Body language do’s and don’ts in the workplace

Body Language

We’ve all heard about first impressions and how long it can take for a stranger to size you up (7 seconds, apparently). The outfit you wear, the way you’ve styled your hair, your punctuality – these are all things that help someone form an opinion of you. Don’t forget body language, either.

Body language covers everything from your facial expressions and body posture to your eye movements and handshake. It’s something you probably never think about, yet it has the power to affect whether you get ahead or lag behind in your career. This may sound dramatic, but think about how you perceive your colleagues and what this perception is based upon. Now imagine that you’re hiring a new employee, deciding who to promote to a leadership role, or determining who should look after an important client.

Strive for These Dos

Here are the top ways to communicate to others that you’re engaged, approachable and confident:

  1. Have a solid handshake – Even if you have to practice this over and over again, creating a firm (not pincer-like) grip will hold you in good stead.

  2. Stand tall – By making the most of your natural height, you will immediately feel and look more confident.

  3. Mirror others – When we want to bond with another person, we unconsciously mimic their behaviour. Have you ever caught yourself yawning when someone else yawns? How about when everyone in a room is sitting down – do you feel the need to sit down too? Mirroring your colleagues’ tone of voice, movements, sitting position and posture can lead to acceptance and understanding; however, only copy their positive body language! Another note would be to temper how you apply this with your boss, as you may come across as plain arrogant.

  4. Smile – It’s amazing how a simple smile can affect others’ moods, as well as your own.

  5. Open arms – Crossed arms can suggest you’re not open to what you’re hearing or seeing.

Avoid These Don’ts

If you find yourself engaging in these examples of negative body language, stop!

  1. Glassy eyes and token nodding – There’s nothing worse than speaking with a group of colleagues, only to realise that your words aren't

    being heard and they are all in auto pilot.

  2. Fidgeting – Twirling your hair and playing with your hands shows that you’re not interested.

  3. Slouched posture – There’s no better way to communicate how bored and un-enthused you are.

  4. Lack of eye contact – This can show that you’re not confident in what you’re saying or are feeling self-conscious or disinterested.

  5. Looking at your watch or a clock – This signals that you’re keen to move on to other things and you feel as though your time could be better spent.

What do you think? Is there room for improvement? Body language is often communicated without thinking, but you can change the way you are perceived and awareness is just the first step. Start with these dos and don’ts and begin observing your co-workers – their unspoken ‘words’ may be very telling!

For even more career advice and tips, get in touch with Chandler Macleod today and keep reading the CMG blog.

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