Body Language at the Office: What’s Yours Saying?

We’ve talked a lot about how to create an effective message with a target audience in mind, and how to communicate a business plan and get employees to buy in, but we’ve really only talked about the obvious when it comes to communicating. We all know that there is more to communication than just words on a page or the phrases that we speak.

Word choice matters, voice inflection matters, however, these are tied to verbal Dancerscommunications. What about the non-verbal? I’m talking about body language (if you’re not picturing Ursula the Sea Witch saying that, you really should). We say a lot without saying anything at all, and usually, don’t realize we are conveying a message.

So, let’s talk a little about non-verbal communication and how to best manage it in the office setting. Here are several habits to consider and how to avoid any miscommunication caused by inadvertent and misread body language.

Be Considerate with Your Tech

When in meetings, many of us are likely to take a smartphone, laptop, or tablet with us to utilize during the presentation. Many people also wear smart devices like an Apple Watch or FitBit. These can all cause distractions and can give negative non-verbal queues to those we are in the meeting with. If you have notifications set up, you may be tempted to look at them when they vibrate. Not only is the noise of the alert distractive, sneaking a quick look at them may signal you are bored and disinterested in the conversation.

TIP: If you do not need to use the internet during your meeting, turn your device to airplane mode which will disable any message in alerts. If you are wearing a smart watch or fitness tracking device that will alert and distract you, leave it at your desk to avoid temptation.

Consider Culture

We now work in a global workplace; be it with co-workers with different cultural backgrounds or communicating with vendors and/or clients in other countries. One thing to remember is that native language is not the only difference you have in communication. In some culture eye contact is actually considered disrespectful, others have different ideas when it comes to personal space and handshakes.

TIP: To avoid inadvertently offending those you have a working relationship research the communication styles of other cultures and teach diversity in the workplace.

Consider Your Intention

Body language is not a negative thing that needs to be reigned in; it is something that you need to be aware of and use as a tool just as you would with your words. When you are in the office you may want to present a specific message and you can set the tone with your body language. If you are looking for a raise or leadership role, you may want to show more a more assertive position by taking up more space. Or if you wish to defuse a situation, open your body up. Do not close your arms; crossing your arms is a defensive stance.

TIP: Just as you would consider an advertising message for your brand, remember you are your own brand. Be aware of what you need to convey taking into account all means of communication.

I’m sure you’ve heard the Alison Krauss song, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.” There is so much that our body communicates without having to even open our mouths. By being mindful of what we are saying with our bodies is important in the office setting. It’s these small things that can mean the difference between a promotion or new client.