Mimic Your Boss’s Body Language …
According to a study out of Duke University, subtle forms of mimicry can prove useful when you’re trying to win someone over. It’s known as the “chameleon effect” because, in the same way that a chameleon changes the color of its skin to match the environment, people can change behaviors and mannerisms to mirror the person who they’re interacting with. Plus, another study from Nijmegen University in the Netherlands reveals that mimicry increases rapport—and your chances of getting what you want.
… But Be Wise About Your Copying
Researchers at the University of San Diego asked people to watch staged job interviews that featured friendly and unfriendly exchanges between a boss and an applicant. Certain “applicants” were instructed to mirror the interviewer’s mannerisms, such as chin-touching or leg-crossing, while others were instructed not to. Viewers didn’t know which applicants were directed to do what, but they rated those who imitated unfriendly interviewers as being less competent, trustworthy and likable.
The takeaway? Since mirroring can be instinctual, be mindful of how you react to someone who is unpleasant during your annual review or salary negotiation—if other people in the room see you behave in the same way, it could be bad news for your upward mobility. “The success of mirroring depends on mirroring the right people, at the right time, for the right reasons,” says study author and psychology professor Piotr Winkielman. “Sometimes the socially intelligent thing to do is not to imitate.”
Stop Shaking Your Leg
Bouncing your foot or knee up and down can be a habit—or a sign of nervousness. “Shaking your legs while sitting sends a giant message to everyone around you about your inner feelings of anxiety or irritation or both,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. “Your legs are the largest area of your body, so when they move, it’s pretty hard for others not to notice.”
An easy fix? “Crossing your legs at the ankles is the equivalent to folding your hands in your lap, and doing both at the same time will greatly settle your feelings, while it ramps up your poise factor,” Whitbourne says.
Leave Your Neck Alone
The neck is a vulnerable area of the body, and consistently scratching the back of it or putting your hand near your Adam’s apple signals that you’re uncomfortable—and possibly even lying. Thanks to his years of experience as an FBI and counterintelligence agent, Joe Navarro, author of “What Every Body Is Saying,” discovered that neck touching is one of “the most significant and frequent” behaviors we use when responding to stress.
“This area is rich with nerve endings that, when stroked, reduce blood pressure, lower the heart rate and calm the individual down,” Navarro says. “Neck behaviors are extremely accurate, and communicate effectively across all cultures, because they are limbically derived and respond to the world in real time.”
Give a Firm Handshake
You’ve likely heard about the importance of a good handshake, but research by the University of Alabama backs up the conventional wisdom. In the study, four psychology students evaluated the handshakes of 112 male and female students; those with firmer handshakes were evaluated as being extroverted and emotionally expressive (those are good things, in case you’re wondering).
The study also uncovered another interesting bit of info: “We also found that women who had firm handshakes tended to be evaluated as positively as men,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. William Chaplin. “This finding was interesting because often when women have characteristics that are more similar to men, they tend to elicit a somewhat more negative evaluation—simply because it’s counter to the usual stereotypes.”
Turn That Frown Upside Down
It’s a cliché, but experts say that smiling during times of stress can improve performance. “No matter what the task, when you grimace or frown while doing it, you’re sending your brain a message: ‘This is really difficult. I should stop,’ ” writes Carol Kinsey Goman, an expert on body language and leadership. “The brain then responds by sending stress chemicals into your bloodstream. And this creates a vicious circle—the more stressed you are, the more difficult the task becomes.
And if All Else Fails … Fake It
In a recent TED Talk, Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies nonverbal behavior, talked about how holding a “power pose” for a brief two minutes could instantaneously boost confidence. In one of a series of experiments that Cuddy conducted on her theory, she found that people who held high-power poses for a few minutes before a fake job interview were given higher marks by judges than those who held low-power poses.
So what are these confidence-boosting positions, anyway? According to Cuddy, anything that opens the torso, such as standing with your legs spread apart and reaching your arms above your head. So the next time that you need an extra dose of confidence, duck into the bathroom or another spot that’s devoid of prying eyes to spend two minutes in this “power pose.” Then take that newfound power into your meeting—ready to score that promotion.
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