Making a Good Impression
Research shows that it takes less than a minute to form an impression about character. Without saying a word, just walking in the room sets the stage. Although this happens at a subliminal level, there are ways to influence the results. All you have to do is ask your aware body to participate.
The majority of face-to-face communication is nonverbal. It has more to do with being present than making a presentation. Facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and how you occupy personal space convey information about who you are and what you can do. Knowing the importance of this, leadership coaches use video feedback and meditation techniques to enhance presentation skills. Making a good impression is something you can learn and practice. In other words, preparing for an important interview, speaking in public, or meeting someone tomorrow begins with cultivating positive presence today.
Because your body sends such a powerful nonverbal message, cultivating positive presence is integral to making a good impression. To show up for success, your body needs to be on board. This means being actively present and developing nonverbal communication skills. Before you begin, it might be interesting to check in and see what your body’s saying right now. What message might your posture, tension, and facial expression convey to a casual observer?
Like most people, you probably spend more time in your thinking head than your feeling body. Even blatantly physical activity like walking on the beach or exercising at the gym gets co-opted by ear buds. Unless you’re a meditator, spending time in body space can feel odd and uncomfortable. Trusting the intelligence of the body seems a stretch too far. If you take some time to cultivate positive presence, it will change this relationship and set your body up to make a good impression. To get started, let’s explore two key aspects of nonverbal communication: posture and demeanor. Or, as I like to say, standing tall and looking good.
Standing tall is more than your alignment. It’s about how you occupy physical space. Several times a day, check in with your body and make sure there’s enough room for your whole being. Standing at the sink or waiting in line, notice if your body is compressing or slumping. Then, as you gently expand your internal dimension to reclaim full height, let everything soften and straighten. This easy adjustment automatically corrects the slump and aligns your body. It also brings you into present time and changes your perspective. Eye contact and paying attention seem easier. You have the stature to see the big picture and your place in it. No wonder, standing tall sends a message of leadership, confidence, and competence.
Looking good is more than what you put on in front of a mirror. It’s about letting go and opening up so your light can shine. Unfortunately, unconscious and habitual tension can get in the way. This undermines your good intentions. Monitoring the tension in your face and body periodically throughout the day will help you identify dominant holding patterns. If you find your brow pinched or lips pursed, get under the tension and open it up. If you tend to tuck your tummy or clench your hands, let them go. Along the way, if you encounter stuck negative emotions/ beliefs/ attitudes, let your breath clear the way. Acquaint yourself with how being open feels and bring it with you wherever you go. Freeing up the tension and negativity not only makes you look good, it opens the way for inspiring words and ideas. As an added benefit, when you let go and open up, your audience will feel seen, heard, and considered. In any situation, this sends a message that you’re a team player, considerate of others, and open to new ideas.
Standing tall and looking good aren’t about pulling your shoulders back, planting a smile on your face, and holding on. This is way too effortful and hardly authentic. To be sustainable and believable, good posture and a pleasant demeanor need to be natural resting places rather than something performed. Cultivating positive presence takes practice and happens over time. This isn’t about thinking it’s a good idea, it’s about getting it in your body. Returning to the simplicity of standing tall and looking good in the most mundane circumstances – waiting for takeout, watching a sunset, or even brushing your teeth – personalizes your experience. The more you use it, the more you make it your own. Then, your aware body can show up to support your best self anytime, all the time. True for in-person encounters as well as Zoom, FaceTime, or even a message you leave online, you can count on your positive, nonverbal message to leave a lasting impression.
Ann Todhunter Brode writes about living consciously in the body. She is the author of the book, A Guide to Body Wisdom. Visit bodywisdomforlife.com for more information.