Have you considered how your posture, facial expressions, and other physical movements can impact on your career? If not, it may be time to take a closer look at what your body language says about you as a professional.
Body language plays a crucial role in an individual’s success, regardless of his or her industry or position. Although their implementation and effects often seem subtle, positioning and movements work together to communicate specific attributes about a person. Thanks to the effective (or not so effective) use of body language, an unqualified professional can rise through the ranks, while the best minds in their fields may languish in middle management.
Fortunately, anyone can learn how to leverage body language to their advantage, achieving better rapport and reputation among their colleagues.
Career-Boosting Qualities Communicated by Body Language
When it comes to influence in business, many factors contribute to how others perceive you. Choice of words, speaking volume and tone, and style of dress and grooming all offer cues (whether accurate or not) to others regarding your capabilities.
However, one of the most important factors in shaping the perceptions of others is body language. By using movements, positioning, and facial expressions, you can project positive qualities such as:
- Confidence. Business leaders throughout history have been known to project confidence, or a sense of being secure with their abilities or accomplishments. Therefore, if you wish to advance, employ body language to communicate confidence – even when you may not feel it.
- Assertiveness. Managing high-level duties and personnel requires the ability to advance your own will – or the will of the company – in spite of resistance. Physically positioning yourself as someone not easily swayed by others shows the ability to influence and lead others.
- Interest. Potential employers, colleagues, partners, and clients want to work with people who find the topics they discuss compelling. Showing an active interest in a conversation, lecture, or presentation indicates that you as a professional will use the same level of engagement in a future business relationship.
- Openness to collaboration. Although assertiveness is key in leaders, so is the ability to cooperate with others to achieve common goals. Being able to identify and incorporate ideas from one or more outside parties helps you benefit from the diverse expertise of multiple sources, ultimately strengthening your strategies.
- Intelligence. Succeeding in any industry requires a wide variety of knowledge, from education to life and professional experiences. Body language methods that communicate alertness and comprehension indicate a high I.Q. and show others you are mentally “cut out” for greater responsibility.
- Empathy. Not only is I.Q. important to business intelligence; so is the E.Q., or emotional intelligence quotient. Professionals who decipher and respond to the emotional needs of themselves, customers, and colleagues stand the best chance of advancing in their fields.
By using body language techniques to communicate one or more of these qualities, you can raise yourself in the esteem of influential parties without speaking a word. As a result, you gain favor with the very professionals in the position to help advance your career.
The 8 Most Effective Business Body Language Tricks
- Maintain eye contact and active listening techniques. Everyone wants to feel interesting and important, and engaging in active listening shows other individuals you see them in such a way. By keeping consistent eye contact with others when they speak, nodding occasionally, and using other indicators of rapt attention, you as a professional show respect for colleagues.
- Keep palms facing down. Those around you may not recognize this subtle move, but it will help shape their opinions of you all the same. When individuals place both of their hands palms down on tables, podiums, or counters while speaking with others, it projects a sense of authority and leadership.
- Act in synchrony. Imitating, or “mirroring,” the body language of others shows you align with them philosophically as well. Watch how others position themselves – whether sitting, standing, or walking, and mimic the way they cross their legs, lean forward or backward, gesticulate, or present facial expressions (smiles, frowns, etc.). The goal is not to “ape” the other individual, but to communicate a sense of cooperation.
- Strike a wide stance. While speaking to – or in front of – others, if you adopt a wide stance, it expands your diaphragm and projects your speaking voice more effectively. You also appear more impressive and influential, making you a business force to be reckoned with.
- Keep body language open and remove possible barriers. People take emotional cues from their conversation partners. Therefore, if you slouch, cross your arms, or otherwise appear “closed off” to others, audiences respond in kind. Keep body language relaxed and arms at your sides to show you’re open to those with whom you interact. In addition, avoid holding large items or allowing structures such as tables to separate you from one another.
- Smile sincerely. A convincing smile begins slowly and spreads throughout the rest of the face, especially the eyes. When approaching an individual of consequence, imagine greeting an old friend, and a genuine smile will emerge. These expressions communicate a sense of warmth and welcome, which encourages others to open up.
- Minimize movements. Standing woodenly in networking and business situations won’t do. However, squirming, scratching, wiggling, twitching, or fidgeting projects an appearance of nervousness or impatience. Gesticulating wildly while conversing also distracts from important points. The best policy is to incorporate natural, subtly controlled movements to enhance your points and mirror the body language of others.
- Develop a strong handshake. The tactile sensation of a handshake has made it the prevalent physical greeting in many cultures. However, perfecting this seemingly simple act takes some work. Avoid extremes in handshakes, whether overly limp or excessively firm. Instead, aim for a brief, natural-feeling grasp to communicate trust and respect.
Although implementing some of these techniques may feel more natural than others, practicing them at each business or social function helps you develop body language habits that will benefit you throughout your career. A promotion or raise may not happen immediately, but over time, strong body language greatly contributes to the success and scope of your professional life.
What body language techniques do you use to establish authority among your peers?