Back to Basics: Body Language 101

Behind our fancy computers, smartphones and eloquent writing skills lie the most basic and sometimes forgotten communication technique: body language. While body language may seem like an intuitive response in certain professional settings, no one is immune to dreary days when our emotions can be clearly read on our faces. On those days, it’s important to remember our body language is a communicative tool to show proactive engagement.

Executing positive body language is the key to forming successful partnerships, job opportunities and office dynamics. Whether discussing future plans with a client or conducting an informal business meeting, positive body language indicates understanding between two or more parties. To ensure sincere relationships develop, start by analyzing your own body language, as well as others’ in public and professional settings. You’ll find that you can understand a person’s emotions even before they speak.
Below are a few things you should remember when it comes to body language and interactions with others.

  1. Eye contact. Looking someone in the eyes while speaking is a polite way to inform the communicator you’re attentive. I’m not talking about a death stare, but direct eye contact is a gracious way to show you’re listening and engaged. For best results, put the phone away, strike interesting conversation, ask questions or take notes.
  2. Avoid the shoulder shrug. Researchers believe sitting with correct posture radiates hormones that boost confidence. Known as High Power Poses – like standing with shoulders back – these stances simultaneously reduce the release of stress hormones and promote the spread of positive hormones. Shrugged, hunched shoulders indicate doubt. We may sit slouched in our desks without recognizing the implications. It’s crucial to be aware of the messages your body sends even while at your desk.
  3. Avoid the defensive stance. When doing business, if you notice a client or co-worker crossing arms or legs, be aware this is an immediate sign of defensive behavior. To ease tension, warmly welcome a conversation. In public speaking forums, one can connect with an audience by asking questions. Genuinely engaging your audience helps to reduce uncertainty. Open body positions assist in effective communication.
  4. The power of a smile. Smiling is a great way to physically show your enthusiasm. Even when it’s not your day, smiling eases tension and promotes optimism. Smiling not only influences your mindset, but it also improves the attitudes of individuals around you. Smiling shows friendliness and openness, especially when discussing information with clients or co-workers.