The fine art of authenticity and how to hack it with body language

We all want to be sold to by somebody who seems “real” to us. People associate authenticity with sincerity, trust, and credibility. When we feel someone is “authentic” we assume that person is without doubt “The Real Thing!”

The reversed bias on the other hand, has become a shorthand for not “liking” another’s presence: we end up saying: “they don’t seem authentic” rather than “I just don’t like their ideas! It’s not a fit.”

However, this thought process is predicated upon a utopia whereby if everyone were 100 percent authentic with each other all the time we would all get along fine, and that’s far from the truth.

I would suggest that what defines our authenticity is at least in part a collaboration of perceptions between you and others that produces an ongoing idea of you. This makes authenticity more of a developing work of art than a finished object.

So for the people that I help in leadership and sales to communicate with more impact—the question becomes: “what idea of ourselves do we want to co-create with those around us?”

I have found the most effective method to develop a perception is the use of nonverbal communication—body language! For me, adjusting and augmenting our body language can cut straight to the stimulus for the ideas we can have about ourselves and consequently that others have of us.

Yes, of course this is a manipulation. It’s manipulating what skills and tools we innately have to work better for us at helping us get closer to how and what we want to be.

Great leaders are good at making clear decisions about which of their traits they should reveal and amplify, to whom, and at what points. They furthermore make strategic decisions about what more to reveal (and when) and what to leave concealed. They are behaving on purpose rather than by accident, cognizant of their responsibility for the successes or for the fall-outs.

I am not advocating “fake it till you make it.” What I am suggesting is “behave like it—so you are it.” Those who know how to manage their authenticity in this way will be all the more effective for it. So here are my top three body language tips to help you take more control of the idea of who you are by choosing to employ those behaviors that help you realize your goals.

DISPLAY YOURSELF

When speaking at a large event have a lavaliere or handheld mic and step away from the podium. If sitting with a client, pull your chair back from the table—in short, display more of your body to your audience. Your audience’s instinctual “reptilian” brain needs to see your body and your body language to decide what they think your intentions and feelings are towards them. Place your hands in what I have trademarked the TruthPlane, the horizontal plane that extends 180 degrees out of your navel area. Show your palms open with nothing in your hands to let others know that you mean no harm and are speaking for their benefit. This is a universally recognized “friendly” gesture. Bringing the audience’s unconscious attention to this vulnerable area of your body makes them feel that you are very confident. By assuming this physicality, you will feel really confident too even though you may have felt like you were bluffing it moments before.

ATTRACT RECOGNITION

Keep your gestures symmetrical. The brain understands symmetry in the body more easily than asymmetry, and we find it more appealing. When giving a complex message, avoid complex asymmetrical movement—so no fiddling with your pen even though it feels comfortable for you! It is hard for the brain to decode complex verbal language when it is concentrating on complex nonverbal behaviour. Although the message may be complicated, keep your body language simple.

STOP READING—START LEADING

We instinctively, unconsciously and consciously read each other’s body language to develop theories about how others feel and what their intent is. We judge others and feel that our judgments are spot-on accurate, even though much of the time our judgments are inaccurate. So, instead of focusing on reading others’ body language, concentrate on projecting the body language you want them to read. Pay attention to your audience. Make sure your non-verbal body language is simple and mirrors what you are saying. The result – your audience will be much more likely to trust you and engage with you.

Want more secrets to mastering your body language? Watch these additional tips from Mark.

“Keep your distance”:

“Listening”:

“Inspirational speaking”:

Communications expert Mark Bowden explains how to stand out using persuasive communication skills. Bowden received a university degree in performance in the U.K. and has gone on to work with lead practitioners of movement psychology. He has a reputation for being one of the world’s expert performance trainers with a client list that includes leading business people, teams and politicians. Bowden delivered a much-viewed TEDx Talk in 2013 and is the body language expert and regular guest on CTV’s The Social.


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