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  • Jennifer Hanft

WIB Talk: Winning Body Language With Anna Harb

WIB Talk: Winning Body Language with Anna Harb

The first impression you give is one of the most crucial factors in professional settings. Do you want to be remembered as the individual who slouched, seemed disinterested, and uncertain of yourself? NO! You want to exude confidence and show respect towards yourself and those around you. Remember, ninety-three percent of the information that you convey is non-verbal.

Anna Harb, a communications professor at Bernard M. Baruch, took the time to talk to students about body language. She taught us neat tips and tricks about posture, eye contact, vocal delivery, and the art of power posing. Don’t start stressing if you missed itㅡwe’ve got you covered!

Let’s talk about posture. Imagine you are a tree (I know it sounds weird, but just keep reading). Plant your feet flat on the ground, toes pointing forward. Shift back and forth until you find your center. Now slightly pitched forward, you should feel all those leg muscles engaged. Your legs are your roots, and in order to stay grounded, you must maintain a sense of balance and connection with the floor. Next up is the core, or your trunk. Women tend to hyperextend their backs because it feels good, but what you want to be doing is tucking your tailbone inward while pulling your belly button closer to your spine. Imagine a corset wrapping around your waist. This may feel extremely weird, but stay with it. Your trunk is now firm and centered. Your arms are your branches. They may move freely, gesturing at your own discretion; however, like real branches, they never make contact with the tree. Hence, it is important to refrain from touching your face and body because those are distracting gestures. Keeping your palms open offers a more welcoming vibe and invokes calmness. Your chest should be open, but not too forced because it looks artificial and may be perceived as arrogance. Your shoulders should be relaxed and pulled slightly backwards.

Maintain a ninety-degree angle from your chin to the floor and imagine balancing a book on top of your head. This will cause you to fully use the space around you and present a professional posture.

Eye contact is an awkward action, but it is a necessary evil. It shows that you are listening to the person you are talking to: giving them the attention and respect they deserve. You should be aware of the intensity that you direct at another person. It should be a level of soft and calm so that you don’t alarm or scare the other person. Also, be conscious of the duration of time you make eye contactㅡyou don’t want to make them uncomfortable by ultimately staring them down. Avert your eyes to give both you and the other individual a break. Something to keep in mind: look down as opposed to up. Looking up shows disinterest and impatience.

Professional handshakes: do’s and don’ts. You do want to connect hands crease-to-crease so it isn’t uncomfortable. You do want to make eye-contact while shaking so that you acknowledge them. You don’t want to rip someone’s hand off or stand there for an hour, so keep your handshakes to one or two pumps maximum. You also don’t want to kill them with the grip of death, so be aware of your strength. A nice firm grip is what you want to achieve.

Vocal delivery, or the way you say words. Focus on the top four factors: pitch, pacing, volume, and pauses. Be conscious of how high or low you’re speaking. Likewise, find the medium between talking too fast or too slow. Most people tend to rush what they say because they’re nervous. Slow down and pace yourself. Make sure you speak loud and clear, but don’t use your outside voice! Don’t be afraid to take pauses while communicating. It will give you a chance to think and will reduce your use of those dreadful filler words (um, like, etc.)

Lastly, get yourself warmed up before an interview or speech you’re preparing for. Give yourself a nice face massage to loosen up the tension in your jaw, cheeks, and temples. Do vocal trills to expand your diaphragm and relax them. Recite tongue twisters to improve your pronunciation. Anna Harb’s favorite is, “You know New York. You need New York. You know you need unique New York.” Now try that ten times fast. Practice the art of power posing. Stand with your fists on your hips as if you were Wonder Woman before an event to increase testosterone and decrease cortisol levels. This will help open you up and make you feel confident about yourself. For more information, check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk.

Now that you got some new tools in your belt, go get ‘em.

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