Image consultants' suggestions for improving your use of body language: $1
Pay attention to first impressions. When you walk into a room, do so confidently -- not like you own the place, but as though you are comfortable with the situtation.
Maintain eye contact. "A steady, comfortable contact connotes confidence, openness and, above all, trustworthiness," says Jane Johnston. "You move into the area of insincerity whenever eye contact is broken."
Watch your gestures. "Show people the palm rather than the back of your hand," says James Gray. "Don't close people out by turning away from them, crossing your arms or legs or leaning too far back in your chair."
Make your words and non-verbal signals consistent. Johnston tells of watching Vice President Bush speak on the need to "go slowly" and "gently" on SALT. "It was a good speech except that he had his fist clenched and was shaking it. That was a double signal if I ever saw one."
Don't violate people's sense of personal space. "Remember, greater distance is required in business than in social settings," says Johnston "Be careful about touching other people. A pat on the back can be supportive to one person and threatening to another."
Pay attention to tone of voice. "You can inadvertently turn a compliment into a criticism simply by intonation," says Johnston. "Also, be sure to open your mouth and speak clearly. Inject power and interest into your words."
Examine your posture. "Confidence and self-esteem are tremendously important in negotiations," says Norm Jorgensen. "Posture reflects this even more than tone of voice. Don't tilt your head back. Keep your shoulders square and your body balanced and loose."
Be aware of how inanimate objects affect communication . "A desk is tremendous barrier," says Gray. "If you want to appear open and accommodating, get out from behind it." He recommends allowing flexibility to talk to people from a position of authority -- from behind a desk, for instance -- or on "equal ground," such as at a circular table or in guest chairs.
Watch your dress. "The secret is to find out what its message is," says Jorgensen. "A double-brested suit can connote stylishness or closedness in the sense of being 'all buttoned up.' In either case, it's important to neutralize the negative sides through intelligent use of body langauge."
Use lively facial expressions. "Don't be afraid to smile or be responsive," says Gray. An impassive, rock-face obviously does not project openness. If you have trouble smiling when needed, do some facial contortions before a meeting and talk louder. Both will loosen you up."