Make yourself heard at work without shouting
Body langugage key to face to face interviews
By Henry Budd
What you do can sometimes speak louder than what you say.
Before they even open their mouths to speak, some people can command attention.
Yet putting a finger on what makes a person stand out from a crowd is difficult. Attracting attention is important in job interviews, where leaving a positive and memorable impression can result in a job.
The Voice Clinic chief executive officer Monique Rissen-Harrisberg says everybody projects themselves differently but some do it better than others.
Rissen-Harrisberg says a person’s voice and body language are as important as their business card.
"You wouldn’t go to a meeting and hand out a tattered, crumpled business card," she says.
Only 7 per cent of communication is conveyed through the words people use, according to Rissen-Harrisberg. The rest of the message is delivered through body language, vocal tone and inflections.
Body language includes posture, hand gestures, eye movements, facial expressions and even general presentation, she says.
When we meet people, individual traits often go unnoticed, but an overall impression is formed.
"Often the person doing an interview isn’t conscious of these ideas either," she says.
"They are not necessarily sitting there thinking, ‘Is this person smiling or does this person make eye contact?’, but they will be faced by an overall impression created by the person coming in for the interview."
Making eye contact, smiling, good posture and a firm handshake (but not too firm) will all leave a good impression, she says.
New Intelligence managing director Steve Longford specialises in teaching "human skills" and says reading body language and facial expressions is a lost art.
Women who have spent time rearing babies are more attuned to reading non-verbal cues, Longford says.
"Unfortunately as humans we are trained from an early age to listen more to the words and the content of conversations, more than what their body is telling us," Longford says.
"From about 18 months of age we slowly lose the ability to read non-verbal cues."
Longford says businesses are going to emphasise human skills training in the future as a way of giving staff an edge.
While a positive self-image is important, learning to read other people has benefits.
Learning to interpret other people’s body language can help us determine whether we have developed a rapport with them or whether they are open to our ideas, he says.
While people may think they can recognise body movements, interpreting their meaning is another matter.
For example, if someone scratches their face does it really mean they are lying?
Longford says people make the mistake of reading too much into single actions.
Crossing your arms is often interpreted as a defensive gesture, he says.
"Statistically there is a greater chance they are crossing their arms because they have a stiff back or they are cold," he says. "But if a client folds their arms, drops their head and moves back from the table, that cluster has more meaning."
Memo to Kevin ’08
Tune the tonsils and lower the tone. It is not just regular job seekers who need to touch up their non-verbal communications.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may have swept to power last year, but The Voice Clinic chief executive officer Monique Rissen-Harrisberg has advice for the polished media performer.
While he needs to tighten up the use of his hands and arms, Rissen-Harrisberg gave Rudd’s overall body language the thumbs up. But it is his sing-song voice that needs attention, she says.
"If he could develop the resonance of his voice and get the bass and deeper qualities of his voice to come through he could project with greater credibility, power and authority," she says.
It was not unusual for world leaders to have voice coaching, she says. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher did years of training to lower the tone of her voice, while former US president Ronald Reagan was a trained actor.
Show your true colours
Not only does your body language and tone of voice leave an impression on people you deal with, but so do all the colours you wear.
The Voice Clinic chief executive officer Monique Rissen-Harrisberg says wearing the right colours at the right time can determine how others relate to you.
Rissen-Harrisberg says people should wear red when they want to attract attention – like at a job interview – but avoid it when diplomacy is needed.
Greens, blues and browns are calming colours and perfect to wear when resolving disputes or entering into a potentially tense situation, she says.
It is good to wear muted colours such as greys, pewter or bronze when ideas are to be shared because they will not deter others from chipping in with their ideas.