What monster is hiding in your head

Body language: How facial expressions, gestures and posture have a positive effect

A man gets into the elevator, in which there are already three other passengers. During the entire trip to the 20th floor, this man doesn't say a single word. Without changing a face, yes, without moving at all, he stands in his place and stares constantly at his shoes.

You probably already guessed it: Although this man doesn't say a single note, he tells the others that please leave him alone. “You can't not communicate,” said Paul Watzlawick, “because all communication is behavior, and just as you cannot not behave, you cannot not communicate”. With this basic rule of human communication, the famous psychotherapist and scientist secured his permanent place in the specialist literature and beyond.

Especially in the professional field, non-verbal communication quickly tips the scales - in sales talks with a difficult customer as well as with job interview for your dream job. If there are several applicants with the same or similar qualifications in the final round, the decision is often made by sympathy.

facial expressions and gesture speak a clear language, completely without words. Sammy Molcho, the world-famous pantomime, goes one step further and says: "Body language is clearer than words. Every inner movement, feelings, emotions and desires are expressed through our body. "







The attitude: aristocratic flair or type of potato sack?


Lean against the wall while waiting, loll in the armchair or run around with drooping shoulders? How we walk, stand and sit reveals more about ourselves than we would like: our character, our inner attitude and of course how we are feeling right now.

Do you rest contentedly within yourself or are you even floating on cloud nine? Congratulation! Your body will not let you down and will almost automatically deliver the "right" movements that are in harmony with your inner happiness. If, on the other hand, you are full of doubts and nervous, your body exudes exactly these fears.

It is a mistake to believe that you can hide a negative mood simply by covering it up with trained gestures. Your conversation partner perceives your non-verbal signals - no matter how subtle - on a conscious as well as unconscious level and automatically translates them into a good or bad feeling that they feel in your presence.


Posture is an expression of inner posture

With a lot of discipline and a portion of healthy self-criticism, we can analyze our posture and positively influence it, but it cannot be controlled consciously and long-term. Yours posture reflects your inside. That means, as long as you have not resolved these internal conflicts, your body cannot tell more positive stories either. Stress hormones know how to prevent this and give you away at every turn.


Authenticity is the key

So you have no choice but to put a good face on the bad game in a hurry. When in doubt, it is always better to stand by your mistakes instead of hiding behind contrived behavior.


Tips for Better Posture

  • Try to observe yourself during conversations or ask good friends for feedback. Do you have typical poses? How does your attitude change on different occasions?
  • Get to the bottom of things: Do you always sit at the table with your shoulders hunched? A sure sign that something is bothering you. What's the matter? What do you “shoulder” day after day that you cannot cope with.
  • It is best to keep a diary in which you write down these findings. You will be amazed at the insights you come to. Once you have solved the agonizing problem, your posture will improve all by itself.
  • Those who are happy also radiate this. You don't even need a solid reason for this. Before important conversations, you simply remember a wonderful moment in your life and bathe in this happy thought until you actually feel it.
  • Choose an outfit for the interview in which you feel completely comfortable. It is far better to break a rule and act confidently than to appear like a heap of misery in the best of suits.
  • Nobody's perfect. Allow yourself to make mistakes. What speaks against saying openly right at the beginning that you are terribly nervous because you really want the job? This releases a lot of tension from you, so that you can react better to stressful questions in the interview.


Examples: negative attitudes and what it signals to us

  • Standing with legs apart: arrogance, annoyance, showing off
  • Lean against the wall with your leg bent: arrogance and insecurity at the same time
  • Constantly changing legs: Insecurity, the person does not have a clear position
  • small steps (in relation to body size): pedantry, urge to check every detail
  • Wrapping feet around the chair legs: uncertainty, tension
  • Rocking one foot / leg: nervousness, disinterest
  • Put your hands on your hips: anger, aggressive prompting, showing off
  • drooping shoulders: sadness, despondency, dejection
  • stiff body tension: exaggerated discipline, submissiveness, what is hidden behind this "facade"?
  • lounging in the chair: arrogance, disinterest
  • Sitting on the edge of a chair: uncertainty, tension
  • partially turned away body: arrogance, disinterest, rejection
  • Leaning back upper body: rejection, creating distance
  • Crossing your arms around your own upper body: rejection, isolation
  • Cross your arms in front of your upper body: Isolation, "I won't let anyone get near me!"
  • playing with a strand of hair: nervousness, embarrassment


Examples: Which Attitude sends positive messages?

