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Working from home? Here’s some body language tips to help you communicate effectively on digital platforms

What you can do to build trust, maintain relationships and leave the right impression while video conferencing

Jan Hargrave, a body language expert shares what you can do to build trust, maintain relationships and leave the right impression while video conferencing.
Jan Hargrave, a body language expert shares what you can do to build trust, maintain relationships and leave the right impression while video conferencing.

HOUSTON – Since our body language is the most crucial and sound part of our personality, it can specifically be used to build trust with others. Our body language makes our statements more assertive, enriches our messages, and reflects our confidence; all of which work as the catalyst to build trust. Body language helps us to express our thoughts with better clarity and aids us in creating a better connection to people. This connection plants the seed for trust.

Pressurized conditions, heightened uncertainty and an overall sense of dislocation make it even more difficult for successful interactions. Under quarantine, every aspect of your role is magnified and complicated. We need to reset expectations for how work gets done and adapt our communication style to a new context.

Here are some convincing behaviors/practices that will enable you to exude trust and get others wanting to negotiate with you.

1. Eye Contact

Above all things, your eyes reflect as the mirror of your self-confidence and help immensely in building trust. Maintaining eye contact (60%/70% of the time), “listening with your eyes,” when someone is talking will help build credence because it shows how genuinely you are interested in listening to what they are saying.

Why is eye contact so powerful? It produces the hormone (oxytocin) released by the pituitary gland that is responsible for the human behaviors associated with relationships and bonding. It is commonly known as the “cuddle hormone” because it is released when people bond socially.

Blinking too much will affect the listener. It seemingly creates an air of being frightened about their words.

2. Employ Your Triple Threat Method

That’s when you correctly and deliberately use your hands, posture and eye contact to show intention and interest during a virtual call or while social distancing yourself from another person. Begin by matching your body position, movements and facial expressions with those of your talking partner.

3. Raised Brow

Your forehead gives significant signals. Raised brows show engagement, attention, curiosity, and surprise. Pulled together brows translates the expression of sympathy and concern for someone’s troubles. Disbelief and/or interest are indicated by one single brow raise.

4. Nodding and Smiling

When someone is interacting with you, let the other person realize that you care for their words and that you are genuinely listening to them. Nodding your head while they are talking and explaining things shows that you agree and accept their thoughts and consider their opinions. Why are two head nods better than three head nods?

Smiling is never wrong and it is in itself a potential weapon in today’s life. Your smile can disarm anyone, even your enemy. Smiling genuinely will relax any situation. Smiling when encouraging people magnifies your message. A prolonged, painted-on-your-face smile will make you look fake.

Alert yourself to the congruence between facial expressions and words spoken. Become an expert on the 7 universal basic facial expressions: Anger; Contempt; Happiness; Sadness; Fear; Surprise; and Disgust.

5. Uncross your Arms & Legs

Do not cross your arms and legs, allow others to feel that you are unbound and opinion free by uncrossing your extremities and disbanding the “Loser’s Position”. Sit and stand in the “Winner’s Position”: retain space between your arms and torso; keep your shoulders up and back; place your chin, chest, and forehead straight in front and slightly tilt your chin up.

Without ever witnessing it done, a blind athlete enthusiastically raises his arms, lifts his chest and tilts his head upward after winning a race.

Do not point your fingers while interacting, it will make it seem as though you are accusing the person.

6. Distance & Body Posture

Maintain an appropriate distance (professional distance or social distance) and a body posture that expresses your interest, your confidence and your firmness. Stand straight, sit up straight, and always face-to-face.

Physical space can designate power. Standing too close can feel threatening to the other person.

7. Pay attention to your tone of voice

Your tone of voice can give indicators of you feeling rushed or bored. Keep your voice at a natural pitch. Also check the sound system on your device. Trust, the critical factor in influencing another person is more readily generated through high-quality, non-staticky, media-rich forms of communication.

Pay close attention to the patterns in the tone of oral and written communication of others too. Rate, volume, pitch and inflection of voice communication and physical gestures in video communication can help you identify early if others may need some additional support.

8. Model optimism and concern

Optimism is contagious. People who demonstrate hopefulness and confidence in the future are better able to help others find meaning and purpose in work, especially during stressful conditions. Be a highlighter of others, pass out “gold stars” for contributions and awesomeness. Elevate those around you by applying the power of expectation (Pygmalion Effect: creating a blueprint that comes to life).

Showing your concern about another and their affairs builds trust. Be attentive, tilt your head forward to show interest.

9. Maintain a Less-Is-More Movement Attitude During a Video Call

Too much movement during video conferences can be distracting; it is preferable to stay seated or stand in one place. Remember to look at the camera to directly address the audience and keep your hand gestures close to your body so that others can see them.

Research has found that when your audience sees your face (and most especially your lips) clearly, they can actually anticipate what you’re going to say before you say it, thus easing up communication.

10. Emphasize Likeability and Warmth

Use the “similarity-attraction-effect”: Birds of a feather flock together.” Look for “me too” instead of pointing out differences. Threads of commonalities or similarities (people, context, interests) help people to bond quicker. You are handicapping your connection whenever you or your client says a version of “not me.” The “me too” is similar to receiving a “heart” or a “like” on a Facebook post.

Be aware that real-life body language “norms” still hold true for virtual conversations as they do for in-person conversations. Distracting mannerisms and angry facial expressions can all be picked up and exaggerated on camera.

11. Display Peaceful Intentions

Greeting people with a namaste, or just the slight bow that goes with it are perfectly advisably now. The idea in warm greetings is to show peaceful intentions. A simple nod and smile, from the proper distance, is always sufficient when greeting someone during this social distancing period. Do you lift your chin or lower your chin when you greet someone from 6 feet away?

The greatest gift we can give people we encounter is to help them feel that they belong and that they are accepted for who they are. Why is belonging important? Abraham Maslow’s classic hierarchy of needs theorized that all people have 5 basic needs that must be met in order to thrive: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, Self-actualization. Notice that after our basic food and shelter requirements, our top 3 needs become dependent on nourishment from our relationships. Every single interaction is an opportunity to understand more about yourself and the people you are with.

TV host and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey quotes: “There’s one desire we all share: we all want to feel valued. Each of us at the core, longs to be loved, needed, understood, affirmed; to have intimate connections that leave us feeling more alive and human.”

CHALLENGES

  • Next time you are speaking with someone, try finding three commonalities in the first 5 minutes.
  • If you don’t recognize an expression, mimic it and see how it makes you feel.
  • Test your Emotional Intelligence by completing this online facial recognition quiz.
  • Look for the 7 micro-expressions (Universal Facial Expressions) as you listen.
  • Attempt a one-day “Vow of Silence” in your attempt to be a better listener.
  • Practice engaging in 60 to 70 percent eye contact during your interactions.

Connect with Jan on Facebook for more helpful tips.

Jan Hargrave is a body language expert and CEO of Jan Hargrave & Associates, a Houston-based consulting firm. She’s also the author of: Let Me See Your Body Talk, Freeway Of Love, Judge The Jury, Strictly Business Body Language, and Poker Face.

For more information on this topic, click here.


About the Authors:

Heather Kansteiner is a supervising producer for Houston Life. She has been part of the team since the show launched in 2016. She loves all things Houston and enjoys sharing what makes the city a great place to live, work and play.