Decoding Body Language: What You’re Secretly Communicating About Your Leadership
What are you saying with your body language?
Like it or not, your non-verbal communication speaks louder than your words. Many times, it’s not exactly what you intended to say. If your team is headed in the wrong direction, you might want to step back, decode your body language and decipher what you are really telling them.
Imagine a time before the spoken word, thousands of years ago when cavemen relied on gestures and eye contact for communication. At that time, it was prudent to speak out loud only when necessary to avoid scaring away big game or attracting deadly enemies. It’s hard to imagine now that language and syntax were concepts barely in their infancy. With populations so sparse, body language was the common speech.
During those times, a simple gesture or puffing out of the chest to the clan leader at the wrong time in the wrong way could have someone in hot water or ostracized from the tribe. Meanwhile, averting the eyes at just the right moment might win over an attractive member of the opposite sex.
Here we are today in modern times dealing with the same classic issues with body language and communication. What do you think would happen if you stood up in the middle of a meeting and puffed out your chest to the division manager? Worse yet, what might happen if you turned your back when someone on your team was talking with you?Sending the right message with your non-verbals is keenly important. Your voice inflection is part of that message, but it’s not the total package.What does your body language say? Does it say you’re confident, smart, and enthusiastic—or just the opposite?
If you want to learn how to decode your body language and lead your teams more effectively, consider these practical tips below. As an added bonus, they might just help you advance your career.
The eyes truly are the windows to the soul. Be sure you’re making eye contact with those you’re having a conversation with. Glancing around the room, looking past someone or simply phasing out all indicate that you’re just not engaged in the conversation.
If you’re leading a meeting, eye contact with your audience is even more important. Keep your eyes focused on those you’re speaking with, and you’re half-way home to winning their trust.
Your posture conveys a number of factors to the people you’re with, including how you feel about your topic and even your energy level. If you’re slouched, resting your chin on your hands or crossing your legs, you’re conveying a casual attitude. This can be a big benefit in certain situations, but be careful. It can also imply carelessness.
Standing solidly on two feet conveys strength and energy. With your weight distributed on the balls of your feet, you’re ready to move. Square shoulders and chin up display confidence and self-respect.
The great thing about displaying good posture is that, even when you’re not feeling confident and interested, adopting this body language will help you feel brighter and more energetic immediately.
Arms & Hands:
When your hands are open, you’re ready to receive. With your arms outstretched or at your sides, you’re in a neutral or even a welcoming position.
Folding your arms across your chest is a great way to keep warm. After all, you’re covering your vital organs, including your heart. But it also could convey a closed attitude. Be careful how you use this gesture.
You may be surprised to learn that your feet are talking as much as your hands are, telling the story of your interest in the conversation. If you’re looking at someone but your feet are pointed toward the door, guess which way you sub-consciously want to move.
Crossing your ankles or legs indicates a casual stance or even a feeling a comfort. You’re certainly not about to go anywhere in that posture. But here again, be clear about what you want to convey. This can be great for bridging the gap, but it also could be inappropriate in formal settings. Understand what’s standing under you.
Everyone has a comfort zone, that personal space they’ll let you into. If you come closer than arm’s length, you’re likely to incite strong feelings – either of romance or anger. When you’re talking with someone, don’t encroach into their personal zone unless you’re absolutely sure you’re invited.
Using these tips for non-verbal communication may not win you any public speaking awards. On the other hand, they’ll help you keep your feet on the ground where they belong – and out of your mouth!