As a Body Communications Expert, Mark Bowden knows all about the non-verbal messages we send out to the world. He came by the show to chat with Steven and Chris about first impressions and how we make them - both in the workplace and social situations.
How important is body language when it comes to making an impression?
People can potentially feel something moderately good or bad about a person within the blink of the eye. Some say that initial feeling depends 55% on what they see and 1/3 in what they hear in the tone of your voice. Only 12% of someone's impression comes from what you say - so that has little bearing on the impression you make on people.
How do we make a good first impression in a job interview?
- Good eye contact is important - but it should be gentle - if it's too strong it becomes aggressive. A lot of people have been told to look at a person's forehead during an interview - don't do that. It makes you look like you're in a trance.
- If your stomach and torso is crunched up and you spend a lot of time protecting it then you may seem delicate or self-doubting. If you open up that area and move it confidently you show you're confident - so no hunching.
- If you're nervous, understand that your body is programmed to show that stress, and that a little stress shows you care about an interview. An interviewer should understand there's a bit of tension.
- Gesturing can show passion but keep it under control. People get into pointing and that's not a good thing - their fingers become sharp weapons, they look desperate.
- On the flip side don't hang your hands down by your sides. This lowers blood pressure and gives the interviewer permission to go to sleep. So remember eye contact and position of hands.
- Women should beware of fidgeting and men with putting their hands in their pockets. Anything that happens with the fingers tends to get distracting.
- Gesture out from the stomach area but do it in a calm, relaxing, non-aggressive style.
What about first impressions in social situations - a party, for example?
- Bring your hands a little further up your body than usual. It creates a more exciting atmosphere and people think you've got energy.
- Don't stand leaning back, bringing your drink up to your lips a lot. We're worried when someone's mouth is covered - we worry about the information coming out of a covered mouth.
- Make sure you respect people's physical space. We feel comfortable if we can see the other person's feet.
- Always go with a nice smile. Just a turn up of the lips - don't show teeth - that's an ancient signal for "get out of my space."
- Eyebrow raising is a natural, unconscious signal that says ‘I've seen you before'. It's a subtle signal but people are looking out for it all the time.
What about the first impressions we make with our body language on first dates?
- Be warm and inviting, rather than cold and excluding. Unfolded arms, body relaxed and open as opposed to tight and stiff - crunched in on yourself.
- Males should show good eye contact with head tilted to one side, which means, "I'm listening." Avoid aggressive signals - chest thumping isn't needed unless a wild animal is around.
- Point feet towards your date - in both male and female, it is a sign of engagement with the other person. Also good: Pointing knees in the partner's direction or legs crossed in the partner's direction.
- To sit with legs open and chest right forward is an aggressive thing. The male is making his body as big as possible - it's an old gesture - trying to be too dominant.