Fast facts regarding your Body Language

You might be conveying more than you think.

By Gary Markell

nonverbal brainWhat kinds of signals are you conveying with non-verbal communication? Countless books have been written on the subject, but how many people take seriously one of the most important aspects of daily life?

Focusing upon how well you will do regarding interviewing, relating with management, dealing with clients, and functioning in teams, must include careful consideration of your non-verbal communication. These unspoken influential transactions can be conscious but often times will be unconscious and unintentional.

I have heard from hiring authorities in the past after interviewing candidates who have said, “Everything seemed to go well, however there is just something, I can’t put my finger on it, a gut feeling that makes me hold back”. I wonder how much poor body language had to play in those cases of, “gut feeling”, scenarios.

non-verbalWe usually identify communication with speech, however communication is composed of two categories – verbal and nonverbal. In fact most authorities agree that non-verbal has the greatest influence regarding how our communication is translated.

Non-verbal includes: Touch including hand-shaking, eye contact, hand or arm and body movements, facial expression, posture, appearance and how we dress, and tone and pitch. It is important to be alert and even proactive regarding these subliminal persuaders. Regarding this subject, here are some basic areas to focus upon.

  1. Touch including handshaking:


Generally never touch unless you are invited to, such as in a handshake or if you have a relationship that merits it. Stay outside a person’s personal space. (12 to 18 inches minimum)


An appropriate touch at the right time such as squeezing a shoulder can send a thoughtful affirmation. Regarding handshakes, typically a firm and not a vice-grip handshake is best. Women should also shake firmly and not faintly.

  1. Eye-Contact


Darting glances, or looking down: This can translate a feeling of disinterest, indicating poor listening skills or a lack of confidence. Never stare challengingly without blinking. There is a big difference between “eye-contact” and “staring”.


Make comfortable eye contact often and consistently when the other person is talking. It indicates that you have interest in what they are saying, and that you value the topic.

  1. Body Movements


Fidgety movements: Conveys uncertainty

Folding of the arms: Conveys doubt, objection or disbelief

Tilting the head to one side: Conveys that you do not understand or perplexity

Tapping your fingers or pen: This can convey impatience or disregard


Leaning forward slightly: Can often convey interest and enthusiasm

Jointing fingertips upwardly: usually conveys positive deliberation or contemplation

Arms to the side or with hands folded in your lap: This conveys openness, and comfort.

  1. Facial expressions – by far the best indicators of true emotion.


Raising eyebrows: This usually indicates dismay, cynicism, and objection.

Squinting/lowering eyebrows: Usually indicates Annoyance, and can also indicate deception.

Frowning/No smiling: Translates dislike, and disapproval.

Eyes looking up or rolling back: Shows contempt, disapproval or disrespect.


Smiling: This may be the most powerful expression as it conveys many positive emotions.

Slightly nodding the head: Shows understanding, confirmation, and agreement.

  1. Posture


Slouching – This is an outright sign of carelessness, indicating a lack of interest.


Shoulders back, sitting upright, with head looking forward. Shows discipline and respect to those you are interacting with.

  1. Appearance and attire


In a business or interviewing settings you will send the wrong message if your image shows a lack of personal care. Untrimmed free-flowing facial hair is a standout appearance no-no.


It is not necessary to go out and buy the most expensive clothes. Just make sure the clothes you have are clean, with no wrinkles and right for the occasion. Shine your shoes and make sure your socks match. Neat-n-clean sends a message that you care, and want to make a positive impact.

  1. Tone and Pitch


Speaking loudly – This can irritate most often and comes across as if you intend to command.

Speaking too soft – This usually conveys a lack of confidence.

Monotone: Easily can come across as a red-flag indicating questionable leadership skills.


3P’s – Pitch, Pace and Pause. Use a change of Pitch, Pace and Pauses to enunciate, and draw the listener in. It will naturally be much easier to stimulate the message and will be more comprehendible. Make your volume moderate, easy to hear but not so loud that you are recognizably thunderous.

Gary L. Markell

IBM Global Business Services

Check out our careers page: Work for the world. START@IBM


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