Projecting power through body language — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Projecting power through body language

by on
in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

It's not exactly news that nonverbal communication plays a huge role in the impression we give and the messages we send to others. For thousands of years, we've come to associate particular nonverbal behaviors--body language--with power, authority, and leadership. And we've understood that these same dynamics are part of the interactions we have with our employees, or our superiors, in the workplace.

Though this is old knowledge, it's gaining new life as we focus on the question of leadership in the workplace in a new way. One factor at play is the upcoming retirement boom and the "succession crisis" that goes with it, as all kinds of enterprises look to develop their future leaders. This includes encouraging those up-and-comers to act like leaders, right down to the way they walk and talk. Another key factor is the increasing diversity--ethnicity, gender, age--not just of the workplace, but of that leadership pool.

While nonverbal behaviors have different meanings among different cultural groups, they also communicate more clearly across cultural lines than do verbal messages, even when everyone involved "speaks the same language." When our words say one thing and our body language says something else, it's the nonverbal behavior that sticks.

If you'd like to strengthen the message your body language is sending about your leadership qualities--confidence, openness, resilience--try the following:

Stand tall. An upright posture suggests authority and composure. Some people wish they were taller so they might physically dominate a situation, but height in itself is not very significant. (Think Napoleon or Mother Teresa.) The key is to carry yourself, with pride, as tall as you are.

Pick up your pace. You can strengthen your own feeling of confidence and determination, and send that same message to others, by walking 10 percent faster than you normally do. That's fast enough to suggest direction and purpose, but not so fast that people think you're rushing away from, rather than toward, something important.

Open your eyes. Studies show that people with smaller or partly closed eyes are regarded as less honest, reliable, approachable and intelligent than others. Even behind glasses, wide eyes inspire more trust and positive feelings.

Smile more. We think of smiling as a sign of amusement, pleasure and welcome, and it is all of those. But in a work setting, smiling is also a sign of competence. After all, it's not the people who are struggling to keep up with their jobs who do the smiling. It's those who are keeping up--and moving up. Smiling says you're one of those people.

Remember that all of these tips don't just send a message to others that you're a leader worth following. They also send a message to yourself and help you not just look, but actually be, a more confident and positive person at work.

Leave a Comment