Managing Your Body Language When the Stakes Are High

By Elizabeth Kuhnke

Part of Body Language For Dummies Cheat Sheet

An unconscious movement, an inadvertent gesture or an unwitting facial expression can give your game away faster than a speeding bullet. Below are a few tips for containing and controlling your body’s movements.

  • Breathe with consciousness. Be aware of the air entering and leaving your body. Breathe slowly and deeply, allowing the nurturing oxygen to calm your nervous energy.

  • Drop your shoulders. Gently release your shoulder blades, letting them meet at your spinal cord. Experience the sensation of tension melting downwards, escaping through your feet.

  • Expand your upper body. Feel your ribcage swell in front, around your sides, and into your back. Experience the sensation of being bigger than you are.

  • Hold your head in a neutral position. When you’re standing or sitting, keep your chin horizontal to the floor. Jutting your chin upwards, or letting it sink into your chest sends out signals of aggression and depression, respectively. Holding your head horizontally demonstrates strength, focus and direction.

  • Keep your face still. Vladimir Putin is an expert at maintaining a still face. Inscrutable, impenetrable and impermeable, his stone-like mask conceals what he’s thinking, leaving the rest of us wondering what he’s got in mind. Avoid lip chewing, nostril flaring, and eyeball rolling if you want to demonstrate control.

  • Contain your hand gestures. Flapping hands and fidgeting fingers are signs of stress. Loosely interlock your fingers and let them sit quietly in your lap or on the desk in front of you. You may also find that resting one hand rest on top of the other prevents them from leaking information you’d rather not reveal.