Earlier this month we talked about body language and how it may or may not match your brand image and style. I receive a lot of questions on how body language can impact our confidence and credibility. With research showing that over 90% of our communication is non-verbal, it’s no wonder!
This week we’re talking about gender differences within non-verbal communication. Gender plays a role in body language. There have been numerous studies done on the intricacies of gender communications, and I’ll highlight a few of them here:
Hand Shake – Women shake hands with women differently than with men. Women are generally more comfortable shaking hands for a longer period of time with another woman than they will when shaking hands with a man.
Eye Contact – Eye contact has to be appropriate for it to feel natural to both men and women. For men, eye contact can present a level of intimacy as well as a threat. Being aware of the appropriate length of time to hold eye contact with a man, and with a woman, is important. Think “moments” and seconds. If you dart your eyes away too often or avoid eye contact completely, you can appear suspicious or nervous; holding eye contact too long may appear confrontational or aggressive. This is particularly true for men.
Physical Touch – Best practices say it is permissible and acceptable to touch somebody on the shoulder or on their forearm during a conversation. If it feels appropriate, those are completely safe places to touch without giving the wrong impression.
Vocal tonality – When people get nervous, typically the end of their sentences go up as if every statement is asking a question. Men and women vary in tonality and cadence with their speech when talking to each other. Generally, when men talk to other men they tend to drop their vocal tone lower, so they sound more masculine and strong. Women tend to raise the tone of their voice when nervous, fearful or excited. If you know you’re going to give a big speech, or face a difficult (and nerve-wracking) conversation, be aware of the pitch and tone of your voice. It can be a clear indicator of your emotional state.
Fidgeting – Lastly, women need to watch certain subconscious body language messages such as twirling their hair, or playing with jewelry. These can project a flirtatious and sexual overtone. Men need to pay attention to fidgeting habits such as jiggling keys in their pockets or fingering cups or pens. Playing with inanimate objects is not only distracting, but also sends the wrong message and makes others question your confidence and personal security.
Are you curious if your body language could be sending mixed messages? Would you like to learn how to read other people’s body language to ensure you are being effective? Our December 8th Coaching Call will talk about the “do’s and don’ts” and hidden messages behind body language. Sign up today! There are a few spots left: Coaching Call on Body Language.