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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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4 Presenting a positive image

First impressions are very important, particularly at interviews, as you do not always have the opportunity or time to change a negative impression.

A photograph of two men shaking hands and smiling.
Figure 4 Presenting a positive image in the workplace.

It can take as little as three seconds for someone to make a judgement about you, based on the way you are holding yourself (your posture), the way you are dressed (whether it is appropriate for the context) and other non-verbal signals such as smiling or frowning. Therefore, taking the time to think about the impression that you give others is crucial in ensuring that you set the right tone for building and developing good relationships.

The people who you meet are more likely to actively listen to what you say if they are not distracted by your appearance or mannerisms.

Below are some quick pointers for you to consider next time you attend an interview or meet someone new at work.

  • Be relaxed and be yourself. If you are not, this can make the other person feel uncomfortable too. If you feel that you are nervous, then try to relax by undertaking some deep breathing exercises (see Activity 4 this week).
  • Be punctual. Nobody likes to be kept waiting, especially if that person has never met you before. This is particularly important for interviews – always allow plenty of time for traffic or transport delays. It is better to be early and have time to calm your nerves than to be rushing.
  • Appropriate appearance is essential. Dress for the occasion and environment. If it is an interview you are more likely to need formal attire. As well as the choice of outfit, you should always ensure that your attire is clean and neat. Your personal grooming is also important – use appropriate levels of make-up and be clean shaven if you do not have a full beard or moustache.
  • Remember to smile, as this will help others to relax. A note of caution, though – a fake smile can be perceived as being insincere.

Next time you are due to meet someone for the first time, consider adopting/practising some of these approaches.

You can also take steps to minimise some of the negative cues that can work against you in situations such as interviews or meetings with colleagues.

It might be helpful to reflect on occasions in the past when you have been nervous or lacked interest in what you were hearing. Can you recall your posture, or any other non-verbal cues, such as sweaty palms or doodling on your notepad? Could you act differently if you faced this situation again in the future?

To reduce the nerves just before an interview or meeting, try deep breathing exercises. When you are stressed the chances are that you are not breathing deeply enough, which can impair your thoughts. Ensuring that you breathe slowly and deeply during interviews or other similar situations will help to reduce your nerves.

Activity 4 Practice deep breathing

Timing: Allow 5 minutes for this activity

Try this breathing exercise recommended by the NHS to reduce stress and anxiety.

This calming breathing technique for stress, anxiety and panic takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere.

You will get the most benefit if you do it regularly, as part of your daily routine.

You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.

If you're lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.

If you're sitting, place your arms on the chair arms.

If you're sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you're in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart.

  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
  • Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
  • Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.
(NHS, 2018)

You can also use this breathing technique to calm yourself if someone has upset you, or behaved in an aggressive manner. By remaining calm, you reduce the chances of losing your temper and also appearing aggressive. You’ll find out more about communication in challenging situations in Week 6.