7 Body Language Tips That Will Increase Your Influence at the Office
No matter how hard you work to gain respect at your workplace, if you don’t have influential body language, you’re sending a bad message and throwing all your hard work out the window. 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 non-verbal cues, or body language.
To help you succeed at work, I’ve put together seven influential body language tips you can use to interact with co-workers, your boss, or customers and clients. While they all will take a little bit of practice to master, you should be able to do it in no time.
Here are your seven influential body language techniques:
1. Watch your face!
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. Stride confidently through the office
Pick up your feet when you walk. Don’t shuffle or stomp. Make sure your shoes fit. Some of my female friends substitute fashion for comfort and fit, wearing heels 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.
Don’t laugh … this is a technique that I use all the time to psych myself up when I’m getting ready to do something important. I’ll get to one of my freelance client’s offices early, head to the men’s room in the lobby and strike a superhero pose for a few minutes in the bathroom stall. It may not be the sexiest image in the world, but striking a pose like Superman (or Wonder Woman, if you prefer), standing tall with hands on hips for four or five minutes while you run through your talking points works.
3. Look them in the eye
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. Get a grip … literally
My dad was an executive VP of Sales for an international vending machine company, so I grew up learning how to give firm handshakes. Even as a rotten teenager, I would look his colleagues in the eye and grip their hands tight. (This was the mid-70’s, so think post-Mad Men) It always results in a conversation about weak handshakes where hands go limp. A limp handshake knows no gender because today we judge women by their handshakes just as much as men, as it should be.
“Dead fish” handshakes are 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 their name so you don’t forget it.
5. Remember what your mom told you and sit up straight
When you’re in a meeting, 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 be cross
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. Stop fidgeting!
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 non-verbals, so let it go. I have to admit, back when I was married, I would quietly play with my wedding ring with my thumb if I was especially nervous. However, luckily I got over it so I don’t have to get married again to stay calm around customers, bosses, and such.
Again, none of these powerful body language techniques are especially difficult, but they will take practice to get them down perfect. If you’re doing something like getting ready to make a presentation or getting ready to ask your cranky boss for a raise, video yourself doing it with your cell phone, or have a friend do it, and watch for nervous ticks.