BODY LANGUAGE BETRAYAL - paying attention to body language is an excellent investment
You walk into your manager’s office with a question. Then it hits you. Your colleague looks distracted and hardly glances at you.
Is it a sign that you’ve done something wrong? Are you in trouble? Is the person you look to for guidance at work about to dump some nasties on you? Maybe even say goodbye and thanks?
Nothing of the sort. You have just wholly misread their body language. This consists of posture, eye contact, gestures, movement, etc. These offer clues about a person and how best to react to them. It also helps people understand you and how they make sense of your behaviour.
Body language can define how people see you. For example, nonverbal communication is thought to make between 65% and 93% more impact than spoken words. Since body language has such power to influence, it’s likely to govern people’s reactions to you during your time at work.
So, paying attention to body language is an excellent investment to succeed at work. It can affect your daily work, reputation and whether senior people see you as promotable. For example, does what you say match your body language? For instance, you say aloud “yes” while slightly shaking your head.
Learning about body language and how to read it correctly is a helpful tool in your armoury as you reach for success at work. For example, positive non-verbal signs make you look more confident and can even make you feel that way. How you convey confidence is an established part of succeeding at work.
Awareness of body language also helps make sense of what is happening around you and the behaviours of co-workers. Watch for various signs in others; your body language could hurt your career prospects, so watch for these too!
For example, do you have a poker face? That’s the kind that works fine around a card table but not at work. If you permanently hide your feelings, you’re creating a body-language vacuum, and people fill it in with all sorts of misconceptions.
While you think your poker face is neutral and giving little away. It may be doing the opposite. Because people have problems “reading you”, they invent all sorts of crazy stuff, like “this person’s devious, ruthless, a lightweight, or an airhead.”
You can’t become an instant body language expert. But you can improve at reading others; It’s a continuous learning process, not a one-off quick fix. First, you have to raise your self-awareness about this issue.
Start by paying close attention during meetings, watching videos, and reading about the subject. You may even find it helpful to attend a specialist workshop. You get a chance to practice reading others in a safe environment where your mistakes don’t matter.
There are two big wins in using your body language to send messages to others that they will find hard to miss.
The first is eye contact. You’d be surprised how many people know about this yet do not take advantage of its power to make an impact. Nor do they know when their eye contact is misapplied.
The second win is your smile. Did you know that when you smile at someone, they can hardly help themselves from smiling back? Better still, science has shown that the act of smiling releases pleasure chemicals in the brain. So, when you smile at someone, your body language can give them pleasure.
To sum up, take body language seriously as an aid to succeeding at work. Treat this learning as a continuous process.
Listen to Episode 9 of my podcasts for more insight into this topic.