Body language: how to encourage respect
By James Borg, leading expert in body language
What an unusual commodity respect is. It is almost impossible to quantify, and yet it forms a crucial part of most human interactions. It can be unclear what constitutes respect, beyond recognising the integrity of another individual.
Mostly, respect is engendered by self-respect. If you see that somebody is taking themselves seriously, then you are much more likely also to take them seriously, too. So with your body language you should concentrate on projecting your strong sense of self. Done successfully, this body language will let those around you relax in your company. Imagine you’re watching a play and the actor forgets his lines – it’s always fine as long as the actor has the confidence to deal with the situation.
Dress to impress
Nothing says "I command respect" like good dress sense. It doesn’t have to be flashy or showy – it’s not a catwalk – and clothes that are too outlandish can convey the sense that you don’t take yourself seriously. But if you are well turned out, many people will find it that much harder to dismiss you out of hand.
Hold yourself well – straight back, chin up, deliberate arm gestures. Imagine what you look like from the outside – do you give off the impression that you are worried about being yourself? You can practise in the mirror – even if you’re put in a situation you’re terrified of, you can at least look like you know what you are doing. If you stand up, or change your posture, do so with an equal sense of purpose. Keep the palms of your hands facing outwards, and try to smile. It makes you seem friendly and open, which combined with confidence lets people respect you as being both approachable and self-assured.
Are you leaking respect?
Negative body language, or "leakage", is one of the most surefire ways to eradicate any respect you inspire in others. These little signals betray your insecurities, and let your audience know you are wavering or uncertain of what you are saying. Excessive fidgeting – particularly playing with your hair, face or clothes – is an obvious warning that our faith, or respect, might be misplaced. Particularly avoid covering your mouth or face with your hands; this is a classic gesture of nervousness, and indicates that you might be lying.
This is especially true if you fear you are in a position of weakness – raising an issue at work, such as a pay-rise or mistreatment by a boss, or dealing with an awkward social situation, like a break-up with a partner. When you need to be taken seriously, you need your body language to support the words you’re saying. Respect helps in every aspect of life: the right body language can help you go a long way to achieving it, professionally, socially and romantically.
(c) The Telegraph Group