This post was originally published in a different format at SheTakesOnTheWorld.com.
Do you know how much time it takes for someone you’ve just met to decide whether or not she can trust you?
Which means that by the time you’ve said your name, started your talk, or launched into your presentation, you’ve either won the room over or left it cold.
And all those hours you spent worrying about crafting THE most eloquent pitch of all time?
Turns out that finding the perfect words isn’t as important as you might think.
That’s because when it comes to making an impression, your body speaks louder than your words.
In fact, some communication experts claim that body language accounts for 90% of your total message.
Nerves, insecurity, excitement and mega-doses of passion all reveal themselves through your body language.
And in some cases, this “body gossip” can distract people from the beauty and clarity of the message you’re trying to share.
Here are 7 head-to-toe tips to help you understand body language and use it to help you make a great impression.
1. Big = Bold
Whether you’re talking about the unfolding of a peacock’s tail or Usain Bolt raising his arms in victory, when it comes to body language, size matters.
The best way to project power and confidence is to make yourself bigger. Stand with your feet a little wider apart than you usually do. Put your hands on your hips. Rest your arms on either side of your chair, rather than folding them in your lap. If you’re standing up, try resting one arm on the back of a chair or podium as you are speaking.
Think of it this way – the more space you take, the bigger impact you’ll make.
2. Hands above your waist, please.
Turns out that your mother’s high-school-slow-dance advice, though annoying, was right on the money.
If you want someone to trust you, you have to let her see your hands.
If you’re a hand-talker, try gesturing at chest level. It’s called the “passion plane” because heart-level hand-talking stimulates your breathing, boosts your energy and infuses your words with passion.
3. Don’t touch the untouchables.
If you’re under stress or feeling nervous, your body has a built-in system for soothing itself.
Think about the way you might clap your hands to your mouth if you’re surprised. Maybe you’ve fiddled with your necklace or brought your hands to your mouth when you’re nervous.
Stroking your neck and face stimulates blood flow to these areas, which in turn helps us to relax.
But while these habits might help to soothe your anxiety, they’re also sending your audience the signal that you lack confidence and power.
So hands off the untouchables, OK?
4. Belly up.
A great way to project trust is to show your belly.
Yep, I’m officially giving you permission to refrain from sucking it in, covering it with a clipboard or otherwise preventing your audience from seeing it.
The belly is one of the softest, most vulnerable parts of the human body. When you expose it, you’re showing that you’re relaxed and confident.
If you’re wearing a blazer, unbutton it. If you’re sitting close to a table, lean back in your chair to expose your mid-section. And if you’re carrying a notebook or purse, don’t clutch it in front of you.
5. Leave the armor at home.
Are you making this body language mistake?
You cross your legs and angle your shoulders away from the person you’re meeting with so that your crossed leg becomes like a shield protecting you from your coffee date.
If you do cross your legs, make sure you point your knees at the person you’re speaking to. Never angle your body away – it suggests you’re not interested.
6. Keep your movements symmetrical.
Gesturing with your hands is a great way to inject energy and enthusiasm into your conversation. But hand gestures work best when you use them symmetrically.
Humans adore symmetry. It reassures us that order is in place.
If you gesture over and over with just one hand when you’re talking, it will leave your audience feeling that you’re unbalanced. Where possible, use both your hands to convey a sense of balance, order, and integrity.
7. Give her the upper hand.
Business is still done with a handshake. To inject yours with a serious dose of the warm and fuzzies, try this the next time you bust it out.
Take your partner’s hand, pull it gently toward you, and you roll your hand slightly underneath your partners so she literally has the upper hand.
This small, subtle gesture, demonstrates respect, friendliness and confidence…and it will help them to love and trust you before you’ve even said a word.