Your nonverbal communications are just as important as what you say. In fact, your body language can either hurt or help your career.
Body language is powerful. It reveals lots about your personality. Confidence, for example, is relayed through body language. Positive body language can actually lead to greater success, more productive business relationships, and a better impression in the workplace.
“Since approximately 73% of what we communicate is ‘spoken’ nonverbally, it can affect one’s career quite a bit. If you are sending negative or mixed messages, it can lead others to think you (for instance) don’t like them, are dishonest, have a bad attitude, and/or aren’t happy with the work or job,” says psychotherapist/relationship coach Toni Coleman of Consum-mate.
Your doubts and worries about work are noticed by other people without your saying a word. “You could be communicating low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, a resistance to feedback or input and/or defensiveness just by the way you move, your eye contact, facial gestures, tone of voice or an incongruence between what you say and what your nonverbal messages say,” says Coleman. “Conversely, learning to use positive and consistent communication will enhance and strengthen your messages, your connections with others, and how you are perceived.”
So what if your body language is keeping you from moving up at work? You can teach yourself to change your body language. First, assess how you are already perceived by people. Then, work on your posture, stride, placement of hands/feet, gestures and ticks and learn to maintain good but appropriate eye contact,” says Coleman.
Strike a new pose: How to change your body language
Convey openness and confidence. “If your posture communicates a closed or insecure mindset, stand with arms down (not folded against your body), keep shoulders back and always face (with feet pointed towards) the person speaking, not away from them,” explains Coleman. “Consider leaning towards them as they speak and nod with good eye contact when they share a viewpoint or other information.”
Eliminate attitude from your body language. “If you identify a problem with how others perceive your attitude, work on your listening skills,” says Coleman. “Also, watch your tone of voice. If you are often abrupt in your communications with others, try a softer tone and offer more explanation to anything you ask for or request.”
Make people feel comfortable around you. “Do you avoid saying hello, keep your door closed, never offer a smile when someone shows up in your office or you pass them in the hall? Is your tone condescending? Do you let them finish a sentence or jump in to answer before they are even done? These are all things to consider and make corrections on,” explains Coleman. “Pausing to listen, offering a smile, saying hello or good morning and listening deeply until someone is done all communicate openness, accessibility, and the sense that you like and value them.”
The eyes—and mouth–have it. “Eyes are the windows to the soul, and immediately communicate a person’s interest even if we’re not aware of it,” says intuitive consultant and therapist Lisa Haisha, who works with a number of Hollywood executives. “When I coach my clients, the first thing I do is look them directly in the eye. This is a universal gesture that invites someone to share a connection. Additionally, smiling is the next immediate clue he/she is interested. It’s a gesture of friendliness and goodwill.”
Take hold of your body gestures. “Body gestures are more complex, and this is where some people (especially men) get confused,” Haisha points out. “Men will often sit with their legs apart, displaying their crotch, and if his legs are crossed, his top leg will point in the person’s direction. Women often sit with their legs crossed. If the two are standing, their close proximity is a clear sign of interest. The man will stand up straight to best display his physique, while a woman will put her hand on her hip as a gesture.”
At attention. Body language can display lack of interest, so avoid certain poses. “Signs he/she isn’t interested–No smiles, crossed arms or legs (that don’t point to the other person), and a lack of eye contact are immediate indicators that you should go no further,” says Haisha, founder of the Soul Blazing Sanctuary.