Your Body Language Determines Whether You're Promotion Material—Here's How

Forget Public Speaking Skills—Your Career Needs Better Body Language
by Melissa Ricker
February 06, 2017
Without ever opening our mouths, we say a lot about ourselves—much more than we could ever say with words.
Nonverbal cues—from eye contact to body language—account for a huge percentage of our daily communication, and studies show that what we say matters less than how we say it. According to a Forbes article, “nonverbal communication has been shown to carry between 65% and 93% more impact than the actual words spoken, especially when the message involves emotional meaning and attitudes.”

Stop for a minute and think about your body language right now. Are you slumped over? Are your arms folded? If so, you’re communicating a lack of confidence and power to those around you.

Being aware and taking control of your own nonverbal signals is a vital part of your career success. Not only will it improve the way others see you, but working on your nonverbal communication will boost your own self-confidence as well. You can’t avoid sending nonverbal signals, but you can teach yourself to send the right ones.

Here are six ways to convey confidence at work without saying a word:

1. IN NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION, EYE CONTACT IS EVERYTHING

Eye contact is the single most important tool you possess for establishing nonverbal connections with others. Making eye contact alone can convey a strong presence—it concurrently expresses confidence, attention, and demonstrates your level of involvement.

Do This:

In any meeting or discussion, always hold eye contact for at least two to three seconds before looking away or to another person.

2. YES, THE CONFIDENT HANDSHAKE STILL MATTERS

In the business world, physical contact is rare. In other parts of life, we use touch—hugging, handholding, high fives—to convey emotional connection, but those behaviors are typically out of place at work. The exception to this is the handshake. It’s a rare opportunity to use touch as communication in professional contexts, so it’s essential to have a good one. You’ve probably heard that a limp handshake screams low self-confidence and leads to a bad first impression, but having a great handshake can set you apart, too.

Do This:

Always grip your colleague’s hand firmly and shake twice while smiling and maintaining eye contact.

3. YOU HAVE TO DRESS THE PART

If you want to be taken seriously at work, you have to dress the part. Have you ever worked with someone who is really smart but dresses like a slob? It doesn't matter how talented she is—that sloppy behavior implies otherwise and it will absolutely stunt her career. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed, especially if you want to eventually land a promotion.

Do This:

It’s a saying for a reason: dress for the job you want, not the job you have. It will convey a heightened sense of professionalism.

4. USE AUTHORITATIVE BODY LANGUAGE—ALWAYS

Picture two people sitting side by side in a meeting. One is sitting up straight with her shoulders back. She’s leaning slightly forward and engaging in discussion with a coworker. The woman sitting next to her is hunched and looking down at the table. Her arms are folded, and her leg is twitching. Which of these women has the stronger presence in the meeting? I think we all know the answer to this question. Posture demonstrates confidence. When you sit or stand up straight, you send a message of authority and energy.

Do This:

No matter how boring the meeting, commit to staying visibly involved. Keep your eyes on whoever is speaking and sit up straight. Actively jot notes, but skip checking your phone. If you’re the person who looks engaged at meetings, people will remember you as that person.

5. CONTROL YOUR FACIAL EXPRESSIONS

Your facial expressions are tied directly to how you feel, and because of that, they’re often involuntary and unconscious. In order to take control over these powerful nonverbal messages, you have to be aware of your face and choose the expression that corresponds to the message you want to deliver. You should also work on controlling facial expressions that give away negative emotions, such as annoyance or anxiety. Think of it as working on a poker face for your career.

Do This:

If you want to exude energy and enthusiasm to make a big sale, then your face needs to be animated and attentive. To show you are interested in what your boss or coworker is saying, maintain good eye contact and hold a slight smile.

6. ACTIVELY RESPOND TO OTHERS’ NONVERBAL SIGNALS

Pay close attention to the people around you and their nonverbal signals. Because so much of communication isn't just speaking, the ability to read body language is critical to your success at work. People can tell you a lot without ever saying a word. Their eyes and facial expressions may tell you that they have a question or disagree with what you are saying. Their body language may signal they need a break or are no longer interested in your message. By responding appropriately to the nonverbal signals of others, you convey confidence in yourself and build up trust among your peers and those above you.

Do This:

The next time you’re presenting in a meeting, don’t just focus on what you’re saying or the verbal feedback you get from your colleagues. Instead, observe their reactions. Do they seem excited? Bored? Concerned? You’ll discover a lot more than you’d expect.

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Nonverbal communication is a rich source of information. It takes deliberate practice to master the skills to both display the correct nonverbal signals and body language and read the ones you receive from other people. However, if you can harness the power of unspoken cues, you’ll project more confidence and authority which will earn you more respect and credibility in the workplace.

How has nonverbal communication or body language impacted your career? Let us know in the comments!