No matter how hard you work to gain respect at your workplace, seriously unprofessional body language can send much of your hard work out the window. In fact, in face-to-face communication, research shows that your words account for only 7% percent of your interaction — 38% is in your tone of voice, and 55% is in your nonverbal cues, or body language.
To help you succeed at work, we’ve compiled seven body language rules to keep in mind as you interact with coworkers, your boss, or external contacts.
1. Keep Your Facial Expressions in Check
Facial expressions speak louder than words. If you’re engaged in a conversation but your facial expression is bored, angry, or confused, it’s noticeable. Don’t be rude — make sure your face is expressing a degree of professionalism. Don’t be someone you’re not, but make sure you understand the delicate balance between work and emotion.
2. Walk With Confidence
Pick up your feet when you walk. Don’t shuffle or stomp. Make sure your shoes fit. One of my pet peeves is when coworkers wear shoes that are too high, don’t fit, or just seem generally uncomfortable. Stand tall when you walk, with your hands at your side. If you are about to walk into a room with a lot of strangers or to give a speech, practice power posing in the bathroom or empty room.
3. Eye Contact is Key
Maintaining eye contact makes you trustworthy, likeable, and powerful. When you’re in a conversation, be careful to also pay attention to what is being said. Don’t stare — engage. Also, look from one eye to the other to keep from turning your eye contact into something creepy, and make sure to look back and forth slowly so the person you’re talking to doesn’t notice. Most importantly, look away occasionally or you’ll make the other person feel uncomfortable.
4. Practice Your Handshake
For the majority of my adult life, my handshake has always been strong. It almost always results in a conversation about weak handshakes where hands go limp. Those can be embarrassing, so practice yours — it should be firm and steady. Handshakes should only last between two and five seconds, and don’t forget to engage in eye contact. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, be sure to repeat the name or use one of these memory tricks so you don’t forget it.
5. Keep Good Posture
When you’re in a meeting, pretend you’re constantly in Pilates. Don’t know what that means? It means to keep the crown of your head straight up and your shoulders squared. Slouching sends the wrong impression, and a lowered head gives the impression that you’re not telling the truth or that you’re ashamed. Keep your body upright to show you are listening and have confidence in the interaction..
6. Don’t Cross Your Arms
Use open body language when you’re engaging with someone professionally. Keep your body turned toward the person you’re talking to and expose your torso. Crossing your arms shows weakness and nervousness. If you lack confidence in your body, don’t let it show.You can use your hands to talk, but don’t overdo it. This can be distracting and also show nervousness.
7. Quit Fidgeting!
I have very long hair, and I constantly touch it. (Why do I touch my hair so much? Honestly, it’s because I’m always worried about how it looks.) I’ve been working on this slowly, but surely. Experts agree that playing with your hair, biting your nails, and playing with your jewelry shows you are embarrassed about your appearance or nervous about the interaction. So, stop! No one is going to notice your appearance unless you point it out through your nonverbals, so let it go.
What other body language cues are essential to manage in the workplace? Tell us in the comments section below.
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