Words By Carlie Tucker
Of all the things that influence perceptions in the workplace, you may not be putting much consideration into your body language. It could be time, however, to take stock of how you present yourself because this simple aspect of everyday life could have more impact on how you're perceived than you think.
Body language plays a key role in communication. It can give more impact to your words; it can help you bond with co-workers; and it can even improve your productivity. Dr Albert Mehrabian, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, famously established the 7%-38%-55% Rule, which assigns a value to the relative impact of words (7%), tone of voice (38%) and body language (55%) on an audience. While his studies referred to specific situations, it did prove that body language has a powerful impact on perception.
From voice tone and volume, to your posture as you sit at your desk, it all sends a nonverbal message to those around you. And often times it's this message that forms initial impressions and sticks in people's minds the longest.
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Consider meeting someone for the first time. Would you rather approach someone standing up straight with an open stance, or someone with their arms folded across their chest? What about someone with a smile versus an expressionless face staring blankly ahead? Chances are the former in both instances are much more likely to make a positive impression before any words are even spoken.
Before you drive yourself crazy taking note of every little gesture you make, the best advice when it comes to improving your body language is to not over think it. As with most things in life, using a little common sense is the best approach. Smile more often, don't act disinterested (eye rolls, sighs, fidgeting) when others are speaking and sit up straight. In fact, here are a few quick tips for positive body language that can be used in all professional situations:
- Stand up tall and take up space: This sends a nonverbal message of confidence. Be sure to keep those shoulders back and your head up. A wide stance also helps you seem more steady.
- Speak clearly with a steady tone: Rushed speech or a high tone can indicate nervousness. If need be, take a deep breath and clear your throat to steady your voice before a meeting, presentation, speech or important phone call.
- Smile more often: This not only makes you feel better, but it makes those around you feel better about you. A smile will make you seem more approachable and trustworthy.
- Maintain appropriate eye contact: Avoiding eye contact can make you seem unsure or untrustworthy. Practicing appropriate eye contact will make you seem more likable and powerful. Just be sure to look away every once in awhile to avoid making other people feel uncomfortable.
- Don't cross your arms and stop fidgeting: Crossing your arms is an indication that you're angry or uncomfortable, while fidgeting can make you seem disinterested or nervous. If you feel like you need to do something with your hands, use them while you speak instead. This will add emphasis to your words and make you feel more confident.