Whilst attire and manners are easier to acquire and to control at the same time, when we experience high levels of nervousness our gestures and mannerisms indisputably betray us and, furthermore, they label us according to the subconscious messages we are sending to those around us.
Let us review the most frequent mistakes that happen when the emotions we experience are very intense, thus affecting our behavior:
1. The handshake – this is a gesture that primarily indicates our level of self-esteem, but also the feelings toward the person whose hand is being shaken, respectively, the reason of the encounter. A weak handshake, resembling a dead fish, denotes an intense nervousness and possibly a lack of interest in the person you have just met. Not making eye contact will emphasise the complete lack of respect for your interlocutor. On the other hand, a very strong handshake, the kind that might shatter bones, is evincive of an individual that has, in every respect, feelings of inferiority toward his/hers interlocutor and that he/she attempts to set a balance through physical force. The handshake must be firm, but not painful, it should be brief and accompanied by a visual contact.
2. Posture – it represents the position of the body and is determined by the subject of conversation, the person being addressed and/or our level of comfort, at any given moment. When our body is slightly turned away from our interlocutor translates into the fact that we are not seeking to interact with that person but, to the contrary, we wish the discussion to be as succinct as possible. By facing the speaker, we manifest our interest, while a posture in which we lean on one leg might mean that we are bored. A straight position, with both legs straight, indicates seriousness and focus.
3. Position of the arms – crossing the arms over the chest, might denote the need to set up a communication barrier, while clutching your arms behind, might denote feelings of guilt, lack of confidence or even inferiority, especially if the head in bowed.
4. Hand gestures – twiddling or snapping your fingers, rubbing your hands or holding them clenched into a fist is an indicator of stress, nervousness and emotionality. It is recommended that you keep both hands on the table, with palms facing downward, so as to have a support. If you are standing, do gesture with your hands, while you talk, in order to boost your energy level and thus enabling a better control of your emotions.
5. The eyes – you are, probably, familiar with the saying: “Eyes don’t lie”. Well, this is true! Your eyes express your emotions: a cold, blunt look is representative of feelings of anger or irritation; blinking too frequently might mean that you are scared or nervous; lack of eye contact might indicate that you are lying or feeling inferior; a stare could imply audacity and instigation.
6. Chewing gum – is a typical gesture for many people, that is regarded as disturbing and even annoying for those around and which can reveal an array of emotional states: nervousness or irritability, when chewed very fast, disinterest or boredom, when chewed slowly, with an open mouth, lack of respect when the gum is being passed from one side of the mouth to the other and/or when the gum is being popped.
The first step in leaving our bad mannerisms behind is becoming aware of them! Once we have done this, they can easily be eliminated with the aid of plenty of patience and perseverance.
It is crucial to understand that the impression we make on others relies on three key elements: Appearance, Behaviour, verbal and non-verbal Communication. Each of these must be equally considered, given that an impeccable appearance will not suffice if accompanied by lack of manners, or gestures and mannerisms that disturb and distract the attention away from the information being communicated. The first impression rapidly develops into a reputation and if this is a negative one, it will surely affect our whole journey, as individuals and professionals, considering that a bad reputation has the effect of diminishing both our credibility and authority.