Stop slouching and sit up straight. Stand with your back flat, your shoulders back, your head held high, and your feet firmly planted on the floor.” How many times have we heard this from our mothers over the years? Well, as usual, they were right. When it comes to showcasing our intelligence and professional abilities, it’s as much about presentation as it is about verbal communication.
No, my ladder-climbing lady friends, we don’t have to act like men to exude confidence and power in the office. But we do have to learn to communicate our special strength as well as they do. “Highly intelligent, extraordinarily competent women too often get labeled incorrectly because their body language tells the wrong tale,” writes Phyllis Mindell, author of How to Say It for Women: Communicating With Confidence and Power Using the Language of Success (Prentice Hall Press, $16). “When you’re ready to deliver that carefully planned presentation, remember that you’re seen before you’re heard.”
When it comes to showcasing your personal power, whether it’s in a boardroom gab-session or a PTA meeting, you want to be sure you are communicating your confidence and strength clearly. Mindell gives the rundown on body power, from head to toe.
Head. Many women tend to tilt their heads, toss or play with their hair, and/or hold their chins down with eyes downcast or glancing upward, conveying that “scared-doe” look. Avoid these postures at all costs. Instead, “hold the head as if it were suspended by a cord from the ceiling,” advises Mindell. Maintain eye contact when speaking to others and feel free to smile. Here, “the solution lies in control: You decide when it’s appropriate to smile.”
Trunk. “Studies find that women tend to shrink into their spaces,” says Mindell. To give off a confident air, appear to expand beyond your physical space. For instance, keep your palms and your arms open, and position your body to openly face your audience.
Arms. Avoid unnecessary movements, such as swinging the arms, as well as crossing and uncrossing them over the chest. Keep arms resting comfortably when not gesticulating with hands to emphasize a point.
Feet. Cross your legs or ankles while sitting down, and you’re being ladylike. Do it while standing, however, and you’re just being mousy. “Keep your feet flat on the ground about 12 inches apart and facing forward so they give you firm support,” advises Mindell.