While on vacation I went for a run in unfamiliar territory. At one point I was charged by two barking dogs. I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like so instead of being afraid, I stopped and tried to make friends. I started talking to the dogs in a calm voice and at the same time raised my hands up by my shoulders to show I was no threat.

Until it occurred to me that dogs, not being familiar with armed robbery, may have interpreted my raised hands as an attack posture instead of a submissive one. Despite the friendly words I was saying, the visual indicated to them that I was probably a menace. Duh.

(At that point the owner called the dogs, who trotted into the house and I went on my way.)

How many times is your body language a mismatch with the words you’re saying or the image you’re trying to project? Any of these sound familiar?

  • Networking to “build relationships” and instead of giving full focus on the current conversation, scanning the room for other people to meet.
  • Assuring the other person you are listening, but continuing to check emails or texts.
  • Taking phone calls during meetings or meals.
  • Saying “I agree” or “I accept your apology” while standing with your arms crossed across your stomach.

You can get better at matching your actions with your words with awareness and focus.  Just be in the moment with whatever you’re doing and do an instant self-check. It’s a skill worth taking the time to master.