When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the boardroom and far beyond, our bodies speak a language all their own. Body language, sometimes referred to as nonverbal communication, has been said to make up about 65% of all interpersonal communication.
As humans, we’re influenced not only by the body language of others, but by our own. For this reason, understanding more about nonverbal communication can help us in a myriad of ways to be more effective, authentic leaders.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy shares that during observation of MBA students in the classroom, some students shrink into their chairs, as if to become invisible. Women are far more likely to do this because they generally feel less powerful than men.
Certain “power poses” can quickly change your body chemistry – and alter the way others perceive you, as well as how you actually perform. Just standing in a power pose for a couple minutes before an interview can actually help you ace it.
If you often find yourself shrinking into the invisible woman, try these simple strategies to help you reclaim your power:
Take a stand
In The Definitive Book of Body Language, authors Allen and Barbara Pease claim that a person who conducts a meeting while standing is seen as having a higher status than those who sit.
According to Forbes.com contributor Rob Asghar, the following simple stance can make you feel more powerful – and make you seem more powerful to others: Stand with your feet a bit wider than your shoulders, then put your hands on your hips. Now, “squinch” – squint your eyes very slightly, pinching and raising your lower eyelids up a bit.
If you’re having trouble mastering the “squinch”, just stand with your feet spread apart and your hands on your hips, otherwise known as the “Wonder Woman” pose.
The World is in Your Hands
In his book What Every Body is Saying, author Joe Navarro suggests that steepling your hands indicates that you are highly confident in the message you’re about to deliver.
If you’re unfamiliar with steepling, all you have to do is bring your hands up and touch your fingertips together. It’s sort of like a prayer position, except that only your fingertips touch – not your palms.
Steepling is often perceived as a male gesture – when women steeple, they often do so lower than men. At meetings, women will often steeple under the table – if you do this, take your steepling to the next level – above the table!
If you talk with your hands, try to keep your fingers closed and your hands below chin level to command the most attention. When people open their fingers while talking with their hands or move their hands above the chin, it’s perceived as less powerful.
Claim Your Space
If you’re sitting in a chair, keep your elbows out or on the arms of the chair. Individuals perceived as timid, shy or submissive often do the opposite – they keep their elbows in as a way to “self-protect” – and are perceived as fearful in the process.
If you want to really strike a powerful pose, sit down in a chair in front of your desk. Lean back in the chair, put your hands behind your head, and position your feet comfortably on the desk.
Do you want everyone to know you’re running the show at the next board meeting? Stand up, place your hands palms down onto the surface of the table and lean forward, claiming your space.
At the end of the day, everyone deserves a break. Take yours by relaxing into this power pose – whether you’re lying on a couch or sitting in a chair – stretch out your arms or legs, keeping an open posture.
Fake it ‘Til You Become it!
Maintaining certain power poses for just two minutes can lower your stress hormones and boost testosterone. Many studies have indicated power poses can increase your abstract thinking, help you perform better in meetings and interviews – and even increase your tolerance of pain!
Our bodies change our minds… and our minds change our behavior… and our behavior changes our outcomes.
Want to learn how you can start embodying your power through your body language? Apply for a Bolder Moves Discovery Session. Or, contact me via email or by visiting my website, BolderMoves.com, anytime!
Colleen Slaughter Raue, Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International
Colleen is a transformational leadership coach who guides international leaders as they attain the clarity, courage and self-confidence necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
Her purpose is to facilitate her clients’ transformation from limiting beliefs and self-doubts into a deeper, more powerful knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter.
Colleen’s perspectives were recently featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.