The Importance of Body Language in the Workplace

How You Say What You Say to Inspire and Motivate

Body language is often more revealing than what you say. According to the 7-38-55 rule (or the Mehrabian Model), no more than 7% of meaning is communicated through the words you speak. 38% is delivered through your tone of voice, and 55% through your body language. Especially for managers and leaders, how you communicate is crucial.

The importance of positive body language in a business environment

Body language is the non-verbal communication that often takes place between two or more people in conversation. Body language can be used to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, as well as how they are feeling. It can also be used to understand what others are thinking about us. Body language includes facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, posture, even clothing choice, and more.

Body language is a powerful form of communication that can convey a variety of messages. For example, when someone crosses their arms in front of their chest or puts their hands on their hips, it may mean that they are feeling defensive or confrontational.

Why is body language important in the workplace?

A leader’s body language can have a significant impact on how others perceive them. Body language can be used to project an image of confidence, strength, and intelligence. This is critical to inspirational leadership — especially when delivering difficult news or communicating organizational change that people are likely to find challenging.

How to use body language to inspire and motivate

Body language can be used to inspire, motivate, and help people connect with each other. It can be used to assert your positivity, even during tough times. Understanding how to convey the message you want your people to receive is crucial to your effectiveness when managing people. Body language can be more persuasive than your words.

How you portray interest in others can help them feel more comfortable and be more engaged with what you have to say. And there are simple gestures that you can use to convey this, such as:

  • A nod of the head

  • Making eye contact

  • Using an open stance, without folded arms

Such body language will encourage those you are talking with to be more about their thoughts and feelings on a subject matter.

A smile is one of the most common ways to display positivity. It can be used to make someone feel better or bring about positive feelings in an individual. 

As well as smiling, positive body language involves open gestures, like arms uncrossed and palms facing up.

In a palm-up gesture, the speaker is expressing a willingness to offer help, support, appreciation, understanding, or acceptance. It is a gesture that is usually associated with a sense of warmth, confidence, and honesty, and can be used to demonstrate openness.

A pat on the back can also be used as a way of showing appreciation for something someone has done well or given their best effort at something. This gesture demonstrates positive feelings because it shows support, appreciation, and acknowledgment for what has been attempted or achieved.

Crossed arms can make you appear untrustworthy or defensive, which can make it difficult for others to communicate with you. Uncrossed arms give the impression that you are more approachable, confident, and welcoming.

Avoid micro-aggressive body language

Micro-aggressive body language is usually not extreme or explicit. Typically, they are unintentional displays of contempt and happen when you don’t realize how your actions may be interpreted by others. 

Examples include:

  • Eye rolling

  • Condescending patting on the arm

  • Ignoring someone

  • Looking away

  • Shaking of the head when saying something positive

  • Folding of arms

  • Crossing legs

  • Turning away

Three keys to being more positive in your body language

Here are three ways in which leaders and managers can be more positive with their body language:

  1. Practice self-awareness 

The way you carry yourself can affect the moods of those around you. Self-awareness is key to understanding your body language and changing it for the better. Practice being more aware of your body language as you think, being mindful of not only the words you are speaking but of your facial expressions and body motions.

  1. Practice active listening to improve the positive body language

Active listening is a powerful skill that improves your understanding of the other person and helps you establish rapport. Face the person to whom you are speaking. Make and hold eye contact. Don’t interrupt. Ask questions that show you are listening and ask for clarification.

  1. Prepare to be positive

Body language happens involuntarily, but you can prepare to be body-language positive. Consider that every moment you are talking to someone is a moment to make a positive first impression. You prepare for interviews, thinking about how you want to answer questions and the questions you wish to ask. You should also prepare for the delivery of your message using positive body language.

If you are making a speech or presentation or conducting a one-to-one or team meeting, focus on how you are going to deliver with understanding, empathy, confidence, and inclusion.

To learn how our leadership coaching programs help to develop the skills needed for effective and successful leadership, contact Primeast Forward Focus today.

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