When interacting with others, your demeanor is showing all the time. Merriam-Webster defines “demeanor” as
Demeanor: a person’s appearance and behavior : the way someone seems to be to other people
Notice the word “seems” – it may or may not be reality. They way you appear to others may not be obvious to you, but it can impact your ability to encourage, support, converse and approach others.
There are so many subtle indicators that others notice when talking with you that if you tried to focus on them all, you would lose track of the conversation. But I wanted to run a few past you that I think may help when addressed. I fail at many of these from time to time, but always strive to improve.
And now – the list begins:
Connecting with People
You have to connect with people when interacting – it all starts with some body language.
Make direct eye contact when talking
This is pivotal in connecting with the other person. Some may be more reserved and avoid direct eye contact and it is taken as not listening. I remind myself of this one all the time. It is not so much that I avoid eye contact, just that I find myself averting my eyes when I ponder something that someone says. I just look away and start thinking about what was just mentioned. Others take that as disregarding the very words that I am actually focusing on. My bad. I often tell others that I am sorry for looking away and that I was thinking hard on their words. At any rate, my focus looks to others like disregard.
When speaking with others, look directly in their eyes. Do not stare for too long, a glance away every so often cut the awkwardness that some might feel by intense staring. But make sure that you look at the person speaking and turn your body and shoulders to face them directly. Do not glance at them from the side.
Turn your full focus and body toward them.
In a support role, many people will come to you to ask questions while you are doing other things. Stop what you are doing, turn toward them and look them in the eye. Do not keep typing and focusing on what you were doing. Allow yourself to be interrupted. And when interrupted, stop what you are doing.
If you are sitting at your desk, stop typing and lean back away from your computer. Do not leave your hands on the keyboard as if you will go back to your work the minute they pause. Push your chair away from your desk, turn your shoulders toward the person speaking and listen. Better yet, get out of your chair so that you are at eye level with them.
Don’t build walls
Make sure your gestures and body language do not put people off. I often find myself crossing my arms when in a relaxed position. Body language experts say that this is a defensive posture. It is not for me, but I find that others may think it is. So I make an effort to not fold my arms across my chest and leave them at my side.
Be aware of your facial expressions. A furrowed brow or a raise eyebrow might be taken by others as a negative thought in your head. I find myself chuckling under my breath at someones words not in disbelief but actually in agreement. When they mention their troubles and I share the same history, I actually smile because I have been through it myself. When I see them flinch, I verbally explain my giggles and smiles as having had the same trouble so there is no misunderstanding. Laughter can be shared and not seen as dismissive.
Other telltale signs of being bored that others might catch… fidgeting with objects or your hands, straightening papers, looking around, checking your watch or mobile phone and more. All of these might signal to others that you are done listening. If you find yourself doing these things… refresh your desire to listen again.
I do not overly focus on body language, but there is some truth in all of the writings of others. Do an internet search – there is tons of advice on body language.
More to come…