Body Language: An Important Communication Skill and Tool

We’ve all heard the saying “actions speak louder than words.” This rings true because oftentimes, our body language is what people remember most. Good or bad, it can leave a lasting image in your mind that shapes what you think of someone, particularly in the business realm. Reading body language and facial expressions is an important communication tactic for understanding how to react and respond to others. Just as important is being aware of what your own body language says to others.

Recently, scientists released a study that said the phenomenon we’ll refer to as “resting unpleasant face” is real. I believe some people don’t realize what their facial expressions can communicate. After all, we are unable to carry around a mirror and watch ourselves as we have conversations and go about our day. However, it’s important to be aware of facial expressions and body language that could be misunderstood or look unprofessional.

When it comes to body language, a few things to avoid include slouching, resting your head on your fist, appearing distracted, biting nails, playing with your phone, or shrugging rather than answering a question. Some positive body language skills to practice include sitting up straight, looking directly at the person speaking, showing the speaker you are listening by nodding your head, and shaking hands confidently upon meeting.

I remember a meeting last year where the CEO of a company appeared completely disengaged, although several members of his staff were very excited and in tune with the conversation. Since the CEO was the ultimate decision maker, his body language stuck with me as a concern. Sure enough, without vocally communicating with him much, our suspicions were affirmed. The CEO was not ready to move forward with a massive communication and branding change.

When you intuitively monitor the body language of others, you can use that information to strategize, prepare and develop a plan forward. Ignoring body language can create awkward relationships and interactions.

To take a deeper look at body language, check out this article from Psychology Today.