Body Language Is Serious Business

I have studied people’s body language in business settings for over 3 decades now and I have observed first hand how a person’s non-verbal behaviour (55% according to science) is key to how they are perceived by others. I have seen many business people who are otherwise very intelligent, super efficient and business savvy but they just can’t seem to figure out how to use their body language to their advantage.

You might think this statement is an exaggeration, but your body language could be holding you back from growing your career and being more successful. How you carry your body when engaged in conversation is often as important as what you say. Body language is nonverbal, but it communicates volumes about you nonetheless. With so many interpretations for body language, your best bet is to know about some of the body-language pitfalls so that you can avoid them. If you are not sure which body language mistakes you are making, here are several basic reminders that will help you make sure your body language is congruent with your verbal message.

DON’T BE A BOBBLE HEAD

Head movement communicates important information. Nodding in agreement can be immensely helpful to others, but too much nodding makes you look like a bobble-head. Shaking your head can signal disagreement or disapproval, but avoid shaking your head too much as this makes you look like a negative Nellie.

DON’T BE A SHRINKING VIOLET 

When people feel nervous or lack confidence, they have a tendency to hunch, cross their arms, or just fold into themselves, making themselves look (and feel) smaller. By making yourself smaller and taking up less space around you, you’re communicating your lack of confidence to others.  Your diminutive state could cause some  managers and colleagues to be less likely to hear out your ideas or depend on you for important tasks.

DON’T ROLL YOUR EYES

Rolling your eyes is a big no-no. This gesture is simply rude and it could be perceived as frustration, cynicism and disinterest.

DON’T CROSS YOUR ARMS

Crossing your arms, legs or feet may feel comfortable while you’re trying to pump out a million emails or listen to your boss speak during a meeting, however, this nonverbal behavior could give off negative signals to others around you.

DON’T INVADE OTHERS PERSONAL SPACE

Whether you are a super friendly with your colleagues or not, it’s best to keep a healthy distance between you and your work friends — and your boss — when you communicate about a professional topic. If not, you can make the other person feel uncomfortable and even threatened by your presence. Three to eight feet is the perfect amount of distance to have between you and your colleagues.

DON’T FACE AWAY FROM THE CONVERSATION

If your body isn't facing the conversation, you run the risk of seeming disengaged (or even rude). Take a moment and square your shoulders and torso towards the person you are speaking with or the group you are  meeting with.  

DON’T GIVE A DONALD TRUMP HANDSHAKE

It is still true that a good handshake is a sign of good business etiquette and  important in professional settings. And while we don’t recommend pulling your colleagues’ whole arm towards you, it’s suggested to have good posture; make eye contact; and give a nice, firm shake.

DON’T LOOK BORED (EVEN IF YOU ARE)

Staring at the clock? Aimlessly doodling on a pad of paper? Day dreaming at your desk? Surfing the web ?   All of these things could show your boss that you're bored at work even if you think they don't see you.  The more proactive you are at work, the better you will feel and be perceived by others.

DON'T DISPLAY YOUR NERVOUS GESTURES IN PUBLIC

Cracking your knuckles, playing with your hair, biting your nails or your lip are all nervous gestures.   While these little nuances may be okay to do in the comfort of your home, displaying these nervous habits in front of your boss or colleagues may lessen your credibility and make others believe you’re anxious or incompetent. Not the image you want to portray.

DON'T FORGET TO SMILE

Smiling is one of the easiest ways to convey confidence. Show your engagement and put everyone at ease. Nothing relaxes and endears people more than a genuine smile.  

DON'T HIDE YOUR HANDS

Hiding your hands when you're engaging in a conversation can be perceived as being untrustworthy. People are more inclined to listen to you if you use your hands when you speak.

DON'T BE A DISTRACTED WORKER

Be careful not to sneak too many glances at your watch, or your phone especially if you are in a conversation with a colleague or attending a meeting.  Watching the clock implies impatience and can be considered disrespectful.And we all know that checking your phone every 3 minutes means you are not the slightest bit interested in the person you are conversing with or group you are  meeting with.

DON'T FORGET TO MAKE EYE CONTACT

While it’s a known rule to not break eye contact when you’re interviewing for a job, the same applies for when you’re engaging in a serious or meaningful conversation at work. If you want to improve your relationships and have better conversations with people at work, look them in the eyes when you or they are speaking because it produces a deeper connection of trust between both parties.

DON'T FORGET TO MIRROR OTHERS

Mirroring your colleges enhances your chances of building a positive rapport with them. Studies show that mirroring—copying other people's body language and repeating their words—helps form and strengthen relationships.

Jennifer Grant International can help you refine and perfect your body language so that you and your messaging are totally in sync.

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