Get Your Body Language on Message - dummies

Get Your Body Language on Message

By Susan Chritton

Try to live by the axiom that actions speak louder than words, including when thinking about your personal brand. Your actions and how you conduct the tasks of the day give others insight into who you are. Body language consciously or unconsciously communicates your feelings or psychological state and consists of facial expressions, body posture, and movement.

Facial expressions

Your facial expressions communicate mood and a willingness to connect with others. A smile is a smile in all languages and, when genuine, opens doors for others to connect with you. A returned smile shows that you’ve had a moment of connection and creates a safe space between you and the other person.

Eye contact demonstrates your level of interest in the person or the topic at hand. When quality eye contact is missing, it’s likely that your interaction will not be perceived positively. In the American business culture, eye contact is associated with trust, and in order to have a positive personal brand, people must trust you.

Some people are so transparent that you can tell how they feel by the look on their face. If this is you, be aware of how your emotions are reflected by your facial expressions and how others receive your expressions. It’s a good lesson to begin to observe how your facial expressions impact others’ reactions to you.

If you aren’t sure what other people see when they speak to you, ask a friend to videotape you during a casual conversation. You may be surprised by what you see!

Body posture

When you were a kid, maybe your parents or teachers reminded you to stand up straight or sit up in your chair. standing and sitting up straight are still important.

Body posture plays a big role when sitting in a group, when you are at an interview, or whenever you meet with someone one-on-one (including when you’re on a date). In other words, your body posture matters in every situation where you’re meeting with someone in person, in a videoconference, or on Skype via webcam.

How you carry yourself speaks to your level of confidence and communicates the attitude you have for where you are at that moment. For example, if you are at a table and are slightly leaning forward toward the other person, that position shows an interest in what the person is saying.

In contrast, if you’re leaning back in your chair with your legs stretched out and hands behind your head, you send a message of arrogance and disinterest.

You can use your clothing as a tool to help you maintain better posture. The more structure a garment (such as a jacket) has, the more it reminds you to stand or sit a little taller. If the attire is too relaxed, baggy, or sloppy, it allows you to unconsciously slouch.

The best way to start improving your posture is simply to observe yourself. Take a moment to notice how you walk, stand, sit, and interact with others. Notice whether your posture and body movements are on or off brand.


A handshake is an offering to connect. It is a greeting that, properly done, says “I am pleased to meet you” and conveys your confidence. A handshake greets the other person with an extension of your energy and sets the tone for your interaction.

You don’t want to offer either a hand-crushing grip or a hand masquerading as a limp fish. The hand-crushing grip conveys domination and competition, while a limp fish handshake sends a clear message of low self-esteem and weakness.

This advice goes for both men and women. If you aren’t sure whether your handshake passes muster, ask a friend or family member to help you find the right firmness that conveys confidence.


How you move communicates either confidence or insecurity. Without consciously thinking about it, your movement can deliver a greater sense of clarity of who you are and what you represent. The way you walk down the hall can signal your level of calm, stress, enthusiasm, or aggression.

How you pass an item to another person can reveal the level of respect you show for the situation, item, or recipient. Hand gestures can indicate whether you’re annoyed with someone or being patient and understanding.

Pay attention to your movements when you’re feeling calm and confident, and the next time you get really upset about something, try to notice how your body movement changes. Maybe you’ll discover that you walk very quickly or use more hand gestures when you’re angry or insecure.

Maybe you crack your knuckles when you’re under pressure, or you put your hands on your hips, or you massage your temples. Whatever movements emerge during those unpleasant times are cues to the people around you that you aren’t on your game. When you become aware of your actions under pressure, you can make an effort to control them going forward.