6 Body Language Secrets of Powerful People

Have you ever wondered what makes some people more powerful leaders than others? Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, explains six body language secrets that can help you exude confidence and power.

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read
Episode #301

The most powerful people in a group are not always the smartest or most knowledgeable. So, why are they the leaders? Often times, it is because of subtle body language that draws people to them.  

In this episode, I'll share six secrets that you can use today to exude confidence and feel powerful:  

1.) Eye Contact Conveys Confidence

You know the feeling. When a person makes eye contact with you, especially when you are talking, you feel important to that person, and your confidence in that person grows. People who meet your gaze seem sincere and trustworthy, while those who don’t seem either dishonest or lacking in confidence. However, too much eye contact can be uncomfortable. It can feel like an intrusion or an act of aggression. Powerful leaders instinctively know how long to look at you and how long to look away, and do it naturally. Studies suggest the proper amount of eye contact in the U.S. and many other countries should be between 50% and 60 % of the conversation, mostly when listening.

2.) Smile: It’s Good for You!

Many studies have been done on the benefits of smiling, but common sense also tells us that when we smile, we feel better inside, and others smile back. But why is that? It has to do with the chemicals that are released in the brain when we smile or see other people smile. Smiling triggers the “feel good” hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. These powerful chemicals relax your body, reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, and help you fight off stress. This makes you feel healthier and appear more confident. What’s more, your smile triggers other people’s brains to respond in kind—in other words, a smile is contagious. Powerful leaders smile enough to convey confidence and good will, while creating bonds of respect.

3.)  The Firm Handshake

The perfect handshake is brief, firm but not tight, and uses the whole hand, not just the fingertips. It conveys that the person is confident, extroverted, and positive. This can’t be emphasized enough. A handshake creates an immediate impression, and you only get one chance to create that first impression. Powerful leaders shake hands in a way that says, “I am strong and in control.” And in my experience, most people that have a poor handshake have no idea. I recommend you ask a trusted friend or colleague for honest feedback (or come to one of my live keynotes or seminars, and I'll personally let you know!) 

4.) Take a Powerful Pose

Strong leaders convey their self-confidence and strength subtly but clearly through their posture. An outstretched, open posture projects an image of power and confidence. Legs slightly apart, hands on hips (think wonder woman), or making a wide gestures make you look like you are in charge. But it not only makes others think that, it makes you think that, too! By practicing power poses before presentations or meetings, you boost your confidence and subconsciously tell the audience you’re in control, confident about the future, and able to set goals and act.

5.) Voice Tone

We all know that animals can hear undertones outside of human range, but the fact is that we unconsciously hear them, too—and make decisions based on them. You know how a high, nasal, or thin voice can be irritating (think Fran Drescher), but a broad, resonant voice (think Don LaFontaine) is soothing and attractive. That’s because of the undertones. Incredibly, studies have shown that hearing those low tones actually makes people more efficient, while removing the low tones makes people less efficient. Leaders have the best undertones, and people around them subconsciously match their tones to those of the leader. Have you ever heard the saying, “We’re on the same wavelength”? Whoever made up that saying was right. That’s exactly what happens.

6.) Appropriate Gestures

Random or nervous gestures are distracting, but “speech-associated gestures” complement the words spoken and enhance their meaning. I’m not talking about a thumbs-up or sign language. These symbols convey meaning without words. The best gestures, used by great speakers and leaders, natrually support the words and make them easier to remember and understand. Leaders use gesture to get their point across effectively.

Are These Leadership Secrets Innate or Learned?

Though many leaders do not study to develop these traits, anyone can learn to use them and harness them. If you'd like to exude more power and confidence develop these subtle secrets of body language.

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence.  If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

Body language image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.