Elevate Your Influence with Body Language

communication leadership Aug 02, 2023

#LeadandLift | Episode 81 | Richard Newman

Do you want to enhance your communication skills and increase your influence as a leader or professional in business? If so, I have the solution for you. Join us as guest speaker Richard Newman shares the key to achieving effective communication through mastering the art of body language.

Richard Newman is the founder of Body Talk. At age 18, he started his mission to discover the core communication principles and he ended up discovering how you can increase your leadership ratings by 44% if you change a few simple behaviors. In this episode of the Lead and Lift podcast, he shares with us a few tips on how we can be more effective leaders and communicators by applying changes to our body language.

The power of posture

Most people’s posture is for the most part entirely unconscious. Bring your current posture into your awareness and take note of it as you try and apply these posture tips. Whether we’re speaking to a camera in a Zoom call or speaking to a group of people, posture is critical.

Let’s start with bad habits that you should avoid. A lot of people do what Richard calls the “off-center shuffle” which is standing in a position of anti-gravitas. People want to see leaders that have a sense of authority and leadership.

If you stand or sit in a position where your weight is leaning and gravity is pulling you down on one side, people will see that you can fall over from one shove and will subconsciously believe that you are in a position of weakness.

Now that you know the bad, then here’s what you should replace those bad habits with. Shift your body to a more centered position. If you are sitting or standing, your posture should be upright. Gravity is going directly down on your torso, and you’re evenly balanced between your left foot, your right foot, your toes, and your heels.

Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Making the gap between your feet smaller will send the message that you are subservient. Make it too wide and you’ll be seen as arrogant.

Be aware of the placement of your sternum, which is the center of the chest plates. If you slightly droop your sternum, you will look defeated. If you slightly elevate your sternum, you’ll look confident but if you go too far up, you’ll look arrogant.

Give your sternum a slight lift so that you can convey your confidence with your body language.

What should you do with your hands?

Hand gestures, according to Richard’s research, have been seen to create a dramatic difference in how you are perceived. It’s also been determined that there was a connection between a person’s hand gestures and the speed and flow of their thought process.

They were able to conclude with one of their experiments that stopping yourself from gesturing will slow down your cognitive processing. On the flip side of that, when they were told to gesture as freely and as naturally as they could while answering a question, their score results went up. The experiment showed that their cognitive processing and the intelligence of their answers were improved.

There are many nerve endings going from your hands to your brain. It’s important to gesture, but it is equally just as important how you gesture.

The key to doing hand gestures is to do them between your waist and your shoulders. If you go above your shoulders, it’s too dramatic, but if you do it below your waist, people will perceive that you don’t have confidence in your ideas.

It also helps if you gesture slightly away from the body. Don’t do it too close to your body, utilize your full space.

If you don’t know what gestures to do. Richard says that you can’t go wrong with doing either palms-up or palms-down, the key is using which of them is the appropriate one.

Palms-up is for open messages. This is best used for greeting somebody, or for asking them what their opinion on something is.

Palms-down is for closed statements such as “This has to be finished by two o’clock on Friday”, “that’s my final price”, or “I am convinced that this is the right way forward for this business.” Saying those kinds of statements with palms down will give weight and strength to your words.

If you’re feeling self-conscious and you are not sure which gesture to use, then try those two gestures. Once you get into the rhythm of it, allow your arms to move freely and naturally.

“If you are using palms up for open statements and palms down for close statements, people feel the congruency of that.” - Richard Newman

How eyes perceive your message

Some studies show that for the majority of right-handed people, when they are looking to their left, they’re thinking about the past and when they’re looking to the right, they’re thinking about the future. This means that which direction you gesture can help people see your message in the context of time.

If you are going to be talking about something that happened last week, it would help the audience see you as congruent if you gesture to the right side since it is their left. If you are going to talk about the future, then go to your left, which is the audience’s right.

Because there’s consistency in that movement and people see that it goes in the direction they expect it, then they will see it as congruent.

In Zoom calls, the advantage is that everybody’s closer to you and you can see their eyes more clearly. One key thing to look out for is people’s blink rate. Rapid blinking means rapid thinking.

If you give information to a participant and they began to blink rapidly, it would be worthwhile to pause and check in with them if they do understand.

Having awareness and building confidence

The best application you could have from all the tips that Richard shared with us is to be aware of how we carry ourselves because like it or not, our body language is a huge factor for how our message is received.

It’s important to apply the philosophical principle of the tips as well. Stand and be grounded, be in alignment with yourself and your inner confidence. Do a confident pose so that the confidence inside will match the outside. Breathe deep, build up that confidence, and step in. Deliver your message with power and with confidence.

“Just having awareness as a leader can make so much change for us personally and in communicating our messages more positively with the audience” - Chabidaye Jaglal Ramnath

One of the things that Richard keeps getting asked when discussing body language is, “can you teach me to read other people?” He is always keen to instruct them to start with themselves. Start with self-awareness about what they unconsciously do, how they behave, and what message they are giving out.

If you want to make a positive impression on people, then start with yourself and your body language rather than trying to figure out what people are thinking and how you could change their minds.

The more you become aware, the more practiced you become, the easier it’ll be to go and speak to an audience. You won’t have to be conscious of yourself every time, you just have to keep practicing and keep improving until it builds muscle memory.

On the subject of confidence, one of the things that can really propel people into success is whenever another person is able to perceive and point out their greatness. Richard shared with us how his hairdresser, of all people, was able to see his greatness. The hairdresser was able to see Richard being a teacher, they gave him the opportunity to have his first session with all the hairdressers. Those were the first audience that he shared his message with.

By word of mouth from that first session, he has now trained 120,000 people.

That’s why he always advises leaders to see the greatness in people, see the potential, the person that they could be and you might be surprised by what happens next.

“Plant that positive seed into someone's ear, and you don't know years from now what it will turn out to be.” - Chabidaye Jaglal Ramnath

Gift For YOU!

Do you feel you’re being as productive, influential and successful as you want to? 

Are you struggling to stay focused, to get ahead, or to better influence your team or customers? 

Have you reached a plateau in your progress and struggled to breakthrough to the next level of joy, power and achievement? I can help!

Sign up now for a gift of 60 minutes of High Performance Coaching where we cover the six principles of high performance you can use to better master your body, mind and ability to be more productive and persuasive.

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