Don’t Let Your Body Sabatoge Your Poker Face

I’ve been told I wear my heart on my sleeve. Several years ago I had a manager tell me that exact thing and added that when I am happy it radiates and touches everyone and when I am upset they all know it just by looking at me.

I realize that I am a very expressive person; however I did not realize that I was that expressive and I had to do some very hard work to disconnect the connection between my emotional response to my body langauge and facial expressions. It is a continual process, very much a work in process. Within a busines setting I am very aware of this connection and for the most part manage it quite well. Personally, well…not so much. You can only hone and keep in so much! I’m a put your cards out on the table kinda gal. Again, it is a work in process.

I began my education of body langage in college. I was on the dance squad for our basketball team. As we performed the halftime shows for the entire arena I knew that I had to learn to project energy, learning how to exagerate certain moves, how to be very deliberate on others to maintain a sense of excitement and engagment.

I also learned that I had a horrible habit of rolling my eyes. Some of the guys I hung out with used to tease me because I would roll my eyes – a lot. I never realized how much I did until they memoralized it, but it was a good lesson early on.

So often we think that if we can maintain a stoic poker face than we can prevent anyone from knowning what we are really thinking. This would be an incorrect assumption – on two counts.

1. Sometimes emotions are so strong that we cannot prevent others detecting them on our faces.
2. Even if you keep every emotion in check from beig portrayed on your face your body langugae could be yelling your thoughts to the other person.

Even if for just a moment sometimes our own faces betray us. Think about the look on your face when you walk into a room and see that your husband has poudly displayed a stuffed and sacraficed animal that he personally returned to its maker. Just for an instant that pure horrified thought flashes across your face – seeing that fish or Bambit or whatever it might be. Or when you see that person that makes your heart race, at some point that exhiliration from being near them is displayed.

Body language – oh, the often forgotten and underapprecaited language. How we physically respond to others is very telling. It has been said that at least 80% of our message is delivered through body langage yet we often do so little to make sure our message is clear.

Some actions seem very obvious, for example crossing your arms in front of your chest. This can scream out “Back off, go away, I am closing myself off from you!” It is a message that is almost instinctual in perception. But sometimes it is not the message that you want to send.

Being very petite I get cold easily. I once worked in an office that was continually kept somewhere between freezing and frostbite. Often times when I was meeting with someone early in the meeting when it was my turn to talk I would make mention to the other party that it was chilly in the office and cross my arms. I wanted them to know that the physical act was merely me trying to maintain by core body temperature and not distancing myself from them.

Then there is the trickiness of leaning in toward another. I don’t know if it is age or the fact of having teenagers but my hearing is not what it used to be – I’m blaming the boys. This can cause me to have to lean closer to the person I am speaking with in order to hear them more clearly. But this can be tricky because there are several messages that could be sent in this small gesture.

Leaning in, face tilted up fulling at the other person – I’m interested, pretty much I’m interested in you.
Leaning in, face tilted away for a full view of my ear looking across the room – I’m listening but not very intersted in what we are talking about.
Leaning in, face titlted away a bit looking down or up at the ceiling – I’m intersted in what you are saying and I am concentrating on it deeply.

Add to this the rest of the body, if you take a small step toward the person in their immediate direction that adds to the message of interest. If you simply lean in feet firmly planted it lessens the interest message.

Oh yes, body language can seem to be very complex; however it is vital that you understand how your body communicates for you in order to convey the appropriate message. It is fasinating, full of complicated moves and a continual action/reaction between two parties much like a dance. Take your que from the other party, hold your posture, highlight the points you want to make and you will be sure to maintain the interest and engagement and get that standing ovation.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.

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