Poker Face or Open Book? Nonverbal Communication at Work

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

If you want to make lasting, positive impressions on those with whom you interact professionally, you should train yourself to recognize your audience, your own intent, and your external environment. Your non-verbal cues can sometimes be more important than the words you speak.

Used correctly, the right body language can make you appear confident, informed, collected, authoritative, cooperative, and enjoyable. The wrong body language has the opposite effects.

Kinesiology and Proxemics: Being Intentional

The study of human movement is known as kinesiology. Understanding the proper amount of space between two people requires knowledge of proxemics. If you want to master non-verbal communication, it might be a good idea to understand these better.

“There are no wrong gestures. There is only behaviour that either gets you the result you want or not,” according to international body language expert and performance trainer Mark Bowden. “Of course the key is to know which behaviour to choose in order to elicit the behaviour you desire from others.”

Bowden has spent years training executives and politicians about how to master the subtle communication cues of physical movement. Whether a hand gesture or a facial expression, your body language should reflect the impression you hope to create on your audience.

Communicating at Work

Though only you know what your professional objectives are, there are some non-verbal truisms that just about anybody can use in the workplace. These include how and where to make hand gestures, how to signal to your audience that you empathize with their concerns, and why eye contact is so important.

The eyes carry a lot of emotion and intent. Skillful eye contact can initiate a conversation or rescue a business meeting from the brink. Inconsistent or non-existent eye contact is usually unappealing. When you first make eye contact, smile to let people know that you are friendly.

You don’t need to make constant eye contact — this may be construed as creepy or too intense — but it is important to connect eyes to show that you are present and taking the interaction seriously.

To come across as calm, collected, and informed, try to keep your hands in the section between your hips and the bottom of your rib cage. If you want to encourage an emotional connection with someone else, raise the hands to about heart-level and extend between you and the other person. Use open hand gestures in either case to appear more cooperative.

Stand tall and confident. Try to avoid crossing your legs while standing or leaning too much when speaking with someone. You want to appear stable and capable of handling whatever is thrown at you.

React Appropriately to Their Body Language

If you want people to connect with and trust you, take care to notice their subtle tones and movements. You can use a trick called “limbic synchrony,” or the mirroring the postures and tones of whomever you speak with, which can help build trust and likability.

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