You may have heard before that your handshake can make or break others’ first impression of you and that your posture reveals your confidence. Strengthen your personal brand and the narrative you share with colleagues, prospective employers and others by emitting the right body language. Here are seven tips to improve your own:
1. Work on your handshake. As mentioned, a good, solid handshake makes an impact, while a weak one is just as memorable (but not in a good way). Make yours firm but not overly aggressive: palm to palm and even pressure. Smile and look people in the eyes while you’re at it (more on both coming up).
2. Make eye contact. Sustained eye contact isn’t easy for many people but make your best effort. When speaking to someone, look them in the eye as much as possible and not past them, at the ground or down at your lap. Failing to make eye contact can make others think that you are uninterested, uncomfortable or even aloof.
3. Check for good posture. When you stand tall, you exude confidence, strength and focus. So, if you’re a sloucher by nature, it’s time to push those shoulders back and stand straighter when you’re speaking to colleagues or groups.
4. Try not to fidget. We all get nervous sometimes, but nothing shows that you’re stressed or worried like fidgeting or lots of restless movements. Biting your nails, playing with your hair, fussing with your face, shaking your foot when your legs are crossed—all of these habits can make you seem anxious or timid.
5. Smile. A smile can do so much for your self-assurance—and for the impression you leave upon others. Greeting people with a smile helps to make them feel more relaxed and comfortable around you. Smiling also affects how people view you: as someone who is approachable and caring.
6. Pay attention to your speaking presence. If your job involves a lot of presenting or speaking in front of others, work on your presence. Are you speaking clearly and loud enough that you don’t appear meek (but not so loud you seem domineering)? Do you use hand gestures appropriately to build credibility and persuasiveness? Do you have a poised yet relaxed stance?
7. Listen with your body. Active listening requires engagement. Always give your employees, managers and leaders your full attention. Do this by giving nonverbal cues that you are focused on what the person speaking is saying (e.g. by leaning forward slightly and periodically nodding your head).
In the workplace, you might not even realize the things you say to someone without using any words at all. It takes practice to project yourself in the way you’d like to be perceived, but you can take small steps each day. Firm up that handshake, stand up tall and make sure your body language is speaking for you the way you want it to.