Charisma Work Out # 10: Body talk and personal impact

Work Out 10“You would expect a different tone, a different body language from them,”
Hans Hirt, Director at Investor Hermes Investment Management, on how VW is handling its scandal.
(FT 11th December 2015)

How you carry yourself physically can have a big impact on how convincing or authoritative you seem to others.

For those concerned with ethics in business it’s vital to be able to influence others. Often you must persuade, using just your expertise and ability to make a strong personal impact, rather than relying on your formal role or level of authority. Developing your impact may take time.

It also demands some awareness of what works and what doesn’t in communicating about ethics and the implications of acting responsibly.

For example, do any of these nine charisma killers apply to you?

NINE WAYS TO DAMAGE YOUR CHARISMAThis isn’t a definitive list of what to avoid.

For instance, simple staring at someone too intensely may have the opposite effect you want. As can minor gestures such as wiping your palms on your clothing instead of using a handkerchief.

Try to become more aware of how you’re behaving physically at any one time. The greater your awareness the better able you will be to counter possibly damaging habits, such as interrupting, or nail biting.

No one is immune to learning more about themselves in this area of body talk. So be willing to take some time to explore it.

For example, here are some positive ways body movements translate into important messages you could be sending to those on the receiving end of your personal impact.

Translating body language 1.1Translating body language 2Translating body language 3If you become fully engaged with those with whom you’re communicating,  you’ll be less likely to adopt unconsciously distracting body gestures.

By focusing entirely on them, you’ll be less tempted to turn away in mid sentence or show disinterest in the progress of the conversation.

 The eyes

Eye contact, smiling and other non-verbal behaviour all combine to determine your personal impact–your charisma. In some cultures eye contact may be used to say what cannot be said directly.

For example, in Asia someone asking: “Are you happy with this decision?” may hear the words “yes, I’m entirely happy with it”. Yet if the reply is said with a dull, unenthusiastic or even sad look, the real message may be something different.

If you want to make a stronger personal impact you may need therefore to give more attention than you currently do to eye contact.

Eye contact Health Check

Try this eye contact health check–in which you agree or disagree with each of seven statements:eye contact







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  • “When I’m with people I seldom hold eye contact for long” —do you agree or disagree?


  •  “At work there’s no need to give much eye contact”—do you agree or disagree?


  • “It’s really embarrassing  when senior people give me direct eye contact” —do you agree or disagree?


  • “When talking to someone I naturally scan the rest of the room for what’s happening”—do you agree or disagree?


  • “I find it awkward when someone I don’t know gives me eye contact”–do you agree or disagree?


  • “Eye contact worries me, you never know where it might lead”—do you agree or disagree?


  • “Frankly I need to make a special effort to give eye contact to people around me”—do you agree or disagree? Agree disagree 2

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    Andrew interviewed

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