My eyes, they are hazel and they have a tendency to change colors. I used to think that it had to do with the level of the light in the room, but I have learned otherwise over the past few years. Turns out that my eyes tend toward brown during periods of stress in my life – the greater the stress level, the darker the color. Conversely, during periods of calm, my eyes blaze green. The light in the room doesn’t much matter! It is a phenomenon that I cannot directly control and now that I have let out my secret, you will have a better sense of my state of mind the next time we see one another.
Oh, and then there is this little gem: When I am caught off guard, surprised, embarrassed and sometimes when I’m mad, I blush. Ugh. It is so awful! It, too, is difficult to control. I wish that I could and I try, but often to no avail.
Lest I reveal too much and share with you all of my unfortunate non-verbals, I will stop there. But, I ask you (rhetorically, of course), what are your non-verbals? That is, what does your body language say about how you are feeling, what you think of the person you are with, how good you feel about the conversation? Have you found a way to manage them? Do others know your hand as soon as something significant happens? How do you fare in a poker game?
Non-verbals could include the inability to maintain eye contact, looking down, sweating, flashing a deer-in-headlights look, etc. Some of these things cannot be helped, but to the extent that we can, I believe that it is important for us to manage our non-verbal responses when interacting and communicating with others. The danger here, of course, is that we may unwittingly project a reaction, a behavior, a lack of self-confidence that will put others on the defensive or put them off, thus damaging our relationships, negotiations and/or working dialogue with them.
So what is one to do? Here are few ideas for some of the ones that we can control:
- Eye contact. Focus, focus, focus and practice, practice, practice making eye contact. Do this until it becomes less of a chore and more of a habit. Consciously make the decision and the effort to not look away. The ancillary benefits here include a boost in self-confidence and more focus on the person with whom you are interacting.
- Sweating and loss of breath. OK – this one is difficult. But, do this. Focus on your breathing. In through your mouth, out through your nose. Slow your breathing down. Please, not to the point of hyperventilation! But enough so that your heart slows to a regulated pace, you feel calmer, cooler, ready for the conversation or interview or pitch or whatever it is that is stressing you out!
- Know what your hands are doing. Take a few days, before a potentially stressful situation, and pay attention to what you do with your hands during conversations. Are you animated? Does stress make you throw your arms around wildly? Are you a hand wringer? Hold still! Be mindful of your posture, how you sit, where you put your hands. Best case scenario, they are folded neatly in front of you on the table or desk or in your lap while you are talking with others. No problem if you move them a bit to emphasize a point, but be cautious because you don’t want to signal stress or boredom or more emotion than you truly intend.
So, I am curious – and this time I ask very directly with hopes that you will write back with your answers… what are your non-verbals? What do you think it is that you are projecting through your body language – perhaps without meaning to? How do you manage these non-verbals? What advice do you have for the rest of us? Please share.
And, hey, on a totally different note, I could use your help. Do you know of others who might benefit from the information that I share in my blog? I am working to increase my distribution and readership and it is my hope to grow the CoffeeLunchCoffee community. Please, if you would, share the link to www.coffeelunchcoffee.com with a friend or two (or three!). And, if the mood strikes you, please click “follow” so that you will automatically be notified and/or receive my blog posts to your email inbox as soon as I publish. I am so grateful for your support and interest. Thank you!
2 thoughts to “Brown Eyed Girl”
I often find myself in situations that require speaking in front of large groups of people or having one-on-one conversations with professors or profesionals. My biggest non-verbal give away about my nerves is my inability to stay still. If I am standing I tend to sway and if I am sitting speaking to someone I am usually doing something with my hands. I’ve come up with a few ways to control these movements. If I am standing, I try to stand with my feet a little farther apart than usual. This gives me better grounding and makes it slightly more difficult to sway. When I am sitting, controling my hands is sometimes harder. I am very animated so I talk with my hands a lot but if I am only listening or don’t need gestures I try to just keep my hands rested on the table or my lap.
Great input, Leah. As soon as I read your comments, I thought “of course!” Wish I had thought to include fidgeting during meetings and keeping still while presenting. I’m so glad you added this information as your ideas are very helpful. Thank you!