Boss Lady

Is your body language sending the right message?


As we all know, communication is more than just the words we say or write. Communication is also in the things we don’t say; it’s in the way we move, in our facial expressions and in our body language.

That’s right. Even if we’re not aware of it, we’re still sending out non-verbal messages to others, which can be interpreted in different ways.

If you work closely with people and have a particular way of talking to them, sitting/standing near them or just generally ‘being’ around them, your body language could be interpreted in ways you don’t intend: as an emotional expression, a way of moving a conversation along or even that you are flirting.

But why is this so? Why is it that, even if we just stand near someone, our behaviour around them could mistakenly be interpreted as ‘flirtatious’ and not as what it might be intended to be?

Carol Kinsey Goman elaborates on body language, relating it to ‘the look of business’ and ‘the social gaze’:

If you create an imaginary triangle, the base of which are the eyes and the apex is mid-forehead, you will have mapped out the ‘look of business’. When you keep your gaze in that area, you nonverbally signal a no-nonsense, business-like approach.

When you invert the triangle and move your focus to the area from the eyes to the mouth, you transform your gaze into one more appropriate for social encounters. [tweet_quote hashtags=”#bodylanguage” ]And a social gaze can be misinterpreted as flirtatious—even in a business setting[/tweet_quote].

On, however, Nick Morgan writes that what the experts say about body language is not necessarily true; because we are naturally more in tune with other people’s body language than the experts believe.

The truly good news is, for people you know, you are already more expert than the experts at reading this intent…You know already, unless you’re completely clueless, when your spouse is ticked off, or your child is bored, or your boss wants something done, now!  With people we know, we’ve already amassed many hours of study, and we know the signs.

But whether we’re relying on experts or our instincts, the way body language is read, is crucial in the workplace and is crucial to how you’re perceived.

It can also express more than an emotional or romantic response and as Morgan mentioned, body language is something we are naturally in tune with.

When in the workplace, you’ll always work closely with others in some way, so how you behave is important and could affect you and your business.

Goman also writes about [tweet_quote hashtags=”#bodylanguage @forbes” ]the importance of being aware of non-verbal cues[/tweet_quote] from others, noting that, “Women who have a firm handshake make a more favorable impression and are more likely to be judged as confident and assertive” and that “…women (when sitting) adopt an open-arm posture in the presence of someone they like”.

But as Morgan says, “…gestures are ambiguous.  They can mean many things.  If I cross my arms, I may be signaling my defensiveness, but I may also be cold, or simply tired…or just getting comfortable”.

However we read body language, it is not an exact science. So, in every way, we have to be aware of how we conduct ourselves socially and in the workplace and what we might be communicating to others.

Goman’s tips for body language in the workplace:

  • [tweet_quote hashtags=”#bodylanguage” ]Take the time to cultivate your “professional” handshake[/tweet_quote]. Keep your body squared off to the other person—facing him or her fully.
  • Make sure you have palm-to-palm contact and that the web of your hand touches the web of the other person’s. And, most of all, remember to shake hands firmly.
  • One way that status is demonstrated nonverbally in a business meeting is by physically taking up room. Lower-status, less-confident men (and most women) tend to pull in and keep all of their materials in one neat pile, while high status males take up a lot of room.
  • More predictably than their male counterparts, [tweet_quote hashtags=”#branding” ]women (when sitting) adopt an open-arm posture in the presence of someone they like[/tweet_quote]. Women also tend to fold their arms across their chest when they feel indifferent to or dislike the other person.
  • Clothes make a strong visual statement about how a woman sees herself; it is here where females really have an edge in dressing for success.

About Rowena Nagy

Rowena Nagy is a Journalist at The Business Woman Media. A graduate in Journalism, Media and Communications, she is passionate about in writing, travel journalism, video journalism and Public Relations.

Recommended for you