There is a lot of advice around about body language. And my workshop participants love to hear about it. A quick Google search reveals tons of rules. „Do not cross your legs this way; Look at the guy who is talking – but not too long; Do not brush your hand through your hair this way; Sit straight.“
But I refuse to give long lists of dos and don’ts.
The Buddy’s talking Body
Your gestures and body attitude show what you think and how you feel. Are you distracted or interested? Are you angry, do you feel at ease, are you in a flirtatious mood, do you feel insecure, unsafe? Are you lying or telling the truth? Are you pretending to be somebody else? Body language will reveal all this to all the body language experts.
But what should we conclude from this? Basically, the advice of numerous coaches is: Train your body how to lie. Hide your personal character if some of its traits are unwanted. Society wants this from you! The boss thinks his job offering is the best he has. So he wants you to act as if you think it is the best for you too. Do not look annoyed. Turn your whole body to the HR manager during the job interview. If your motives are weak, talk about stronger ones and emphasize this with your body’s language.
It’s up to you. Follow the advice if you like. Though I doubt it makes your life easier.
Lay back – but do not lean back?
Just one little example, taken from the Forbes Magazine (online), which once made it into the top ten of Google results in my search combining the terms „body language“ and „interview“: „Leaning back suggests boredom or lack of interest.“ Oh! Yeah! So what to do? „Sit up straight“, because „leaning forward can be just as problematic, Experts agree.“ Aha.
These experts also agree that „aiming for a neutral posture is your best bet.“ But in the end, neutrality is not what your interviewer would want from you. The Human Relations manager will want you for your personal involvement in the company – your emotions included. So the applicant who is „leaning forward“ might have the edge over other „neutral“ applicants in their job interviews.
The one who is leaning back should not just sit up straight. He should think about why he is bored or uninterested. You better really want the job – or apply for the job you really want.
What applies to the job interview is also true for journalistic interview. The media interviewer wants authenticity, involvement, and emotionality. That is what our audience can relate to – just telling facts and information is too little. We hate the attitude of those politicians who have been coached to only use certain „safe“ gestures to underline what they say – even if they do not mean what they say. They act like the puppets of their „charisma trainers“ (that is how some coaches are actually caling themselves).
… or let IT be
So if we observe that there is something wrong about the body language of a participant in seminars we do not get to advices like „please do not show your hands in a way as though you want to get rid of questions“. In most cases we get to talk about attitude questions: Do you really think the interviewer is a bloody unknowing bastard who asks the wrong questions and will misrepresent whatever you say? Or: Is your fear for giving interviews really justified?.
The authentic Macho
And the advice is: Find a positive attitude towards the interview – or stand by your feelings. Or, „let it be“.
On the other hand you will not want your body to misrepresent your positive attitude, of course. Observe yourself and be aware what you are doing.
So, you fellow men: Do you usually open your legs wide while sitting? You are showing sexual agression and taking too much room off the others. Think about your macho attitudes. If you want to change them, do so. But if you stand by them I will love to see them when interviewing you. You’re not in for a job anyway. Don’t become a chick. Take risks. All the gents and ladies who watch it on TV will have a chance to relate to your personality. Now they know from your body language what kind of a guy you are and what you really think. And they will love your authenticity and honesty.
In sum, please do not mistrain nor mistreat your body for media interviews.
1) There is so many advice around that you would have to be an experienced actor to follow them – and still be able to concentrate on the questions and answers in an interview.
2) Secondly, and more important: Stay authentic. If you misbehave, go to the roots of misbehaviour. Do not change your body language. Change the underlying attitude that causes you to „misbehave“.