Being Body Language Conscious

Virtually nothing can be heard as loud and clear as body language. Even if you keep your lips sealed, unconsciously you are sending hundreds of messages by the way you present yourself, the way you hold your arms, your posture — the list goes on and on. During a job interview or at a networking event, you may have rehearsed your elevator speech and practiced your answers to those grueling questions, but if you are “saying” the wrong things with your body language, you can do significant damage to your professional image. By reading and putting these suggestions into practice, you can be sure you make, rather than break, a deal.

Confident WomanMy number 1 rule to starting out a good conversation or introduction is with a strong handshake. None of this wet noodle stuff. Your handshake should be firm but not inflict pain to the recipient.  Make sure it is long enough so they know you aren’t running for the door but short enough that a nervous sweat doesn’t develop. (Gross.)

When you are standing, keep your head held high, shoulders back, and back straight. This presents the image of confidence and ease in social situations. Slouching will give off the message of low self-confidence or laziness. The latter two attributes do not work well when looking for a job or instilling a positive first impression.

Same advice goes for when you are sitting. Most likely, you will be sitting during a job interview or client meeting, so focus on nailing these points first. When addressing your interviewer or other person in conversation, keep your shoulders square on the person. You want them to know they have your full attention and you are not intimidated by their questions or approach. Men, keep your legs crossed or in front of you. Women, avoid crossing your legs. Instead keep your knees together and put one ankle behind the other for support.

Nodding in acknowledgement is also encouraged but refrain from becoming a life-sized bobble-head doll. The goal is to project understanding and agreement, not to attempt self-inflicted whiplash. Also, try your best to not to touch your face, play with your hair, focus on your hands, or pick at your fingernails (clean them ahead of time) during the conversation either.

Remember to smile! A pleasant expression on your face will send off messages that you are interested and welcoming of the conversation and discussion. It will relax the person you are talking with as well. But be sure it is a natural smile. Plastering a fake smile on your face can read as if you are just trying to be as tolerant as possible.

Hands are also a straight signal to how a person is feeling at the time. Fidgeting can send signals of uneasiness or aggression. If you are one who talks with your hands, be subtle and only use at appropriate times. When in doubt, put your hands by your sides while standing and folded in your lap while sitting.

As the old saying goes, your eyes are a window to your soul. Maintaining eye contact seems to be the hardest thing for Eye Contactpeople to do during an interview. Some feel uncomfortable just from the thought of it. It is important to keep eye contact with the other person who is speaking. This is a surefire way to show you are confident, attentive, and genuinely interested in what they are saying. All are great qualities you look for in an employee or potential business contact.

If you put these tips into your daily routine, they will become second nature. Practice them with your friends and family to get the hang of it, and once you are ready to put them to the test, try them out in the real world… then come here and tell me how they worked for you!

Forbes posted a great video with Christine Jahnke, author of The Well-Spoken Woman, discussing how to make a lasting impression through body language.

And a quote to round out this week’s post, one which I love to think about when entering a room of strangers or going into a job interview, is one by Henry Ford that says: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.”

Readers, what do you do to boost your confidence and portray the professional individual you are through body language? What have you noticed in what others do that have had a positive or negative effect on how you view them?

As always if you have a question for me, visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Best Wishes,
Anita

Color Me Professional

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

I’m looking for work and want to be presentable when cold calling & interviewing but it’s hard in this heat to not wear something comfortable. What colors should I lean toward when I am going to an interview or cold calling (in person), etc?  I really appreciate your posts and you always have excellent advice.

Hi, Color Curious,         Woman in Grey Suit

Thanks for the question. Color choices say a lot about who you are right off the bat. It shows all sorts of emotions and personality traits and can even evoke feelings from the person with whom you’re interviewing or meeting. Research has shown that nonverbal communication accounts for 85% of communication exchanges between two or more people. Wouldn’t you want to make sure you are communicating the right vibe and professional language when searching for a job or participating in an important meeting? I would definitely hope so!

You want your color palette to be professional, clean, and not overbearing. I suggest sticking with a solid base color and accenting with brighter colors and patterns. Read on to find out which shades make the grade…

  • Navy Blue – This is the most popular color because it presents a sense of strength, dependability, friendliness,  and light-heartedness — all qualities that a hiring manager is looking for in a candidate. I suggest selecting this color for your suit or main outfit components.
  • Gray – The most popular color after navy blue is gray. Gray is the color of intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, and expectancy. It provides a neutral canvas for you to wear a bright-colored tie or blouse underneath.
  • Black – Black is a great color to incorporate in your wardrobe for job interviews. It is very commanding of attention and suggests possibility and potential. Interviewers may react to this color as sophistication and polish. It can be overpowering, sending messages of arrogance, so I would use this as an accent color or for a top or bottom, but not both.
  • Red, yellow, and orange – Steer clear of these three strong shades. These colors can be overwhelming and can overpower the senses. They evoke passion, romance, and emotional response — not the best thing for job interviews.

Man in Blue ShirtI only selected these colors as a guideline. Depending on the type of job that you are looking for or the company’s environment, you may want to branch out from this modest color selection. If you need more information or need advice, do your research! Visit the company’s website or even call the office and ask what is appropriate.

What are some of your winning color stories? Did you wear something out of the box that landed you the job? How about some clothing mishaps that you wish you could take back? We all know we have some…

For some more color tips, view this video!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Best Wishes,

Anita

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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