  • Stand upright and sit upright: Security
  • Good ground contact, feet slightly open, spine and head upright, shoulders slightly pulled back, but not tense: confident, relaxed demeanor, openness
  • Approaching the upper body, reflecting the behavior of the interlocutor: approval, interest (empathy)
  • Head tilted slightly at an angle: concentration on the person you are speaking to
  • dynamic pace: drive, motivation, vigor, zest for action, dynamism
  • long stride length (in relation to body size): considers life as a whole, in which details are rather unimportant
  • Upper body leaning slightly forward, head upright and chin slightly upwards: Interest, openness, concentration

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The facial expressions: A face is worth a thousand words


Poker face? Petrified face? In harmless situations, you may still succeed in hiding your feelings. In a stressful situation in which it is all or nothing, you have to be very controlled in order not to let any uncertainties show to you.

The eyes and mouth, the most moving parts of the face, reveal most of the secrets. They express sensations and reactions that we can consciously control only with great difficulty. As a result, these feelings can be instinctively interpreted very easily by the other person, such as boredom, joy or sadness. However, the interpretation remains subjective.


What does your interlocutor expect from you?

Are you looking forward to the interview and say that when you say hello to the group? Good idea - but only if you really feel that way. Your interlocutors unconsciously expect that they can read this joy in your face and that your body sends the appropriate "joy signals". If this is not the case, your memorized greeting has no effect.


What do you expect from your interlocutor?

Of course, it also turns into a shoe the other way around, because the other person also has a lot to tell you with their facial expressions. Does he leaf through any documents during your lecture without even looking at you? Does he frown or raise his eyebrows frequently? Even if you cannot interpret every signal immediately: You will instinctively feel whether he is positive or negative towards you.

The better you know the signals, the better you can assess your conversation partner and, if necessary, counteract them with specific questions during the conversation.


Facial expressions during self-presentation

You have probably had to listen to lectures yourself where you had real problems not to lose the thread. Maybe you almost fell asleep or played on your cell phone on the side. Even though you are usually very interested in the topic. Conversely, even the most boring topic can be presented so excitingly that you would have liked to have listened for longer. Good speakers underline their lecture with the right facial expressions and targeted gestures in order to captivate the audience. Of course, everything is well dosed and according to your own personality, so that the speech remains authentic.

If you're rehearsing your self-presentation for the interview at home, run a camera and watch yours Body language on video. Be honest with yourself: would you want to listen to yourself? At which points do you - as a listener - lose the thread and wander with your thoughts? You may need to work out the content even better. Or it is only because of your body language that the content does not really “ignite”.


Examples: negative facial expressions and what they signal to us

  • petrified face: rejection, social distance
  • Frown: disapproval, thoughtfulness
  • Raise an eyebrow: disbelief
  • Raising eyebrows: amazement, skepticism
  • Roll your eyes: impatience, skepticism, disbelief
  • Constant looking away: embarrassment, disinterest
  • fixed staring: arrogance, arrogance
  • frequent blinking: uncertainty
  • constricted pupils: tension, skepticism
  • Slightly contracting nostrils: disgust, disgust
  • Turn up your nose: uncertainty
  • Pinch lips: inner tension
  • Push the lower lip out: skepticism, disbelief
  • open mouth: astonishment
  • Yawn: boredom, disinterest


Examples: Which facial expressions send positive messages?

  • Maintaining eye contact (focused but not rigid): Interest
  • closed, smiling mouth (with raised corners of the mouth), lifting of the eyelids, smile in the eyes (pupils are dilated), smooth forehead: sympathy, friendliness and open-mindedness
  • relaxed corners of the mouth: rest and relaxation

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The gesture: Your body never lies


Gestures - this includes posture and action of all moving body parts - underline our words. This is where the core of the problem lies: We want to emphasize words with appropriate gestures, but not let them fall silent. It is not for nothing that there is the phrase “talking with hands and feet”, because if there is too much gesture, we as listeners only concentrate on body parts waving around wildly and what is said remains unheard.


