Body Language and its Importance – Make it Work for you at Work

Whoever said the only way to speak and communicate is through words? Even when you don’t speak a single word, your body language often conveys everything you want to say, sometimes even more than what you would want to say. What exactly is body language? All non-verbal communication made consciously or sub consciously. All leadership gurus and soft skill trainers would swear by the importance of proper body language. But why is body language so important after all?

Body Language plays a crucial role in communication – It can either complement your speech, or be a complete distraction to what you are saying, hence reduce considerably the effectiveness of your communication. It is a proven fact that 7 % of what we want to express is communicated through the words we use, 38% from the tone we use and 55 % comes from our body language. Hence, how effective our communication is depends heavily on how effective our body language is.

Body Language can earn you friends, or enemies – Your body language can help you be approachable or it can earn you unwanted attention. While you may not even be aware of certain flaws in your body language and may be doing it at a subconscious level, it is always best to try and be conscious and make an effort of checking yourself when you feel you could communicate better.

Signs of Positive Body Language:

  • Smiling (Discretion necessary here depending on the seriousness of interaction :))
  • Eye contact
  • A perfect handshake – not the death grip, not flaccid either
  • Affirmative movements like nodding head when required and reaffirming smiles.
  • Using hands – Use your hands to help emphasize your words, but don’t use them to the extent of it appearing as though you are dancing!
  • Slow and clear speech
  • Your posture reflects your confidence or lack of it How you carry yourself, whether your posture is straight and upright or bent and slouched determine whether you are confident and interested or disinterested. Leaning forward slightly implies interest, a willingness to comprehend
  • Slowly nodding – Shows a positive interest / comprehension / validation.

Signs of Negative Body Language

  • Tapping fingers – Agitated, anxious, bored, calculating.
  • Resting your palm on your chin – Critical, cynical and negativity towards the receiver.
  • Nose-rubbing or nose-touching when giving a verbal response – A sign of doubt, dishonesty.
  • Rubbing around ears when giving a verbal response – Performed while winging an answer, commonly associated with ‘I don’t know’ type response.
  • Rubbing the back of your head or neck – May suggest a disinterest in the conversation.
  • Staring blankly at the floor – May suggest a disinterest in the conversation.
  • Rapidly nodding your head – May display impatience / eagerness to add something to the conversation.
  • Rubbing your collar – Nervousness.
  • Biting your fingernails – Nervousness.

Our body language is mostly governed by our subconscious mind. A great way to find out how exactly our body language is, is by filming ourselves. Self-assessment is one of the most constructive forms of assessment. Though, one needs to be oneself and not alert towards the presence of the camera. The best way to be perfect, as we always say, is by practicing!

Decoding body language through non-verbal cues is also the best way to understand what the person in front of you is actually trying to communicate. Here is a helpful infographic by blogger/illustrator Yumi Sakugawa that gives some very useful body language tips.

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