Can body language really influence what people think of us?
Is it really important how the outside world sees us?
We are predatory mammals who essentially rely on our hunting and gathering skills for survival.
Yes, we are still hunting and gathering every day when we leave the house. It just takes a slightly different format now and at the end of the day we don’t have to drag a wildebeest back to our cave and butcher it.
As predators we rely on our visual skills to size up a situation or a person quickly. We have to decide, is this person or situation safe or dangerous? Is this a situation or person we can exploit to our advantage to ensure our survival?
How long does it take for us to make a decision about someone we have just met? Actually, there has been some research done on this subject over the past twenty years.
Apparently the outcome of a job interview can be predicted within the first 15-20 seconds – yes, seconds – of the first introduction!
We have always been told that first impressions are so important;
- wear a smart suit,
- stand up when introduced,
- reach out and give a firm handshake,
- smile and make eye-contact,
- listen carefully and don’t fidget.
But we have to get all that right within 20 seconds!
I guess what we are talking about is body language which is what other mammals, not having speech, must rely on to communicate, apart from the occasional growls and roars.
How do leaders carry themselves? In this video Vanessa shares how leaders have a different understanding and use of body language–and how we can adopt it.
She gives us a little quiz so we can find out how much we understand about how leaders interact with us.
We can assume that in an earlier stage in our evolution we must have relied on body language to communicate too.
Even now, although we are not really aware of it we are still relying on body language.
It is described as; ‘a type of non-verbal communication in which physical behavior, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey information.’
We are told that 93% of our interactions rely on non-verbal communication. This sounds like a bit of a minefield. We are not even aware of the impression we are making.
It is so interesting to see the body language of world leaders being deciphered and explained. There are so many interactions which are not obvious to us as we see them on a news report.
People with less advanced social skills may not pick up signals that would be more obvious to someone else.
This lack of understanding can cause people to be socially awkward and isolated. As with most things, social skills like this are on a spectrum and we are all at different stages.
How far can we control our body language so as to make the impression that we want? We can all usually smile on cue if we have to but actors can so control their body language as to be able to inhabit a different character to tell a story.
‘lmpression’ comes from the words ‘impress’ and ‘press’ and what does it mean? It is a mark or an imprint, the imprint that we make when we first meet someone.
A Favourite Book
Everyone’s favourite book, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was originally given the title, ‘First Impressions’ by Jane Austen.
The whole plot of the story is based on the fact that Elizabeth’s first impressions of Darcy are completely misguided. As the story progresses and through various encounters she has to completely reverse her opinion of him until she eventually falls in love and marries him.
Darcy could be said to be the type of young man who lacks social skills and is socially awkward to the extent that he appears snobbish, aloof and unlikable.
His rival, Wickham, on the other hand, with his smooth charming manner, is able to conceal his many faults and failings and makes everyone like him, at first.
Of course, because this is a novel the truth comes out at last and everyone knows about Wickham’s evil ways and Darcy’s decency and honesty are vindicated.
In real life it may not be so easy. Can we really change our minds about someone or is that first impression, the mark or imprint, indelible, unchanging?
James Borg shows us how to read body language and facial expressions. He starts with that great quote, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’
For those of us who might be described as socially awkward that might sound a bit scary. But let’s give him a chance. He is very reassuring and makes it sound like this is a skill that we can really learn.
It turns out there’s a 55, 38, 7 rule and the 3 C’s.
55% of our communication is our posture and what we look like. 38% is how we speak and what we sound like. Only 7% is the actual words we say but of course all three are linked and we are right to be concerned about what we say.
We now have a good excuse to practise our favourite hobby of people watching. When we learn all this we will be just like Sherlock Holmes and able to tell all about someone within seconds of meeting them for the first time.