Body language was our first language. It is a non-verbal communication in which physical behaviour, and not words, are used to express or deliver a certain message. Body language involves facial expressions, handshakes, gestures, eye contact, personal space, and tiny subliminal actions which we subconsciously make. In a psychological context, body language is used to convey signals or messages. In prehistoric times it was the means by which a stranger could be evaluated by another stranger which could mean the difference between offering friendship or deciding to kill them. Fundamentally it was a tool for survival in a basic world.
The world’s most common language
Today body language is still the world’s most common language. It is the language that allows people to go to another country with a different language and a different culture and still be able to communicate. It is the language understood by all nationalities in spite of cultural differences. In their best selling book The Definite Book of Body Language, Allan and Barbara Pease say the following:“cultural differences are many but the basic body language signals are the same everywhere”.
Psychological researchers into behaviour believe that body language influences impressions, and, most importantly first impressions. We can describe first impressions as the feeling someone gets when they meet another person for the first time. It is believed that with every new situation, people are evaluated according to the first impression they make. This means that first impressions are incredibly important. We are all human transmitters and with every gesture we make, we send out a message which is interpreted positively or negatively by those who receive our message. That first impression almost always sets the tone of the relationship which follows a first meeting, even if it is short.
Terry Bragg, a researcher in the domain of body language, argues that one usually makes the “first impression upon someone quickly — within 7 to 30 seconds of meeting them.” He adds that it is easier to make a positive first impression than to correct a negative one. This is because the first impression is basically attached to nonverbal signals someone makes. Bragg concludes that for someone to make a positive first impression, they should know how to use their body language to their advantage.
The following tips may be helpful to create a good positive first impression.
1.Eye contact People should always focus on the people they are talking to while maintaining 80% good eye contact. People usually tend to believe people who look them in the eye and do not stare them down or look in different directions while talking with them.
2.Tone of voice The speaker should take care of their vocal quality and watch the tone of their words. In doing so, the speaker’s voice delivers confidence and credibility.
3.Match your words to your gestures The speaker’s words should match their body language. This means that the speaker’s facial expressions should match the words. If, for instance, a speaker’s words and their body language send different messages, the receiver will certainly believe the body language. Therefore, people should take care of any mismatch.
4.Posture The speaker should also take care of their posture. The upper body, according to Bragg, should be centered over the hips. A speaker should tuck their stomach in, hold the shoulders back, stand tall and try to avoid crossing their feet or legs while standing.
5.Avoid arrogant postures It is also believed that a speaker needs to avoid commando postures as much as they can. An example of commando posture is placing one’s hands on their hips or clasping the hands behind the head or folding one’s arms. These postures will send a negative message such as superiority or arrogance or a defensive attitude.
6.Control your movements A speaker’s movements are also of great importance. Excessive movements are not preferable as they convey nervousness. Confident people are usually able to control their movements.
7.Don’t forget to smile Smiling is important as it shows a friendly attitude towards others. The smile must be sincere and true to convey a positive message.
8.Cultural differences Last but not least, a speaker should understand cultural differences because the same body language can be interpreted differently in different cultures. In some Asian and Native American cultures, for example, giving good eye contact is not as suitable as in European cultures.
Patryk Wezowski, the Founder of the Center for Body Language, argues that first impressions are important if someone wants to start any relationship. If one does not have the proper body language, it could convey negative impressions. This negative impression, due to bad body language can ruin a personal or a business relationship.
To make a good first impression and to build a good relationship from the beginning he believes it is wise to show an open situation, often referred to as posture when talking about body language. “Make sure to show the inside of the palms regularly, which gives the other person subconsciously the feeling that they are welcome and their message is resonating with the speaker.”
Confidence is everything when making a good first impression. If you feel confident you will look confident and give out the right vibe. So, if you would like to make a better first impression from today, the best way to start is to explore what emotions you feel when you first meet somebody and to start optimizing your self-confidence.”
Finally, body language is a tool which we have developed since prehistoric days and not to use this tool to its best advantage is a great shame. In fact, in order to create a great first impression we cannot do without body language. So, the next time you meet a person for the first time, remember your body language. Used well it can help you, used badly, it can let you down. Good luck with those positive first impressions!