(Let me just say this at the outset: Any links in this article, except for the very first one in big letters, were smashed in there automatically by either Google or WordPress IDK which one, and I find them irritating. When I signed on for a free blog, this was not the deal.)
I can’t remember why I signed up to Payscale and their newsletter, but today it was worth a good laugh.
Here’s the rule-of-thumb:
If you’re consciously “applying” body language you’ll come across as creepy.
Body language is 90% to 95% of our communication, all that “non-verbal” communication. As a musician and music teacher I very deliberately use body language cues during playing to give my students / the other players in an ensemble clear entries, a sense of what I want the tempo to be, expression (loud /soft / emphasis etc), and so forth. This is loud, deliberate body language consisting of movements I make, eye contact I seek deliberately etc, and it is known as a musician’s “rapport”.
You can use this subtly in selling something, too (yes I used to be in Amway and will be again). You can speak to a prospective customer or member and as you tell them of the benefits, you subtly nod your head, and more often than not you’ll find they are nodding with you. This is good, as their body is giving them positive feedback through the nodding. Sales people use it on me too; I give them credit for being good (though not always subtle), but (haha) they must not think I’ll agree with everything they say without thinking about it. That’s not the idea anyway, it’s only to put you into a positive and receptive frame.
But (except in music) the second you notice someone’s “body language” (because it’s deliberate), your real instinctive feedback is that this person is “creepy” because he’s trying to manipulate you – ergo, he wants something.
This is why the pop psychology of body language works on the reading end but not on the applying end. You can best read someone’s body language if it is unintentional – and even then, do make allowances. If your first impression is that someone is honest, don’t let that be overruled by the fact that she is scratching her nose while telling you something. She’s not lying to you; she probably only has an itchy nose. The “science” of body language is no science at all. These little cues often go together in groups. If she’s repeatedly shifting position, pulling faces and touching her face with her hand, she might be trying to say something but not wishing to interrupt you. A truly sensitive conversational partner will halt in his monologue and invite comment. “What are you thinking?”
I absolutely hate telephone sales. I hate doing business on the phone, whether I’m the perpetrator or the victim. Part of the reason is that you can’t see your conversational partner; you can’t pick up cues as to whether they are in a hurry and find you a pest, etc, and in order to break the deluge of a sales person (even one you invited to talk to you), you need to be forceful and interrupt them, because they have been trained to ignore your little “but” ‘s and “actually” ‘s.
Email has improved dramatically since the smileys; even people who are not great artists with words can now convey their mood when writing a message.
But as for that job interview:
Go in with one intention only, to be as honest about yourself as you can.
This will shine through, even if your body language says “she’s nervous” or “he’s shy”. Your interviewer (often your prospective boss) will learn more about you if you are simply honest and forget about body language, than if you try to impress by “being bold” and “being assertive”. From the angle of an employer, your boss would like to know if you are naturally assertive (some people actually are), or if you’re faking it. If you are faking that, what else will you be faking? If you are not naturally assertive, perhaps that suits the profile she has in mind for you: A back-office job doing all the financials, where you can gainfully employ your intellect without having to make an “impact” on clients; or a job as technical assistant where you apply your expertise but don’t have to do the hard-selling.
Not every job needs an assertive person! And some bosses prefer reliable team workers to bold leaders.
If you know what you are talking about, this will become apparent. If your boss is looking for a person with highly specialized knowledge and you actually have that knowledge, she’ll ask you specific questions, which you’ll be comfortable answering as you’re the expert on that field. Keep in mind you don’t know how the other applicants stuttered and stammered and tried to fake their way through an answer they didn’t actually know.
A job interview is there to establish (in an ideal world) how well suited you are to a particular position.
Be not afraid: If you are good in a field and the position wasn’t exactly what you had in mind, it has indeed happened in the past that a post gets created specifically for you, so that they can hire you (and nobody else) in it. So rather see going to an interview as casting your nets, putting out bait, casting a line etc. Something will bite. And if it doesn’t, at least you get a good enough feel for the market that you know where you can improve your skills / qualifications.