July 21, 2014
Your nonverbal communication can be open or closed. When it’s open, you invite people to connect with you and demonstrate your desire to connect with them. When it’s closed, you disrupt your ability to connect with them. On some level, they sense you are shutting them out.
Let’s look at four categories of movements and how they either project openness or they distance you from others. When you understand how to use them, you have a lot more control over someone’s perception of your power, your confidence, and your intentions.
Barriers put distance between you and others. They can be an object you put between yourself and someone else—a desk or cell phone, for example—or a body posture.
Adaptors are nervous gestures you do without thinking. They can make other people feel uncomfortable around you, but if you ask them, they might not even be able to tell you exactly why they feel uncomfortable.
Adaptors are self soothing movements. That means that something about doing them makes you feel as though you’re releasing tension. Women tend to use relatively small movements, such as rubbing fingertips together, touching their hair, playing with an earring, and wiggling toes. Men may wring their hands, rub their thighs, click a pen, or drum their fingers on a table.
Some illustrators help you project confidence and openness, and some completely destroy it.
Illustrators are like punctuation for what you’re saying. Some of them are invitational, some of them aggressively make a point, some of them indicate uncertainty, entreaty, frustration, anger, surprise, and so on. In fact, sometimes we use illustrators instead of words, like a shrug of the shoulders. Illustrators can be facial movements as well as hand, arm, torso, leg, and feet movements.
Example: In making an important point to a person or group, an extended arm with the palm up is one way to invite people to agree. Contrast the effect with an extended arm and a finger pointed at the person or group. The latter is an aggressive move that turns your statement into a lecture.
These are movements meant to regulate someone’s speech. Certain gestures clearly indicate that the listener wants the speaker to talk faster, stop talking, or keep talking. They are deliberate movements of the hand or head, for example, putting the hand up, palm facing the speaker; there is a cross-cultural understanding that gesture means something negative, usually “stop.”
In trying to forge stronger professional relationships, choose regulators that are either:
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