Communication is about sending, receiving and interpreting a message. Even before we begin speaking, we start the communication process with our bodies. Everything about our posture, our gestures, our energy, and our expressions sends information about us to others who assess that information either consciously or subconsciously. Everything we do and say changes the way the receiver responds to us, like a game of ping-pong.
We know body language plays an enormous role in first impressions. If an interviewee is tense and nervous during an interview, interviewers may find them defensive, distant or flustered. If, however, a person comes into an interview cool, calm and collected (even if they might not feel that way on the inside), their relaxed state will spread throughout the room. Interviewers will likewise feel comfortable and will be more able to picture working with the interviewee in the future. According to studies done on this subject, it takes a person only 30 seconds to capture enough data about another person to make a first impression. Other studies have shown that it is harder to overcome a bad first impression, than it is to loose someone’s good opinion after making a good first impression. If that is indeed the case, those first few seconds of meeting someone can determine a lot, so how do we make the most of it?
It’s important to be aware of yourself. What are you like under pressure? What areas of your body do you naturally tense up? Before an interview check in with these places and give your body a face massage, shoulder rub and anything you need to loosen up. Invest that nervous tension into a focused, positive energy. Some people are afraid of being nervous and are positive that it will cause them embarrassment. Nervousness is not a bad thing when managed and directed in the right ways, it can give you an incredible energy boost and separate you from other competitors.
The part of your brain that causes emotions such as anxiety, anger or sadness is different than the part of the brain in charge of speech, problem solving and decision-making. Sometimes, when you are immersed in emotion you may find that you are unable to articulate what you are feeling in words or you might make impulsive decisions that you often come to regret later. That can be because the part of your brain that is in control of your emotions is more active than your frontal lobe, or more logical part of your brain. To be at your absolute best during an interview, you might need to find ways to engage your frontal lobe beforehand. This can help you get a better handle on your nerves. Sit down and do a random math problem. Think about different key points you would like to touch on in your interview. Avoid thoughts that engage the emotional part of your brain, such as dwelling on insecurities or anticipating the worst.
By considering the psychology behind your emotions and behaviors, you can gain some control over them. Tension caused by nervousness can sabotage the verbal and nonverbal messages you are trying to send to your interviewers. Before interviewing anywhere, I strongly recommend watching this TEDTalk by Amy Cuddy. Having studied the psychology of body language for several years she has some insightful information and advice.