What you don't say can be as important as what you do. The right body language, eye contact, and facial expressions can help you learn more and engage deeply.
The goal of an Interview is to really understand the experiences, needs, and desires of the person you're designing for, and your body language can play a big part in the process.
It may sound simple, but keeping good eye contact, nodding and smiling as a way to reinforce what a person is saying, and giving non-verbal cues to validate what you’re hearing can be powerful.
Truly engaged listening can be just as important as the questions you ask. Because you're building empathy, it's tempting to interject things like “I understand how you feel,” or “something similar happened to me,” or even to offer advice. But your job is to hear and record exactly what the person is telling you, not to insert yourself into the conversation. Here’s how to let your body language do the talking.
Ensure that your body is on the same level as the person you're interviewing. If they are sitting on the floor, sit beside them. If they’re working at a market, stand and face them.
Make and keep eye contact. Smile and nod your head to communicate that you are listening to them and they have your full attention.
Taking notes is another physical cue to the person that you're listening and appreciate what they say.
You may be tempted to fill a moment of silence with a personal anecdote. But keep focused on the person you're interviewing—make him the center of attention.
You're building empathy with the person you're designing for, and they're building it with you. They may even ask you for advice on an issue but remember that you’re not here to offer solutions, you're here to observe and learn.
Body language at work – it matters more than you know
Body language is an essential ingredient of first impressions and effective communication. In my years as a communications coach for leaders, I was always surprised at how little even successful people understood about the importance of non-verbal communication. In reality, our words have a mere 7% effect on how our communication is perceived. On the other hand, body language and tone of voice has a greater impact of 55% and 38% respectively.
Having said that, not everyone is born with natural charisma, stage presence or perfect body language. Most of us cultivate it over time.
Keep a check on your facial expressions: Keep them in check! This becomes especially important if you are engaging in a tough conversation or communicating during times of conflict.
Walk with purpose: Dragging or stomping your feet, slumping and awkward gait tends to make people jump to quick conclusions about your temperament, proactiveness, energy levels and confidence.
Want people to contribute? Listen to what they have to say: Nodding your head or leaning in show that you are paying attention. Practice it more often.
Watch your tone: High-pitched voices are perceived to be less empathic or powerful and more nervous. Ending your sentences with a high pitch communicates uncertainty or seeking approval.
Engage your hands in the conversation: Gestures may help you improve verbal content but do it in moderation.
Your handshake says more about you than you know: Reams of scientific research have been published about the quality of one’s handshake and what it says about them.
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