5 common body language mistakes in the workplace
15 November 2022 | 4 mins read
- Employee resources
Body language in the workplace: what impact does it have on our work lives and how we’re perceived?
Did you know that nonverbal communication accounts for 60-80% of all human communication? This means that the way we use our bodies to communicate is actually more important than the words that come out of our mouths.
Imagine you’re in a meeting with your boss and you’re trying to pitch a new idea. You’ve been working on this presentation for days and you know it inside and out. But despite your best efforts, your boss doesn’t seem interested. She’s crossing her arms, tapping her foot, and looking around the room.
What’s going on? It could be that your boss is reacting to your body language. Research shows that when we’re anxious or stressed, we tend to adopt what’s known as “closed” body language. This includes crossing our arms, legs, or torso, as well as clenching our fists or jaws.
Identifying positive and negative body language in the workplace
Closed body language is often seen as defensive or unapproachable. And it’s no wonder why – when we see someone with their arms crossed, we automatically assume they’re not open to what we have to say.
The same is true of aggressive body language. If you’re waving your arms around or getting in someone’s personal space, they’re likely to interpret this as threatening behavior.
Of course, body language isn’t always negative. There are also lots of positive ways to use body language at work. For example, maintaining eye contact, smiling, and nodding your head can make you seem more approachable and interested in what others have to say.
Open body language is also seen as more confident and powerful. So if you want to come across as a leader at work, make sure you’re using open body language cues.
The next time you’re in a meeting or presentation, pay attention to your own body language. Are you crossing your arms or legs? clenching your fists? Avoid these negative cues and try to adopt more positive body language instead. It could make all the difference in how others perceive you – and whether or not they’re open to hearing what you have to say.
Related read: What is unconscious bias in the workplace?
Importance of body language in communication
Believe it or not, body language is a critical part of communication.
It can be positive, negative, or neutral, and it is important to be aware of the signals you are sending with your own body language in the workplace. You may not even realize how your body language is affecting others, but it can have a big impact.
For example, have you ever been in a meeting where someone crossed their arms and seemed uninterested? Or maybe you’ve noticed someone leaning back in their chair with their eyes closed, looking like they would rather be anywhere else. These are both examples of negative body language, and they can send the wrong message to your colleagues.
On the other hand, positive body language signals interest and engagement. Examples of positive body language include leaning forward, making eye contact, and smiling.
Here are five common body language mistakes you might be making in the workplace and how to fix them:
5 body language mistakes and how to fix them
Bad posture or slouching
Bad posture communicates low energy, lack of confidence, and disinterest. It is important to sit or stand up straight, with your shoulders back, to show that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.
Fidgeting can be a sign of nerves or discomfort, and it can make you appear unprofessional or disinterested. If you find yourself fidgeting, try to take a few deep breaths and focus on remaining still.
Related read: Is yelling in the workplace harassment?
Crossing your arms can make you appear closed off, defensive, or unapproachable. If you find yourself crossing your arms frequently, try to keep your hands relaxed at your sides or in your lap.
Lack of eye contact
Eye contact is important in communication as it shows that you are engaged and interested in the conversation. If you avoid eye contact, it can make you appear disengaged, untrustworthy, or even shifty. Lack of eye contact can make you seem like you lack confidence, so it is important to try to make eye contact with the person you are talking to, even if it feels uncomfortable.
Unnatural movements or gestures
Unnatural movements or gestures can make you appear awkward, uncertain, or nervous. If you are not used to using body language in communication, it can be helpful to practice in front of a mirror so that you are aware of the signals you are sending.
Interpreting body language at work
Body language is a critical part of communication, so it is important to be aware of the signals you are sending with your own body language in the workplace.
When you are interpreting the body language of others, it is important to take into account the context of the situation. For example, someone who is crossing their arms might just be cold, or they might be closed off and uninterested in the conversation. Similarly, someone who is fidgeting might just be nervous, or they might be trying to hide their discomfort.
It is also important to remember that body language is only one part of communication, so don’t make assumptions based on body language alone. If you are unsure about what someone’s body language is communicating, the best thing to do is to ask them directly.