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Nail Meetings Down Tight

Nail Meetings Down Tight

Meetings can have lots of loose flow to them. They start a little late because people show up a little late. There’s that spot where you haven’t seen Jumpha in a while and you ask about her children. You pass out the agenda and people face-down a while browsing it and shuffling papers. Some folks are reading and answering mail via their BlackBerrys.

I think that’s all crap. Meetings are often like dental visits. You should go in, get scraped, picked, rinsed, and cleaned, go home with a toothbrush and a sixth month appointment and that’s that.

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You can fantasize all you want about the whiteboard meetings with all the gorgeous visualizations and all that, but those are truly the rarity, aren’t they? My early subscription to Fast Company magazine had me fooled for a while. I started believing that meetings were gorgeous, luscious events, where people really plotted out the future of the company. Bull.

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Meetings are where people hash out status, assign work, and make snap decisions. They should be treated that way. And yes, I know your place is culturally different. I know you’re only one woman. I know that you’re not the boss. Here are some tips for when YOU get to lead the meeting.

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  • Publish the agenda as early as possible. At the top, state: “This is the agenda for this meeting. We will review items on this list ONLY. If you would like to propose an agenda item not yet covered, please do so in the reply. An adjusted agenda will be sent out. “
  • At the bottom of the agenda, set the rules of the meeting: “Your time is important. I value your time and respect your attendance. Please turn off all mobile devices for the duration of the meeting. Please agree to stick to the agenda. Please refrain from sidebar conversations.”
  • At the beginning of the meeting, start regardless of whether all the people you need are there. It only takes missing a few beginnings, especially if you refuse to go back, to get people to arrive promptly. Once they understand the nature of your meetings, they’ll get the clue.
  • Start every meeting with the briefest of “house rules” conversations: “We’re going to meet quickly on this specific agenda. I’m going to talk, and you’re going to confirm the information we have here. There’s a question of next steps that we’ll keep open for discussion. Please, no cell phones – turn them off- and no sidebar conversations. One speaker at a time. Thanks. Let’s begin.”
  • Be pleasant, but be the authority. Gently remind people that the agenda is there, that the meeting is what it is. There shouldn’t be discovery at this flavor of meeting.
  • Never go over. If you still have agenda but no time, stop the conversation. Thank everyone for their time. Get up. They can stay, but you should walk out. Don’t bend on this. You’re making people late for the next meeting.
  • If you can, finish early.
  • Give people every chance between the meetings to be heard. Those who blather the most at meetings are just afraid that you don’t get their point. Go to them personally, one on one, and listen to them as long as you can stand. Reflect their words back. Show them you know what they’re saying.
  • Publish meeting notes right away. They should be very little more than the agenda with “confirmed” next to every point, and/or maybe a small block of notes at the bottom. If you are all in the same building, consider just photocopying your version of the notes and handing it to everyone. If an electronic copy is needed, be brief. Do not publish volumes of information. Meeting agendas are status queues, not logs for the meeting. (One peeve of mine with most project managers, formal or informal, is that they write mini novels when a status is all that’s necessary).

You ARE the authority at meetings you call. You can bring this culture to your company fairly quickly, because it shows respect for people’s time, a willingness to call the meeting and disperse quickly, and a strong sense of knowing what you know. Meetings where you seem prepared and act as the authority are always more pleasant for all involved. I strongly urge you to give these tips a try and write back.

–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and productivity at [chrisbrogan.com] . He writes about new media and content at Grasshopper Factory. Meet Chris Brogan at PodCamp Boston or at the Podcast and Portable Media Expo show in California.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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