According to Forbes magazine, our brains make a thousand computations during the first seven seconds we see someone. Are you trustworthy, confident, likeable, or competent? Within seven seconds, a decision has been made, even though you probably haven’t even said hello.
First impressions are more heavily influenced by our nonverbal cues, and sometimes we become lax in our actions or appearance and send out the wrong message.
Have you ever joined a webinar and then picked up a file or turned your attention away from the camera? Your actions declare, “What you’re saying isn’t important to me,” even though you would never turn your attention away if you were meeting in person. Is that what you meant to say?
There are three channels of communication:
Visual – Body language and facial expressions.
Verbal – The words that we actually say.
Vocal – The way we say it (inflection in our voice).
It’s important that we tune into all these channels in order to effectively communicate. Keep in mind that your body language (visual) actually trumps the verbal in communication. Tuning into all three channels can help us understand circumstances and avoid misunderstandings.
We have all heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Experts say:
- 55 percent of first impressions are made by what we see (visual).
- 38 percent is the way we hear your first words (vocal).
- 7 percent are the actual words you say (verbal).
Did you hear that? That means 93 percent of someone’s opinion has nothing to do with what you actually say!
Here’s a list of a few common mistakes we often make:
- Slouching: This body language expresses our lack of desire to be in the situation, let alone in the conversation. Lean toward your colleague to show interest.
- Failure to make eye contact: Looking past or around someone makes you seem disengaged. Even if you’re shy, look them right in the eye, even if you have to look away for a moment. Glance down and then back to their eyes/face.
- Nodding: We do this to let people know we are listening, but it can be misinterpreted as agreement. Tilting your head from side to side is a better alternative than the “yes” nod.
- Closed arms: Whether crossed in front or tight by your side, you are sending the message, “I’m unapproachable.” Loosen up, bend the elbows, and relax.
My challenge to you is to pay attention to your body language over the next few days. Smile more often, open up those arms, and become more approachable. Together we can make this world a friendlier place. Remember the quote by Gandhi, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”