Slouching our shoulders. Not making eye contact. Constantly tapping our foot. We’d never do those things during a job interview, right? But how do you walk into the building in the first place? And do you know the difference between eye contact and staring? But let’s go beyond the interview. What does your body language say to your office colleagues? Let’s say you’re the office veteran; you’ve been there for 17 years. When was the last time you thought about what your body is telling your co-workers?
In 1971, a professor by the name of Albert Mehrabian published the book Silent Messages, in which he stated the often quoted statistics that only seven percent of communication involves actual words. 38 percent is vocal – the pitch, speed, volume, and tone of our voices. The remaining 55 percent is visual, which includes eye contact and facial and body language. So, when was the last time you stood in the mirror to assess your body language when you’re trying to communicate to others? And is that the best way to gauge our body language? I talked with local body language expert Jayne Brannon Lybrand to find out how we all can improve.
Fake it until you make it?
Lybrand first talked about how to be aware of what body language is, and it goes way beyond just the body. “My definition of body language is any way we communicate without words,” said Lybrand. “Our posture, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures - even the clothes you wear or the pick-up you drive.” When I asked her about the mirror test, she had a better option. “A mirror doesn't work. In a mirror we pose and only see what we want to see. In video, the body doesn't lie until you teach it!” said Lybrand. “To be more aware of your body language you need to use your cell phone and have a friend sit in front of you and ask you questions as you would answer in a real job interview. The first question is usually, ‘Tell me something about you?’ Most people talk forever from when they were born to the present. Then watch it. This is when we see nervous habits - pushing hair back or biting lips or grimacing expressions, eye contact wandering off or looking down, sloppy awkward posture. Notice bad habits and try to stop doing them. Many times, people lose in a job interview because of lack of personal monitoring of what they do.”
Many people don’t realize that the interview begins the moment they set foot into the building and walk to the reception desk. Lybrand had a great exercise to make sure that we’re putting our best step, and posture, forward. “Have a friend take a picture of you standing near a wall. Then do this posture correcting exercise. Stand close to a wall. Press your heels against wall. Then press your buttocks and spine against wall. Roll your shoulders over backwards and press them against wall and then finally press your head against wall. Stretch tall. Then have the friend take another picture from the front while keeping that posture. Take a step forward and take another picture. You will look more powerful and even taller. Think of this exercise when you walk into building for job interview,” Lybrand said.
A series of entrances and exits
When I asked Lybrand to walk us through the best way to let our bodies do the talking in an interview, I loved her initial response. “Life is a series of entrances and exits. As you enter an office or waiting room, look at people like you belong there. I always get the name of the receptionist and find out how long they have worked there and something about them. Shake hands and thank them for their time and graciousness.
“In the interview room, I always believe in shaking hands in the beginning. Sit in the chair and observe the diplomas on wall, trophies and family pictures, etc. You can tell so much about a person by observing a person’s office, sometimes more than even talking. Don't be afraid to ask about pictures. Try to connect to the person past getting the job.”
Perhaps the best advice Lybrand gave about the job interview, or having any conversation for that matter, was regarding eye contact and being a good listener. “Eye contact is critical. Good eye contact isn't staring someone to death where they feel uncomfortable and rush to get rid of you. Look into their eyes - don't look at someone - look into their eyes. Sit up straight in chair when interested in what they are saying nod your head or say, ‘uh huh.’ A vertical nod and then jaw turned to left side looks very sincere. Write questions down to ask later so you don't interject while they are talking,” said Lybrand. “I've seen many people talk themselves out of a job but I've never seen anyone listened themselves out of a job. Be interesting. Be the person this person would want to get a bite of lunch with…approachable and kind.”
Hide your crazy
While many of the above techniques work in job interviews, Lybrand had some other fabulous tips for using the right body language in our everyday workplace. “Having good posture and smiling and waving at people are so important in relating to other employees,” said Lybrand. “Hide your crazy. Don't slam your hands on your desk and show anger. It is so important to keep anger inside and write anger situations down without exploding. In meetings, watch out for rolling your eyes or making a loud “huh.” Try to talk privately to employees you have squabbles with and use humor when appropriate.”
Based in Bedford, Jayne Brannon Lybrand is a body language specialist, communications consultant, vocal and stage presence coach to the stars, author and motivational speaker. She is available for keynote and workshop and leadership seminars and group or in-person coaching in her studio. For more information, please visit www.jaynelybrand.com.