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How Your Body Language Conveys Confidence, Intelligence and Trust ... or a Lack There of

Words may have been called the building blocks of communication, but it's what you don't say that can speak volumes about you in a matter of seconds.

In fact, experts say nonverbal communication may actually have more sway than spoken words, according to the Wall Street Journal Executive Career Site. Studies have found that body language makes up 55 percent of the force of any given response, "paralanguage," which includes sighs, pauses and intonation, accounts for 38 percent, and verbal communication provides a mere 7 percent of the response's emphasis.

Body Language

Playing with jewelry can convey stress and anxiety.

That means that up to 93 percent of communication is done on a nonverbal level!

So while many of us may spend tedious hours wording and rewording our upcoming presentations, speeches, interview responses, and more, few of us give attention to the body language that will accompany it--but all of us should.

Why is body language so important? While words may or may not be sincere (how many of us really say what we mean?), our gestures, facial expressions, hand motions, and other nonverbal communication cues are much more subconscious--and therefore can be a much better gauge of a person's real intentions. Especially in the career world, but also in personal relationships, body language can make or break a person before they even get a chance to open their mouth, or it can turn a well thought-out answer sour.

"Our nonverbal messages often contradict what we say in words," says Jo-Ann Vega, president of JV Career and Human Resources Consulting Services in Nyack, N.Y. "When we send mixed messages or our verbal messages don't jibe with our body statements, our credibility can crumble because most smart interviewers believe the nonverbal."

Using Your Body to Your Advantage

It's true that some body language is subconscious. A recent NBC broadcast of an interview with President Bush is a case in point. Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist, described President Bush while undergoing some heavy questioning. "The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts ... he had the body language of a man wishing urgently to be elsewhere," said Milbank.

Still, with a little forethought you can control your body language and, instead of allowing it to betray you, use it to your advantage. Here's what you can do to use your body to convey strength, confidence and motivation, not insecurity, defeat or insincerity.

Body Language

Crossing your arms can make you appear disinterested, bored or standoffish.

For even more tips on how to use your body language, check out "Body Language," a handy highly recommended book that includes an easy-to-read visual dictionary, showing key gestures with their meanings and even revealing the contradictions that can occur between words and actions.

Positive Body Language

  • Strong, firm handshake: Confidence, security

  • Leaning forward, eye contact, hand gestures: Sincerity, confidence, interest

  • Natural tone, volume, pitch and pace of voice: Secure, confidence

  • Eye contact: Openness and honesty

  • Altering facial expressions to match what is said (smiling when being friendly, etc.): Secure self-esteem

  • Feet on desk, hands behind head: Confident, dominant or superior

  • Relaxed upright posture, arms swinging naturally while walking: Confident

  • Nodding: Approval

Negative Body Language

  • Leaning back and looking down: Lack of confidence, aloof

  • Limp, weak handshake: Nervousness

  • Leaning in too close: Could be threatening

  • Weak, soft voice: Nervousness

  • Clearing throat, saying "um, uh," using overly complex sentences: Insecurity, nervousness

  • Dropping head and looking down: Untrustworthy

  • Staring at other person during silences: Increases tension

  • Maintaining eye contact too long (over 7-10 seconds): May cause anxiety or discomfort

  • Rigid, stooped posture, feet shuffling: Lack of confidence

  • Folded arms, crossed legs, picking lint off clothing: Disinterested, disagreement

  • Twiddling thumbs, drumming fingers: Not paying attention, anxiety

  • Clenching or wringing hands, playing with jewelry, sitting on edge of chair, jiggling foot: Stress, nervousness, anxiety

  • Rubbing hair or back of neck: Frustration

  • Touching your face: Nervousness, dishonesty

Recommended Reading

The Top Seven Signs that Someone is Lying to You

12 Signs it is REALLY Time to Leave Your Job


Washington Post

The Wall Street Journal Executive Career Site

The Huntsville Times

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