We only come across as authentic when the gestures are consistent with what has been said.

Extensive arm movements, even in a small room, appear neither serious nor self-confident. On the contrary. They unsettle and annoy everyone involved. If, on the other hand, you let your arms dangle from your shoulders like a foreign body during a presentation, you seem boring and need a very exciting content to keep the audience from falling asleep.

If you really don't know what to do with your hands during your self-presentation: Pick up a ballpoint pen. Or do it like the TV presenters and write down your core thoughts on small cards. Your hands have something to do with it and you feel more secure.

By the way: some gestures are only perceived negatively if they are used frequently or permanently. During a lecture, you are welcome to cross your arms briefly (!) - if you ask the audience a provocative question, for example. Exceptions of this kind can be tested very well in preparation at home by incorporating them into your training on a trial basis. How does the movement feel? Does it come about naturally or do you have to “force” your arms to do it?


Other countries other manners

Even with the Body language every country has its own unwritten laws and customs. It is quite possible that German gestures fail to have an effect abroad because the audience there does not associate any meaning with them. It gets really hairy when other countries associate a certain gesture not only with different meanings, but even with a downright insult.

In Japan, for example, you take business cards with both (!) Hands and study them with due respect before carefully stowing them away. And it is no longer a secret that in Arab countries it is best to position yourself with both feet on the ground so that the people you are talking to do not accidentally see the soles of your own shoes (which would offend them very much).

You should also be careful when you point your index finger at other people. In Germany it is the most polite gesture, but in other countries, such as Thailand or South Africa, it is quite insulting. You should also not hit your clenched fist in the hand in the Arab world, as you could send out ambiguous signals. In Japan and West Africa, on the other hand, you signal your consent.

So if you are conducting your interview in an international environment or are even allowed to travel abroad, find out about the customs of the country in question beforehand. This is the only way to avoid any faux pas.


Examples: negative gestures and what they signal to us

  • gesturing wildly: restlessness, insecurity, negligence
  • Extensive gestures in small rooms: Gestures appear excessive and annoying
  • drum your fingers on the table: uncertainty, tension
  • Finger points to the opposite: aggressiveness
  • raised index finger: arrogance
  • Stroke your index finger several times over your upper lip: skepticism, thoughtfulness
  • Hiding hands behind the back longer: stiff behavior, insecurity
  • Crossing arms or hands in front of your chest: isolation, great tension, insecurity
  • Form a pitched roof with your hands towards the interlocutor: rejection, insecurity
  • Concealed or closed palm: having something to hide
  • Rubbing hands longer: restlessness, insecurity
  • Hands folded, fingertips touching each other: arrogance
  • Rocking the foot when the legs are on top of each other: nervousness, impatience
  • Chin resting on hand: Skepticism
  • scratching the head: perplexity, insecurity


Examples: Which gestures send positive messages?

  • Arm movements above the waist, keep arms between navel and belt line, hands loosely together: Security and sovereignty
  • Hands are open and visible: openness, open-mindedness:
  • Hand and arm movements that lead away from the body, open palms: sincerity, human warmth, welcoming gestures
  • Rubbing the chin: thoughtfulness, satisfaction

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The voice: friend or foe


A voice is as individual as a fingerprint, which is why we can immediately identify a voice we know, even in the greatest confusion of voices. This personal sound is innate and yet a lot is up to us, whether other people find our voice sympathetic, whether we sound credible or are perceived as snooty.


What is your voice telling

Whatever moves you inside - you literally wear it on your tongue, because even the smallest change in mood has an immediate effect on your voice. This also applies if you are usually very self-confident and nothing can blow you away so quickly. Stress can be heard, as can joy, sadness or fatigue.


Listen to yourself

Before you start to hone your vocal expression, it is important to analyze your own voice and its weaknesses. Which tool you use to make your voice recordings is up to you. If you like it easy, you can call yourself on the cell phone and speak to the respective person Language exercises to your own mailbox. For longer texts, such as self-presentations, voice recorders or a good recording app offer you more convenience and options. It is best to record the same text several times a day so that you can hear the differences well. Be courageous, even if your own voice sounds strange at first. Only those who know their mistakes can correct them.


