Put your best foot forward

Has anyone ever pulled that trick on you where they say ‘Oh, there’s something on your chin’ while they rub their cheek with their hand? Naturally, your hand goes to your cheek, not your chin. What people do is far more powerful than what they say.

In fact, 93 per cent of what you communicate comes from your body language and your voice, while only seven per cent comes from the actual words you use. You’re constantly sending messages without speaking a single word. The fact is, everything you do communicates. Whenever you move or change your posture, your seating position or your facial expression, you’re communicating something about your attitudes and feelings. So does the way you dress.

This powerful wordless language can build you up or let you down so that you either put your best foot forward, or trip over it. For example, research shows that:

  • People who make more eye contact are viewed as more intelligent (unless you lock onto their eyes with yours–then they think you’re a psycho!) while people who avoid eye contact are seen as insincere and lacking in conscientiousness.
  • People who speak faster are thought to be more competent while slow speakers are assumed to be less truthful and are less persuasive; people who uhm and ah a lot appear not to know what they’re talking about.
  • Dressing well makes you seem successful and wearing expensive clothes adds to your ability to influence people.
  • When you wear practical and ‘affordable’ shoes, people think you’re agreeable while expensive shoes and pointed toes make them think you’re not very agreeable at all!
  • People assume if you have multiple facial piercings, you’re less intelligent.
  • If you’re a woman and you have a tatoo, people jump to the conclusion that you’re promiscuous.

So it pays to pay attention to the way you sit, stand, and carry yourself. It pays to pay attention to the way you dress, the jewellery you wear and the accessories you carry, because they send clear messages, too. They tell people how you view yourself and how you want others to view you. So it’s worth taking care to dress appropriately and make sure your posture is poised and self-possessed. The more you fiddle, shuffle, shift or sprawl, the more you signal ‘I’m nervous and ill at ease.’

Paying attention to the silent messages you send helps you put your best foot forward. Paying attention may feel awkward at first but when you stick with it. it becomes automatic in about three weeks. You won’t even need to remind yourself to put your best foot forward.