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5 Body Language Tips for Increasing Your Curb Appeal


Thu Sep 05 2013

5 Body Language Tips for Increasing Your Curb Appeal

A long time before your performance proves them right or wrong, people will have made an emotional decision about whether to follow you, trust you, or even listen to you. They’ll do that by evaluating your curb appeal.

In The Political Brain, Drew Weston talks about curb appeal as one of the main determinants of electoral success. According to Weston, “Curb appeal is the feeling voters get when they ‘drive by’ a candidate a few times on television and form an emotional impression.” For years now, I’ve noted that people judge business leaders in much the same way.


So, a question I frequently ask my clients is: What’s your personal curb appeal? How do team members, customers and colleagues feel about you when they “drive by” your office a few times, observe you in the corporate hallways, or attend meetings you lead?

Research shows that curb appeal can be assessed quickly and that many times these instant assessments are startlingly accurate. In one study, subjects watched a 30-second clip of college teachers at the beginning of a term and rated them on characteristics such as accepting, active, competent, and confident. Based on this small sampling of behaviors, raters were able to accurately predict how students would evaluate those same teachers at the end of the course.

Research also shows that these assessments are primarily a nonverbal process. When the audio portion of the video clips was turned off, so that subjects had to rely solely on body language cues, the accuracy of their predictions remained just as high.

From a nonverbal perspective, effective leaders send two sets of signals. Both are very important, but they are each more important under certain circumstances.

One set of signals conveys status, authority, and power. Authority signals are especially useful if you are presenting your ideas to senior executives, addressing a large audience, or giving an interview to the news media. In these circumstances, you want to project competence and confidence.


The other set of nonverbal signals conveys empathy, likeability, friendliness, and inclusiveness. When you are trying to get people to express their opinions or when you are leading a collaborative team, these are the more congruent signals.

Depending on the qualities you want to project in a certain situation, here are 5 body language tips to enhance your personal curb appeal:

1. To show authority, stand. Because status and authority are nonverbally communicated through height and space, the taller you appear and the more room you take up, the more you look like you are in command. When others are seated, you will gain authority if you stand when you speak. (Because they are shorter, this is especially valid for women.) And if you occupy space by moving around, you will further emphasize your authority.

2. To set a collaborative tone, start nonverbally. A savvy executive I know begins every staff meeting by taking off his jacket. He chooses a chair at the center of the conference table (and not at the head). Those behaviors alone would send a message of informality, but it’s the rest of his body language that drive the point home.

Whenever anyone in the meeting speaks, the manager leans forward with an expression of interest on his face, nods approvingly, and gives the speaker full eye contact. With this array of nonverbal signals, he symbolically sets the stage for exactly what he wants the meeting to be—a “rank free” exchange of ideas and questions.


3. To build rapport, “do lunch.” When you share a meal with someone, your glucose level rises. This enhances complex brain activities and regulates prejudice and aggressive behaviors. In addition, when individuals dine together, they enact the same movements. This unconscious mimicking can induce positive feelings towards both the other party and the matter under discussion.

4. To look approachable, uncross your arms. Don’t tell me, I already know: You are more comfortable with your arms crossed. It’s the way you habitually stand, and it even helps you focus your thoughts. All that may be true. But with nonverbal communication, it’s not how the sender feels that matters most; it is how the observer perceives how the sender feels.

Although there are cultural differences to take into account, crossing arms is almost always perceived as a closed sign of resistance. (And, by the way, since the human brain pays more attention to negative messages than it does to positive ones, what people unconsciously look for and react to the most, are signs that you are in a bad mood or are not to be approached.)

5. To signal that you are trustworthy, flash a genuine smile. Humans produce about 50 distinct types of smiles but there's one distinction that really matters: is the smile real or fake? Genuine enjoyment smiles light up the entire face and create crows-feet at the corner of the eyes. When trustworthiness and cooperation is really important, we are remarkably good at automatically detecting leaders with real smiles—and extending our trust to them.

Try these five simple and powerful strategies for improving your curb appeal and watch your leadership effectiveness increase!

This article was originally posted on http://www.ckg.com/. For more on body language in the workplace, check out Carol’s previous blog article in this series.

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