5 Ways to Use Body Language to Your Advantage

Body language can be a powerful tool in the workplace, as long as you know how to use it to your advantage. Discover why and how this nonverbal communication tool can be useful in professional settings.

Body language

There are many things to consider when conducting yourself in the workplace, whether it’s for an interview or in your established place of business. Both verbal and nonverbal communication play a key part in this. Perhaps the most important nonverbal form of communication is body language. We can often intuit when someone displays hostile or friendly body language, but how can you use these cues to your advantage?

It may help to first understand why body language is so important. Job Skills points out that roughly 55 percent of humans’ communication is nonverbal. This means that smiling can do more to build an instant connection with others than simply saying “hello.” Decisive hand gestures can more strongly emphasize a point than words alone. And standing with your feet in a wide stance can convey an attitude of confidence that subconsciously encourages listeners to trust you. In other words, body language is able to convey our emotions and intentions in ways that words cannot. And that’s a pretty powerful tool. Here are five quick ways you can begin using body language to your advantage in the workplace.

1. Make eye contact

Making eye contact with someone, both while you are speaking and listening, conveys the impression that you are giving your coworker your full attention. Most people just want to be heard, so this idea that you are fully engaged with them will instantly create a sense of warmness and comradery. Meeting someone’s eyes also shows you have nothing to hide.

2. Use an open hand

When using hand gestures, the BBC’s Science Focus emphasizes that you should never point with your finger. This is for a couple of reasons: In various cultures, pointing at other people is considered rude because “it's associated with blame allocation.” Your listener could feel accused or the object of criticism, even if you don’t mean it that way. This can lead to negative and defensive feelings that will jeopardize the point you’re trying to make. Instead, use an open hand to gesture.

3. Stand up straight

While this is good advice no matter where you are, maintaining good posture is especially important in the workplace. The reason is twofold: It helps you appear confident and it increases the power of your voice. This is because standing up straight helps you get more air into your lungs and through your abdomen, maximizing the sound of your voice and reinforcing that aforementioned confidence.

4. Place a hand over your heart

Another hand gesture that can instantly create a feeling of trustworthiness and honesty is putting your hand over your heart to make a particular point. According to the National Library of Medicine, this is because many cultures associate this gesture with someone who “appears to have genuine intentions, or is giving one's word of honor, or is pledging allegiance.” This subconscious idea that you are an open book of sorts will likely make listeners feel closer and more bonded to you, as well as more likely to trust your intentions.

5. Practice subtle mirroring

Obviously this does not mean you should copy every gesture of your listener—that would get creepy really quickly! But subtly mirroring your listener’s stance or speaking speed can make others feel more accepted. Why? Because, according to Science of People, we tend to subconsciously mirror the habits of people we like.

While all of the above may seem like a lot of information, you don’t have to be an expert in order to reap the benefits of this nonverbal form of communication. In fact, just knowing the basics of body language can help you avoid mistakes and set the right tone for your future workplace interactions. Feeling confident about your abilities and your skills can go a long way in showing others your professional value.

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