Body Language Tips to Assert Yourself in the Workplace

Body language tips can help us be more effective in the workplace. So why is body language so powerful?  Our body language is controlled by our subconscious mind. So it becomes quite evident when what we are saying and feeling or thinking are not the same.  Our body language sends very strong signals about our true feelings.

In face to face communications body language  plays the most significant role in interpersonal communication, much more than what is said or how it is said. According to Max Eggert, a management psychologist, we can “impress, persuade and succeed with the power of body language.”

In the workplace we need to learn to be aware of what is not being said. It is often what we read between the lines that influences the outcome of meetings the most. Let us explore some body language tips.

Body Language Tips

Personal versus social space: Our personal space can have a definite impact on controlling what is being said through body language. 1.5 meters is typically the space we allow between ourselves and others. This means we are close enough to shake hands and talk. When someone comes too close into our personal (physical) space we may move away. Of course there are definite cultural variances where some cultures are very comfortable with people moving within their personal space.

At work the distance between people physically is generally 1.3 – 3.5 meters. If someone turns their body away from you or places the leg closest to you as a barrier between the two of you, then they are uncomfortable with the distance between the two of you. So be sensitive to whether you are moving in too close to their space.

If you are having an important one to one meeting be conscience of where you sit. If you sit directly opposite a person the energy can quite likely become antagonistic. If you can, sit at a round table. Or sit in a way that you shift your body to one side so that you do not come on square to the person. In this way you neutralise the energy. This is particularly important when you are discussing difficult topics.

Maintain social eye contact: This creates the impression that you are confident and have credibility. If you happen to have a somewhat intense look then tip you head slightly to the side. This will soften how you come across and be less “threatening” for the other person. On the other hand, I know of a Sales Manager who strategically placed his Account Executive in the firing line with an executive. The former had an intense stare that he knew would unnerve the executive!

Smile: This automatically builds rapport with the other person. Others will perceive your behaviour as warm and welcoming. This is very important as most people want to feel safe in their interactions with others.

Be the first to put your hand forward to shake hands. This gesture also reflects confidence and warmth.

Lean forward when you speak: this  shows you are interested and keen to engage with the other person.

Dress appropriately: Consider dressing up i.e. wear something that reflects the impression you want to create. If you want to come across as highly professional wear something smart. Typically the higher you move up in most organisations, the stronger the similarity of dressing becomes! It is also helpful to dress in a similar way to the person with whom you will be interacting. This actually is known to build rapport!

Be mindful of how your dress code impacts on the extent to which you are being accepted by your seniors and your peers.

Controlling your anxiety: Be aware of how you behave when you are tense: do you fidget, lick your lips, cough, bite your lip, perspire a lot, etc. Focus on breathing in deeply, holding your breath for a few counts and then slowly exhaling. This will calm your nerves considerably: more oxygen will reach the emotional (right) side of your brain. Sip on water if your throat feels dry. Keep your hands still. Make an effort to not fold your arms. Instead sit with your hands relaxed in your lap.

Speak slowly: Speaking fast is a sure sign that you are anxious or angry. If you find yourself in a difficult or tense interaction, speak more slowly and in a deeper tone. Speaking slowly gives you the chance to think while you are speaking. Take pauses between sentences. Speaking in a deeper tone creates a greater degree of calmness.

Importance of Self-Awareness

How we hold ourselves in social interactions often reflects how we feel about ourselves or our level of confidence in situations. Getting to understand our own body language equips us to become more aware of the finer nuances that impact on our relationships. Often others give us feedback about ourselves which may seem foreign to us. This is due to the fact that we all have a blind spot where we either cannot or do not want to see sides of ourselves!

Business mentoring can help you become aware of important body language tips that you can use to your advantage. Understanding your body language equips you to make small changes but potentially with dramatic effect.


Posted in Relationships, Self mastery.