The Importance of Body Language at Work - 133T
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The Importance of Body Language at Work

October 30, 2017

Seventy percent of what we communicate isn’t through our words.

Ursula may have been the villain in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but one of her quotes most certainly rings true: “Don’t underestimate the importance of body language.” And how we correctly communicate our body language in the workplace is one of those things that is really vital for our careers.

Evidently, someone with poor nonverbal skills is likely to give off an impression of low self-esteem and a lack of interest and backs up his or her default with “Isn’t this how humans are programmed? Is this not 100% fair?”

Hence, when dealing with the work life, it is especially important that you are aware of your body language — your nonverbal cues and gestures that can make or break relationships, and may have significant impacts on your success at work.

Getting a Grasp on Body Language

The first thing you’ll need to understand is that body language communicates a whopping seventy percent of what you’re thinking and feeling to other people. It’s essential to be cognizant of that.

Here a a few simple cues to keep in mind…

One, if you are talking to someone and they lean forward, that ordinarily indicates that they’re interested and engaged in what you’re saying. If they move back, if their head is down, or they are not making eye contact, this normally means they’re either not interested or not connecting with what you’re trying to communicate.

Another easy to recognize body cue is the position of someone’s hands. If their hands are in an “open” position then it’s an indicator that they are willing to receive and are engaged. If their hands are closed, that generally means “I’m really not interested” or “I really don’t care what you’re saying.”

And, of course, faces are one of the ultimate users of body language. Is the person you’re talking to smiling? Then they probably like what they’re hearing. Are they frowning or pouting? Then they probably don’t. Simple, right?

By understanding these easy social cues, you can maximize your communication skills in both life and the office.

5 Common Body Language Mistakes

I’ve been around enough employees to notice ALL of the most common body language mistakes. Here are the five biggest mistakes I’ve witnessed — time and time again — that have hindered employees’ communication effectiveness in a work environment:

1. Poor posture

Inability to possess proper posture — standing tall, with your neck elongated, ears and shoulders aligned, chest slightly protruding, and legs slightly apart, distributing weight evenly —  gives off a perceived lack of confidence and has a vastly negative impact on your communication at the workplace.

2. Avoiding physical feedback or facial expressions

A lot of employees show a lack of empathy or interest in what their colleagues are saying especially when they don’t give expressions like raising eyebrows, offering smiles, nodding head, vocal utterances (like “uh-huh”), and leaning forward. Lacking these gestures makes people think you don’t care and could be detrimental to your own success.

3. Lousy handshake

This may sound funny, but it is true. Your handshake should be firm, but not overbearing. Avoid weak handshakes that do not allow palm-to-palm contact or locking of thumbs in a way that you can apply an equal amount of pressure.

4. Not showing your hands

Take a look around in a meeting, and you will probably notice a few colleagues crossing their arms. As someone is talking, you should not hide your hands from view because, when a listener cannot see your hands, he or she will think you are hiding something. Therefore, to look honest and credible, show your hands.

5. Keeping a cellphone out

It is a bad habit to place your cellphone between you and who you are speaking with. Symbolically, it means that the object (phone) is more important than they are and that the phone is what you would prefer to interact with. Simply put: it’s rude.

Giving special attention to these five areas of your body language in the workplace and applying proper communication techniques will not only improve your career status, but your own emotional intelligence.

Of course, there are several more body language cues that can be utilized to your advantage. And nearly double the amount of body language errors! I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share, just as I have…

Do you have a particular body language pet peeve at the office? Is there an area that you’re personally struggling with? Share this post on Facebook and let us know — we’d love to hear from you!