What are you saying when you aren’t saying a word?
Even more than what you actually say, your body language is a key components that defines your first impression. When you walk into a room and shake hands with someone for the first time within that critical, first three-seconds, they have already make judgments about your status, education, personality and intelligence. The study of body language is a very interesting and complex science, ranging from first impressions to how to detect if someone is lying. In this newsletter, I will review three key areas of body language as it relates to first impressions: handshake, eye contact and posture.
From my experience, the biggest mistake women make is that their handshake are not firm enough; for men, it’s the opposite. Like Goldilocks, we want the firmness to be “just right”. How do you gauge this? Practice! Ask a trusted colleague, spouse or friend to give you feedback. Just as important as firmness, is that you shake the whole hand – “web-to-web”. (The “web” between your thumb and pointer finger should meet the other persons.) No shaking just fingers!
Let’s review the steps:
- Extend your hand and arm out, thumb facing up. Your elbow can be slightly bent.
- Initiate “web-to-web” hand contact with the other person’s hand.
- Pump 2 -3 times for about three seconds. Your forearm should also stay in line with the hand. No floppy hands, please.
- Make sure you maintain eye contact and smile.
- Introduce yourself, “Hello my name is…..”
There are variations of the basic hand shake to demonstrate “power” or “dominance” used by those wanting to get the “upper-hand” from the initial meeting. For most of us who are not politicians or world leaders, a basic, well executed handshake is the most genuine.
Researchers have determined that women with the firmest handshakes are seen as more confident and assertive, and make more favorable impressions. Surprisingly, women with firm handshakes were judged more positively than men with firm handshakes!
Eye Contact and Smiling
Have you ever shook hands with someone who doesn’t look at you or looks over your shoulders and makes you feel like they don’t care or are searching for someone better? When you shake someone’s hand, make direct eye contact. Notice the color of their eyes. Hold the gaze for as long as you are shaking hands. Don’t forget to smile. Science has proven that the more you smile, the more positive reactions other will give you. A genuine smile not only makes the mouth turn up, but create wrinkles around the eyes.
Stand up straight! (I can hear my mother saying this.) When we “stand tall”, we are more confident about our own thoughts and convictions. To be positive and encourage interaction with others, you should have “open” body language; arms out palms up. Avoid crossing your arms or hiding your palms.
To demonstrate that you are in charge or “alpha” in a situation, you should:
- Elongate your neck
- Keep your shoulders back and down
- Chest high
- Spine straight
- Weight on both feet
If you’d like more information on how to improve your own body language, please contact me.