Body Language: It Can Give You “Curb Appeal”
If you’ve ever sat at home bored on a Saturday afternoon, you’ve probably stumbled upon HGTV’s popular show “Curb Appeal.” In it, landscape architects and designers take a house from shabby to fab in just one day, not by changing any of its real bones or structure, but just by giving it what’s called “curb appeal” – that certain something that makes one house look great from the curb when another might look drab.
But according to Forbes wrtier Carol Kinsey Goman, curb appeal applies to much more than the housing market. It applies to the job market as well. She says, “Curb appeal is the feeling voters get when they ‘drive by’ a candidate a few times on television and form an emotional impression.” We are judged, as candidates, as leaders, as colleagues, much of the time from the proverbial business curb. Why get into our heads and look around to get to know us when we’re already quite obvious from a stone’s throw away?
Carol contends that you can spice up your own curb appeal with a few simple changes to your body language:
To set a collaborative tone, start by taking off your jacket. A savvy executive I know begins every staff meeting by taking off his jacket. He chooses a chair at the center of the conference table (and not at the head). Those behaviors alone would send a message of informality, but it’s the rest of his body language that drive the point home. Whenever anyone in the meeting speaks, the manager leans forward with an expression of interest on his face, nods approvingly, and gives the speaker full eye contact. With this array of nonverbal signals, he symbolically sets the stage for exactly what he wants the meeting to be – a “rank free” exchange of ideas and questions.
To look approachable, uncross your arms. Don’t tell me, I already know: You are more comfortable with your arms crossed, it’s the way you habitually stand, it even helps you focus your thoughts. All that may be true, but with nonverbal communication, it’s not how the sender feels that matters most; it is how the observer perceives how the sender feels. And, although there are cultural differences to take into account, crossing arms is almost always perceived as a closed sign of resistance. (And, by the way, since the human brain pays more attention to negative messages than it does to positive ones, what people unconsciously look for and react to the most, are signs that you are in a bad mood or are not to be approached.)