Body Language at the Office
Most of our communication is nonverbal, meaning that our body language is more important than what we actual say. Despite the importance of body language, few of us are consciously aware of our body language’s role in communication. According to Dr. Frankel, author of Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office, body language is of extreme importance for career lions as your professional appearance has been proven of crucial importance to your career mobility. Your credibility as a professional is mostly determined by your non-verbal communication, as opposed to what we say. Here is a short list of common body language mistakes to avoid at the office and why:
Taking up too little space
Apparently, the amount of space a person takes up is an indication of a person’s confidence and sense of entitlement. Taking up more space is a booster for the level of confidence you exude.
Sitting with your hands under the table
Keeping your hands under the table also makes you appear less confident and assertive . By putting your elbows on the table you look more involved in the conversation. One of the techniques to use is called “steepling”, pressing the tips of your fingers against one another with the palms facing in front of your torso.
Tilting your head
Tilting your head has a softening impact on the message you are conveying. As a result, it can make you look uncertain even when you are absolutely right. The tilt basically undermines your assertiveness as well.
Using inconsistent gestures with your message
Gestures along with your verbal message can enhance your communication, with non-verbal language being louder than actual words. However, chances are you are misinterpreted when there is inconsistency between your non-verbal and verbal communication. Posed non-verbal communication is seen as less powerful, insincere, and inauthentic. Rehearsing your verbal message with specific body language elements beforehand doesn’t do the trick either. That may cause you to perform the elements slightly after the verbal message, where your body will naturally make gestures prior to the associated words. Your only solution is to be truly enthusiastic about the topic and let your body make gestures naturally. No body language definitely seems to be preferable to inconsistent messages.
Sitting on your foot
So, according to Dr. Frankel, this is a real “women’s thing”: sitting on your foot. I never really noticed, but apparently this is something I do ALL THE TIME! It does not look professional. One should just sit with both feet on the ground and your knees together. Stating the obvious, this makes you look grounded.
Not making enough eye contact
By avoiding eye contact, you are losing credibility. You will look like you have something to hide. It also underlines a lack of strength, leadership, intelligence, confidence, and interest. Wow, that is one long list of disadvantages. Next time, be sure to make eye contact. Obviously without overdoing it, as that will frankly make you look aggressive and creepy. Career lions must always keep their eye on the prize, but not necessarily at one person’s eyes!
Crossing your arms
By crossing your arms, you are taking a defensive posture that creates a barrier with others. You will take on a position threatening others, while depriving yourself from a calm and open-minded in the process. If you come across someone else crossing their arms, try handing them something to hold such that they change their defensive position.
Having a bad handshake
A weak handshake basically gives others the impression that you are weak. It shows a lack of interest, enthusiasm, and confidence. What you want to be going for is firm handshake, without nearly breaking someone’s hand. While you are obviously a career lion, there is no need to be attacking the person you are meeting. Apparently, there is a lot you can say with your handshake. At the office, you should present an open palm facing 45 degrees up when meeting someone first time. Subsequently, you can maintain a business handshake presenting your right palm perpendicular to the floor.
Having a bad posture
Lastly having bad posture makes you look disinterested, bored, and disrespectful. Having stressed the importance of non-verbal language before, it basically says I don’t want to be here even when you would never dare to say it out loud. Just sit up straight and keep a good posture, it will make you look more engaged and doesn’t give it away those times you are bored out of your mind.
What are your tips on body language in the office? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, here's some more about body language and smiling.