As you make your bed, so you speak

Posture is the be all and end all when speaking. Get creative and say your exercise texts sometimes lying down, sometimes in different sitting positions and sometimes while standing. It's really fascinating to hear for yourself how the sound of your own voice changes color with just the slightest change. The voice is part of a whole or, as the communication trainer Dr. Emil Hierhold put it so aptly: "The whole person speaks and sings, from head to toe".


Rhythm and pronunciation

At the interview you want to convince your interlocutors of you. Therefore, pay particular attention to your speaking speed: too fast is just as bad as too slow. Your listeners must be able to follow you in terms of content and ideally hang on your lips spellbound. When preparing your self-presentation, pay particular attention to the points that matter. What do you want to emphasize in particular? Where can you put a short art break? Which complicated facts do you have to express so precisely for everyone to understand?


A simple trick

Generations of actors and radio announcers have trained with the famous cork and still do it today: Get yourself a cork (whether it is a wine or champagne bottle) and hold it in place with your teeth while you practice your self-presentation or recite training sentences with lots of vowels. Then you record another version without a cork on tape. It's amazing how big the differences are before and after cork training.


Examples: Negative characteristics of the voice and what they signal to us

  • very low voice: uncertainty
  • loud, rumbling voice: arrogance, arrogance
  • Mumbling, slurred speech: insecurity
  • Speak shrill and squeaky: is annoying
  • Very slow speaking: insecurity, lack of dynamism or extremely meticulous and precise
  • Speaking quickly: nervousness or lack of seriousness
  • Speaking quickly without pauses in speech: is very uncomfortable
  • Monotonous speaking: seems boring, drowsy


Examples: Which voice sends positive messages?

  • Interest in exchange
  • Convey security
    • comfortable volume
  • Empathy, kindness
  • appear convincing
    • moderate speed of speech
  • Competence and self-confidence, arouse interest, invite you to listen
    • good intonation (targeted pitch change)
  • calming effect
    • deep voice in men

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The bottom line is that for you - a summary of the most important points


During your interview, make sure that your gestures fit the bigger picture. Posture, facial expressions, gestures and language form a whole - one cannot exist without the other and must be viewed in the context of your entire personality. After all, even the most beautiful smile has no effect if your eyes don't play along.

Guide to your interview

So that your interview is also optimal Body language we have prepared a small cheat sheet for you, which you can add to your own needs:


  • Welcome:
    • Enter the room with confidence. Wait until the person you are speaking to extends their hand and return the handshake for around three seconds.
    • Make sure to make eye contact, smile, and thank you for the invitation.
    • Do not sit down until your counterpart asks you to.
    • You indicate interest and attention with an upright upper body, slightly leaning forward. The feet remain loosely on the ground.
  • To listen:
    • If you are asked something, look your interlocutor in the eye. This signals that you are wide awake and fully involved.
    • Don't let your gaze wander around the room, it looks like you can't wait for the conversation to end.
    • Taboo: Cross your arms in front of your upper body. You can hardly show more rejection.
  • Speak:
    • Maintain eye contact, but break your gaze every now and then for a few seconds while the other person looks at you. Otherwise, you would both be "staring at" each other at the same time, which is quite uncomfortable. If several people are present, focus your gaze on the questioner, but include everyone present.
    • Use gestures sparingly when speaking. Use them in doses in the right places to give your statements weight. Too many gestures seem nervous and unprepared.
  • Saying goodbye:
    • It's not over until it's over. This applies to the actual conversation as well as to the waiting times in between: Don't just chatter on it just because the tension is gone and the "cozy part" begins. The same rules apply as for the greeting. Thank you for the interview - friendly but briefly - and say goodbye with a simple "goodbye". You should only dare to jump in the air and dance of honor when you are out of hearing and sight and not in the company parking lot under the window of the personnel manager.

You have received an invitation to an interview, but you still want to keep other options open? Take a look around our job exchange.