Translating and controlling body language at work

Black businessman shaking hands with a caucasian one

You can plan what you say to your boss or a new client, but you might give away your true feelings with your body language. Learn how your body speaks for you at work and how to make it say what you want.

We’ve all heard the statistics that 93% of communication is non-verbal. This isn’t actually true – the study from Dr. Albert Mehabrian actually found that only 7% of communication is through words, however 38% is how you say them. That still leaves more than half (55%) coming from your body.

We take a look at how to control that 55% of communication.

An open welcome
The first thing you should always be when meeting new clients is open and welcoming. Arms open wide and a firm but brief handshake.

A light touch on the arm or shoulder can help establish familiarity without being overbearing.  When they’re in the meeting, lean in to listen to them. It shows you’re paying attention.

Know where to stand
While leaning in to listen can provide a connection, don’t get too close:

• Closer than 46 cm is classed as ‘intimate’ space and people find it uncomfortable to have a stranger in this area.

• Personal space is 46cm to 1.2m. While it’s fine to briefly enter this space, spending too long here is not recommended.

You should also stand tall. Head held high, shoulders back and an open posture. Slumping over with your head down shows a lack of interest and energy.


Businessman and woman in conversation at office

By mimicking small gestures you create an unconscious bond between the two of you. This could be something as simple as arm placement, how you’re sat, the way they nod their head or speech patterns, such as saying ‘Aha’, instead of ‘Yes’.  Don’t overdo it though as it could get creepy.

You should also try to mirror them directly – if they have their left arm rested on a chair, you rest your right arm.

Smile and the world smiles with you. A Swedish study found that people found it physically difficult to frown when looking at smiling people, with their muscles twitching into smiles all on their own. Not only that but it helps relieve stress.

Your eyes are also important. Keep them wide open and focussed on your client. Don’t hold their gaze for too long though – extended eye contact is connected with feelings of love and arousal, which are not something you want from a client.

Your face should also reflect that you are listening when not talking. Simple things like nodding at the right time, furrowing your brow when concentrating and aligning your face with theirs, show you are interested and paying attention.

Look at your feet
No, don’t actually look at them, as this is a sign that you’re not interested. But you do need to be aware of them.

Nervousness or boredom can often reveal itself in your feet. This could be feet bouncing up and down or shifting your legs and feet. These signs make it seem like you don’t want to be there.

Posted by The Secret Businessman