaxed

5.    Smile

This seems like a blaringly obvious one but as a little test ask someone you live with whether they think you smile much – they’ll probably say no. You don’t need to walk around grinning like a fool but a gentle smile when you meet someone can really do the trick. If you have a downturned mouth people can mistake you for frowning and looking grumpy – not a great first impression. If this applies to you – try to think about smiling when you are on your own, doing chores or driving in the car. It will make smiling when meeting new people feel more natural and you might find yourself doing it without thinking after a while.

6.    Nod when engaging

I’d ask you for a day to monitor just when you’re nodding. We don’t nod just when we’re agreeing with something, but we do it all the time to show we’re listening, we approve, we’re happy, we’re interested. It’s such a simple yet powerful engagement reaction. It shows others that you are listening to what they are talking about and are positive towards them.

And last but by no means least -

7.    Be calm

Be sure to come across as calm and collected - easier said than done I know - but there are things that you can avoid doing that will help with this– playing with a piece of paper in your hands or clicking a pen comes across as fidgety and distracting, refrain from doing it if possible. You don’t want people to be looking at your pen rather than listening to what you have to say.

Best of luck and hope these tips can be of some help


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