As the leader of your small business, you need to inspire and persuade those around you, whether they are prospects, team members, vendors, potential partners or funders. Most of us prepare the words and ideas we want to communicate, but do we think about what our body language is saying?

Research reveals that nonverbal cues can drown out language. A University of California study showed that only 7% of a message’s impact is conveyed by words, while 38% is conveyed by tone, volume, rate, and pitch of speech, and 55% by facial expressions, hand gestures, postures, and other forms of body language.
Learn to use body language to your benefit by following these tips:

Assume powerful postures
A 2010 study conducted by researchers from Columbia and Harvard Universities found that participants who engaged for two minutes in “high-power poses,” where the body takes up more space and limbs are open, experienced an approximately 20 percent increase in testosterone levels and a 25 percent reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. Consider looking up photographs of power poses on the Internet so that you can use them to boost confidence and lower stress.

Practice relaxation
A relaxed posture generally indicates that you are comfortable and can help put others at ease as well. Remove tension from all parts of your body. Keep your muscles loose and movements fluid. Breathe slowly and steadily. Before a meeting or presentation, relieve tension with deep breathing exercises—slowly inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth—or meditate to clear your mind.

Give a firm handshake
A firm handshake makes a good first impression, particularly in professional relationships. It shows strength and confidence. Make sure your handshake is firm without crushing bones. A good handshake should be accompanied by eye contact, should last about three seconds, and can include a pump or two from the elbow, according to etiquette advice.

Use eye contact
Delivering tough news is when we are most likely to waver. Maintain eye contact to show attention and interest, but keep it soft. Prolonged eye contact can be seen as a sign of aggression and can make a person feel threatened or intimidated.

Learn from the body language of others
Observe the body language of others to learn more about nonverbal cues. This knowledge can help you evaluate the sincerity and intentions of others in your business interactions. Keep in mind that cultural differences and personality traits such as shyness can result in nonverbal cues that are easy to misread. Unscrupulous people may also alter their body language to intentionally mislead you.

Is your body language at odds with your business goals? With a little time and effort, you can master your movements to help support your verbal message and earn the trust and respect of your business associates.

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