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Body language crucial to brand

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MY daughter was down with an ear infection last week. I could sense something was wrong just from the way her eyes looked.

Whenever she is not feeling well, I can tell from her eyes. Her eyes droop and that usual sparkle in her eyes disappears. When she is not well, she does not even need to say anything. Her eyes tell it all.

Just like the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues.” Indeed they do.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article on how to build a personal brand. In this week’s article, I would like to focus on body language, in particular eye contact and how it affects the personal brand.

Our personal brands come to life through the way we look and act. Our body language can convey a number of things such as our confidence level, mental state and emotions.

In personal branding, you want to ensure that your body language reinforces and supports your positioning and your value proposition.

While women and men differ in their eye behaviour and what that behaviour means, eye contact is the strongest form of nonverbal communication. It can communicate a number of things such as intent, feelings and confidence. Proper eye contact also shows respect, care, trust and attentiveness. It is no wonder the eyes are said to be “the windows to the soul”.

Someone who does not make eye contact comes across as disinterested, arrogant and even superior. Think about how you act if a homeless person approaches you on the street.

Most people do not make eye contact to avoid interaction and to show their disinterest.

The length of time that you hold eye contact is important. Best practice says that eye contact should last two or three seconds before someone feels uncomfortable. If your eye contact time is too short, you might be perceived as shifty or insecure. If your eye contact is too long, it can be viewed as confrontational or even sexual in nature.

Having said all this however, with eye contact, it is very important to think appropriateness. It is important to know your audience and the culture of that community.

In some cultures, for instance, looking in the eyes of an elderly person can be deemed disrespectful. In the same vein, when a woman holds eye contact with a man for a little too long, it can send mixed signals of her intent.

Likewise, when a man holds eye contact with a woman for a second too long, that too could be misinterpreted.

As you deal with clients, prospective clients or employers, pay attention to what you could be communicating with your eye contact.

 Nonto Masuku is an executive partner of an image and reputation management firm.

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