Anush and Kedar were among the top sales performers at their firm but there was a huge difference in the way they were perceived by their colleagues.
Anush was always cheerful, treated everyone warmly, was an attentive listener and was always ready to help others. People felt comfortable around him and valued his feedback.
Kedar, on the other hand, was seen as gloomy and unapproachable, although he was a good leader and a competent employee. He, too, would attend meetings and give valuable feedback, but something in the tone of his voice, or maybe the fact he failed to make eye contact with others, didn’t make it that effective. Not surprisingly, he was not popular.
Kedar couldn’t understand why this was happening, but it all boiled down to his body language. At times, we fail to understand the importance of body language at the workplace. Body language is an essential part of nonverbal communication and not an alternative, and supplements verbal communication.
Apart from having a healthy body language yourself, reading body language in the workplace is also extremely important, to understand the intensity and intentions behind the message being transmitted through verbal communication to you. Body language signals the spirit in which a message is being conveyed and can display hidden emotions.
Importance of body language in the workplace
Like Kedar, there are many people who work hard, pay attention, and perform well under pressure, but are still considered sub-par employees. Why does that happen? Your body language at the workplace speaks volumes about you. As author Deborah Bull puts it, “Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we were able to speak. Apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body language, not the words.”
The posture, gestures, facial expressions, tone, and pace of the speech can give important insights into the speaker’s mind. Understanding what they feel is as important as understanding what they mean.
Paying attention to your body language and using the correct nonverbal cues can help you succeed in the workplace.
Importance of reading body language
Understanding the importance of body language at the workplace and reading facial expressions can help you navigate any situation in a better way.
For example, if you are a salesperson and an irritated customer comes your way, you can adjust your own expressions to reflect empathy, understanding and regret for their inconvenience. In the first place, you may have to closely observe and read the body language of the customer to figure out that he or she is irritated.
Ideal body language at the workplace should reflect an energetic, positive, and open personality.
Examples of body language
Now that we know about the importance of body language at the workplace, let us look at a few commonly observed examples of body language.
Examples of body language include facial expressions such as sadness, anger, frustration, uneasiness, or joy. Other examples of body language are gestures and eye contact.
As we know, a smile is a universal language anyone can understand. It portrays a calm, comforting, and positive presence.
Experts recommend ensuring healthy eye contact and a straight posture while avoiding crossing of arms or legs. Crossing arms and legs means the person is rigid and does not agree with certain things that are being said or with a certain person who is talking.
Actions that display nervousness and stress, such as cracking knuckles, tapping fingers on the table, shaking or tapping legs, playing or fidgeting with a pen, pulling on ears, and biting nails, are highly discouraged.
Reading body language is easy once you understand the importance of body language at the workplace and its basic principles. Lowering the head, avoiding making eye contact, or even staring blankly towards someone means that the person is not confident and is trying to hide an emotion or thought.
On the other hand, open gestures such as unfolded arms, straight back, tilting of the head while listening to another person are quite effective. Active listening and giving out non-verbal listening responses such as nodding the head and approving hand gestures show that the person is interested, excited, and open to ideas.
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