It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It: The Power Of Body Language At Work

by Ashley Stetts

Have you ever noticed how someone can say one thing verbally, while communicating something completely different non-verbally? It’s super important to pay attention to this, especially in work situations when body language may signal a lack of confidence, which could potentially hold you back professionally.

People are more influenced by your presence than what you actually have to say. Consider these tips to demonstrate the power of body language at work:

Before your meeting: Power pose.

Several studies have highlighted the effectiveness of holding your body in expansive power poses. Lean back in a chair with your hands behind your head and your feet on a desk, or stand with your arms and legs spread. Holding one of these poses for about a few minutes before an important interview or meeting will stimulate higher levels of testosterone (which is linked to power and dominance) and will stimulate lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Make tasks easier: Smile.

If you're frowning while at work, you're sending your brain the clear message that this sucks and you don’t want to be doing it. This releases stress chemicals, causing whatever you're doing to actually seem more difficult and negative. When you smile, you send your brain the message that things aren’t so bad, that everything is totally doable. Beyond this clear advantage, smiling is an easy way to make yourself appear more friendly and approachable, regardless of whether you actually feel friendly or approachable.

Show confidence: Widen your stance.

By standing with your feet close together, you inadvertently send the message that you're unsure of what you are saying. By just widening your stance, relaxing your knees and centering your weight in your lower body, you look more solid and confident. If you choose not to take this tip, just make sure you never twerk in the workplace. Unacceptable stance.

Show interest: Maintain eye contact.

When someone avoids eye contact, it either paints the person as terribly timid or as a liar — neither situation is positive. Here’s a simple technique to improve eye contact: Whenever you greet someone, look into his or her eyes long enough to notice what color they are. Maintain eye contact as much as possible during conversations and presentations to help yourself appear more confident, as though you are actually interested in what is being said. But, beware -- intense, unbreakable eye contact generally comes across as creepy.

Gain clarity: Talk with your hands.

The area of your brain that is responsible for speech production engages when you’re gesticulating. Using your hands as you speak can help you power up your thinking and, potentially, you'll be able to cut down on those "ums” while you speak. Try incorporating hand gestures into your communication more often to see if it helps you form clearer thoughts and more impactful language.

Be trusted: Reduce nervous gestures.

It's natural to break out the nervous gestures when stressed (which likely happens sometimes at the workplace). This could include rubbing your hands together, bouncing your knees or playing with your jewelry or hair. Unfortunately, people can interpret these nonverbal motions as a sign that you’re not credible. To cure this, plant your feet flat on the floor and stay still. Stillness communicates calmness and confidence. Despite the stress you've gleaned from your assh*le boss or stressful deadline, staying calm will communicate that you have your act together.

Keep these tips in mind when you're at work, and remember that body language speaks just as loudly as your words. Make sure you're sending the correct message.

Photo credit: USA Networks/Suits