Women, Change Your Body Language, Change Your Message
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Do you want to improve the first impression you make? Do you want people to consider you as capable as a man working in the same field? As a woman, you have to pay more attention to the impression you’re making because you have to overcome the initial stereotype that pops up in the other person’s mind when then think, “Oh, it’s a woman.”
In my podcast, I talk about components outside of body language that you must attend to. Pay attention to those and add to your repertoire a good knowledge of body language. It’s an important component of the amount of authority you receive. In fact, it accounts for more than half of what’s learned in a conversation. Don’t you want people to learn that you’re confident, competenError! Hyperlink reference not valid.t, and sincere? If you answered “yes,” then keep reading and I’ll tell you how.
Entering a Room
If you’re walking in with others, try to walk in first. This makes a powerful impression on the people already in the room. If you’re on your own entering a room full of people, walk in the door, stand to the side and quickly survey the room to plan where you’ll go. Perhaps there’s a group of people you could walk over to and meet—in lieu of high-tailing it over to your familiar clan. Or, if you see a group of higher-ups, take this opportunity to walk over and ask them a question related to business. Ewww, is that out of your comfort zone? Here’s how to do it: Approach the group and stand a little outside of their circle and smile, wait for a lull in the conversation, and I bet someone will say hello.
As a woman, you can’t get away with the advice given to men for a powerful handshake. That’s the one where he puts his hand out palm down and dominates the shake. My advice is for you to be the first one to put your right hand out, thumb facing up. It’s important to be the first because that’s powerful, but more importantly, because men often don’t know if you’ll be okay with a handshake. Let him know you are. Also, face him directly—not at an angle, which looks tentative and unsure. Grip his hand firmly and fully—not any of this fingertip stuff. Smile, look in his eyes, and say something.
If possible, be the first person to talk. As you’re talking, try pausing now and then. It makes the impression that you’re powerful and controlling the conversation. One caveat here: If there’s a man present who likes to interrupt women, forget the pausing and use the “just a minute” hand gesture in his direction.
Blinking & Nodding
Just saying those 2 words sounds powerless. Try not to blink too often—it signals nervousness. Try not to nod as often as you do with a group of women. We women like to reassure each other that we’re listening, so we nod. Curtain this body language with men. They take it to mean that we’re either in total agreement with their ideas, or we’re weak and doing the frightened doggie Don’t-Attack-Me stance.
Here’s the double-edged sword: People expect women to smile more often than men. When you don’t smile quite enough, you get saddled with the She’s Not Nice label. So go ahead with some smiling but NOT when you disagree with what someone is saying, and NOT when you’re being verbally attacked. Many women have the habit of smiling when they’re uncomfortable—and when you’re ideas are being attacked, you’re uncomfortable. On a related topic from my podcast on Gender Stereotypes, I was asked if I’d advise a woman to frown when she’s on the receiving end of a put-down. My reply was that a firm, stern look goes over better than a Frowning Woman look.
Imagine if you were videoed for a day at work. Would we see you twirling or fixing your hair, picking at your nails, rubbing your face, fiddling with paperclips, or tapping pens? There are 2 reasons for these actions: You’re either trying to get rid of all that nervous energy, or you’re reassuring yourself that maybe you’re going to be okay—but you’re not sure. Those are 2 Powerless Messages. Stop it!
You can add power by taking control of your body language. You may not be as tall as the men in your workplace, but you can still use positioning to your advantage. Take advantage of opportunities to stand up when others are seated. Occupy your space by putting your arms out on the chair or the table—look bigger and more powerful. When you’re sitting, don’t let your hands or feet dangle, don’t slouch back, but sit up tall and lean forward and look others in the eye. You can do that. Get to it!
Also see: Presenting for Success: Simple Strategies to Add Confidence and Credibility to Your Next Presentation
Be sure to visit WomensMedia to get Expert Advice for Business Women.
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