7 seconds and 7%

Did you know that people make a 1st impression about you when you walk into a room or meet them for the first time, within 7 seconds.  Just think about that… 7 seconds.  The next time you walk in a room and have a moment count out 7 seconds, it goes quick! 

Did you also know that only 7% of the message that you communicate is the words that you use.  7%!  So when you are giving an important presentation, leading a meeting, interviewing for a job, etc…  only 7% of what people are understanding pertains to the carefully crafted words you have thought through.  The rest of the message is body language, vocal tone, and non verbal cues.

With these concepts in mind think about your physical presence and what it says about you.  How do you carry yourself, how to you enter a room, what do you do when you are sitting in meetings, interviewing for jobs, etc…

I am part of a Lean In Circle (which is a group of women that meet to discuss our professional lives, I will share more about this group in a later post) and we looked at these very concepts.  When talking about Power and Influence we watched a very helpful video about the concept of body language and power.  If you have 16 minutes, the excerpt below is well worth your time.  It is part of a lecture from Deborah H. Gruenfeld who is a Professor of Leadership & Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and also Co-director of the Executive Program for Women Leaders.

After watching this I realized that I was very good at playing high in certain situations but often I would also play low at work.  When I thought about it a couple of things I noticed I used to do in various work situations were: play with my hair, touch my neck, slouch and not sit up straight, avert eye contact when uncomfortable, occupy little space, and doodle on my paper.  I realize that none of these subtle non verbal cues would ultimately prevent me from getting where I wanted to go in my career, but they communicated a message that was different from who I wanted to be.

After some self refelction I made a conscious effort to make a change.  Moving forward I made sure I was walking into a room confidently, sitting up straight, holding my head still, making eye contact, occupying physical space in my chair, and keeping my hands at my sides or on the table.  Through these subtle changes I realized I was commanding much more of a strong and influential presence.  I made it my New Year’s resolution in 2014 to make these adjustments in my non verbal communication and have noticed a change not only in the way I interact with people, but also in the way they perceive me.  I have felt more confident, capable and comfortable.  I have felt more powerful and ready to take on new challenges.  And ultimately I have had more professional opportunities in the past year and a half than I have at any other time in my career.

I hope that this is something you can try.  The next time you are in a situation at work do a self check.  How are you sitting? What are you doing? Are you commanding power positions and playing high or are you more comfortable playing low? What do those behaviors look like for you?  Doing a self check and taking some notes might help you to make subtle adjustments that can ultimately make a big impact.  Good luck!

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