The Science of Body Language and Executive Presence (EP)

Your body language and gestures say more than 80% of what people actually glean from you.  This is observed either as you presence your ideas or participate in a general conversation.  How then can you become unconsciously competent about your communications style? Let’s start with a little explanation of terms.

There are many different psychology and behavioral assessment models that use the FOUR QUADRANT process to convey their meanings. One of those is from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.   Another is from the Johari Window, created by Joseph Luft.   The following explanation, FOUR STAGES OF COMPETENCE, follows the same behavioral assessment pattern.

     The first stage is the unconscious incompetent. Let’s say that at this stage we don’t know what we don’t know. As a baby, a person is born with all of the capabilities that they will ever have. Some will be developed and others will not be. The baby starts in life not doing a whole lot of anything except eating, sleeping and other things not to be mentioned right now! The baby doesn’t know anything about walking or talking for that matter. So there the baby lies. The baby is unconsciously incompetent at the early part of life. Walking or talking is not a part of their thinking at that time although the capability exists. Eventually, after a few months on the planet, the baby becomes aware of walking as the entire family demonstrates it. Now the baby is at the level of conscious incompetence. There is an awareness that walking exists but the baby doesn’t know how it exists. So the baby is ready to learn. With all of the encouragement and help in the world, the baby is now moving a long on little unstable legs to a level of conscious competence. And then months into this journey the baby can move along carefully and then in a twinkling of an eye, the baby is now speeding along like lightning with no help at all. By the fourth stage,  the baby is fully capable of walking and running independently– unconsciously competent!

As with the baby, we are all like that in the varying areas in which we have opportunity to learn and mature. The swiftness of our progression is a matter of desire and the valiant effort we make in turning these desires into reality. This speaks to our use of body language and gestures in order to reinforce our Executive Presence.

EP is unseen, yet, very real. People who possess it tend to exude great confidence. Others know it and feel it. How is it conveyed  both tangibly and intangibly? Here are some of the aspects of body language that contribute to EP and the enhancement thereof:

  • Posture: Standing comfortably erect at all times is important. Make sure that you move your shoulders back while standing and sitting. It may be helpful to sit on the edge of a chair and practice this. Be aware of how it feels to you so that you can become unconsciously competent in your stance.
  • Handshake: Use a firm but not bone breaking grasp when shaking others’ hands. Please be concerned with sweating palms. If necessary, carry a small cloth/handkerchief that you can use to dry your palms throughout the day.
  • Glance (Look): Look people in their eyes yet don’t stare. Also be careful not to drop your eyes when someone looks at you. Instead, give them a nod or smile in acknowledgement before turning away from their visual overture.
  • Focus: When you are interacting with people remain present with them by giving them the courtesy of your full attention. Minimize being distracted by a passerby or others that may attempt to engage you. If you only have a short period of time, make that known to the person you are speaking with by saying something like ‘I only have a few moments right now. Maybe we can catch up after dinner.’ Or ‘Can we connect next week? Let’s schedule lunch/coffee/a call’.
  • Body Action: Move with confidence and not timidity. Never stand looking bewildered or lost. Be purposeful in moving/standing/sitting.  Always have your materials/equipment together not looking disheveled and unorganized. Learn the appropriate decorum for dining and table manners for restaurant and banquet affairs. At a sit-down meal avoid ordering food that requires being handled by your hands to eat as well as such items as spaghetti which can stain/spot your clothing.

 

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