How to Avoid Body Language Mistakes
By Sandy Schroeder
Most of us pay attention to what we say and do at work because it counts. You may feel you know what to say and do most of the time, but you may be surprised to learn what your body language says about you.
Travis Bradberry, co-founder of TalentSmart, an agency that serves 75 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, took a look at this problem recently. He said body language can be a major help or distraction in daily dealings at work.
The next time you attend a meeting at work, look around and see what kinds of body language you spot. You may immediately see negatives and positives that help or hurt individual employees.
Here are a few of the body language messages that may come up.
Crossed arms and stares - When someone comes to a meeting with opposition in mind their body may state the case immediately as they cross their arms and peer at the speaker. Their words may be positive, but their body language is not.
Larger-than-life moves - When a co-worker rolls their eyes or makes dramatic sweeping gestures, you know something is up. Their words may be positive, but their mission may be questionable. I worked with a manager who was very good at this. She held everybody’s attention with her drama while she took the lead in presenting her ideas.
Negative responses - You may want to believe someone’s positive story, but their nervous twitches or hesitant presentation and strained facial expressions may tell you they have doubts.
Slumping - When people come to a meeting and slouch in their chairs, they are expressing disrespect, which can undermine a speaker and spread discontent. I have seen people do this deliberately to make it clear how they felt.
Restless fiddling - I have watched meetings go off track when people express their lack of support by fidgeting or focusing on phones and papers. The speaker’s message loses power as the audience picks up on the mood of its members.
Moving away - When you are speaking to someone, they may tell you they are interested, but undercut their words as they lean back or turn away. If you want to connect with someone, listen to what they have to say as you lean forward and look at them. Then real communication may happen.
Looking away - If you want a speaker to know you are interested, maintain eye contact. When someone looks everywhere else but at you, it is easy to assume they are not interested.
Reading body language takes practice, but once you learn to pick up on these silent messages you will be able to tailor your message and gauge the audience reactions a lot better. Keep watching for new clues that tell you what is really going on with your audience.
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