Most people would agree that conveying a sense of confidence at work is integral to making a good impression, communicating assertively, and for leaders, to inspiring people to follow them. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that instead of communicating confidence, they’re actually sending messages of weakness through their nonverbal communication.
Emotional leakage is a term used for information we communicate through our body language, facial expressions, and voice, that sends a message to others whether we intend it or not. Because this communication carries our feelings, it is usually more truthful than our verbal communication- the words that come out of our mouths. We learn from an early age that certain things are not appropriate to actually SAY, so it’s easier to keep our verbal comments to ourselves. However, we tend not to have the same level of control over our nonverbal “comments”, and the truth can leak out.
When it comes to conveying confidence, competence, and power, we can say all the right things with our words, but if our nonverbals don’t convey the same message, the words get lost and all others perceive from us is weakness.
Therefore, it’s important when we’re interacting with others, that we use our nonverbal communication to enhance our verbal messages. Here are five nonverbal mistakes you might be making that convey weakness and a lack of confidence to others.
Poor Eye Contact.
Eye contact is your primary tool for communicating nonverbally with others. It communicates your interest, confidence, and level of involvement in a conversation. If you’re not making eye contact, or look away frequently, you may be communicating to others that you’re insecure, unprepared, or evasive. Eye contact should be made and held for at least a few seconds when talking with others. It’s okay to blink or look away occasionally, but when you’re talking to someone, you should be making consistent eye contact with them throughout the conversation.
A Weak Handshake.
In business, your handshake is a huge part of the first impression you make on others. If your handshake is weak, too soft, only grasps the fingertips of the other person, or otherwise feels like a dead fish, you may be perceived as weak, soft, or powerless.
A “good”handshake is firm, with palms clasped web-to-web. The firmness of the grip should be fairly closely matched to that of the other person. For more tips on avoiding weak handshakes, read this previous blog post!
Fidgeting can be any gesture that becomes a distraction or draws attention away from what you’re trying to communicate. Whether it’s twirling a ring, tapping your pen, or playing with your hair, fidgeting indicates a lack of interest and/or nervousness. However, appropriate gestures add to communication and help reinforce your messages. Therefore, use only use meaningful hand gestures that illustrate your points.
Excessive Speech Disfluencies.
A speech disfluency is something that interrupts the normal flow of speech, such as “um”, “uh”, “like”, and “you know.” Most people have speech disfluencies now and then.
However, uh, when they, um, become, uh, excessive. Uh, they become, like a distraction, you know, and like make you seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about, you know?
If you conduct meetings or speak publicly, you can identify your disfluencies easily by recording yourself and listening to the playback. A great way to get rid of disfluencies is to simply sit down with another person and talk. Ask the other person to stop you if you say, “um”, “uh”, or whatever disfluency you’re trying to eliminate. If you do, start your conversation over again. You’ll find after having to stop and start over a few times, that you’ll think more carefully about what you’re going to say and the disfluencies will start to go away.
In my “Dress for Success” workshop, I tell participants that like it or not, people’s first impression of you is formed within 30 seconds! In that time, people make decisions about your trustworthiness, intelligence, competence, and other factors- mostly from your appearance. What impression do you think you make if you wear excessive jewelry, a too tight blouse, and a too short skirt? What about a shirt that’s gaping at the buttons, pants that are too short, scuffed shoes, and a tie with a week’s worth of food stains? If you want to be treated with respect and to convey power, you need to present a polished, professional, image each and every day.
Many people don’t think about time as being a form of nonverbal communication. Tell that to people who have waited on a friend or colleague who is always late. They’re getting a message! They hear, “you don’t care about me,” “you don’t think my time is as valuable as yours,” and “you’re unreliable.” Being even a few minutes late can convey to others that you don’t care, that you’re not fit to be in charge, that you’re disorganized, and that you can’t be trusted. Lateness is a particular pet peeve of mine because it is TOTALLY within your control to be on time, at least 99% of the time. I recently hired a contractor that was 20 minutes late to our first meeting. What message do you think that sent to me? However, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and met with him again. He was 20 minutes late the second time as well. Do you think I’ll refer him to my colleagues? Not likely. Although he had reasons for being late, none of them were good enough. Traffic isn’t an excuse- you should have left earlier! Get organized, get prepared, and be on time! Just do it!
Agree? Disagree? Comment and let me know your thoughts!
Amy Castro is a workplace communication expert, speaker, trainer, and writer of The Performance Communication Blog. She also authored the book, Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done. If you’re interested in having Amy present a workshop for your organization or speak at your next event, go to www.amycastro.com/programs/.