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Career Advice

What Your Office Body Language Says About You?

Posted by Amy Elisa Jackson

Last Updated December 1, 2016

Body language reveals a lot about a person.

Work style, how you act in meetings, and professional interactions convey so much to your colleagues and especially to your boss. So what exactly do your desk disposition, predilection for listening to Drake on headphones, and brisk walks to the conference room say about you?

Glad you asked.

We tapped Dr. Lillian Glass, body language expert and communications consultant, for insight. "The body doesn’t lie. It tells people the truth," says Dr. Glass. "Colleagues will look at you very negatively if you do not watch your behavior." Quit chewing on your pencap, and pay attention.

Body Language #1: Hunched over.

What It Says About You: "You have to always be aware of your posture. If you walk into a room all hunched over, people don’t think you’re confident. People don’t think you know what you’re doing. Science has shown this repeatedly."

Body Language #2: Staring directly at your boss.

What It Says About You: "Don’t look in anyone’s eyes unless you’re madly in love with them, and you’re certainly not going to do that in the workplace. You must look at the total face for 2 seconds, the eyes for 2 seconds, the nose for 2 seconds, the mouth for 2 seconds, then go back to the total face. Your gaze then becomes soft. That’s very important to do."

[Related: Here's Why It's Important to Get Along With Your Coworkers]

Body Language #3: Leaning back in your chair.

What It Says About You: "You’ve got lean forward. Don’t lean backwards because it shows that you’re alienating."

Body Language #4: Crossing your arms or legs in a meeting.

What It Says About You: "Keep an open body position because when you’re open, people respond better to you. It shows you are willing and open to receive what they are saying."

[Related: Crying at Work: How to Do It the Right Way]

Body Language #5: Gesturing with your hands.

What It Says About You: "If you’re going to gesture, gesture with open palms because that is perceived as being more honest, more sensitive and more forthright."

Body Language #6: Tapping your pen on the table.

What It Says About You: "Don’t shake. Do not shake your feet or tap your hands. That shows nervousness and discomfort."

Body Language #7: Licking your lips.

What It Says About You: "Facial expressions and facial movements also reveal a lot about an employee. Don’t chew on your lip, puff your cheeks or licking your lips. Each of these sends a bad message of nervousness, boredom and it’s unprofessional. These also give the message of deception."

[Related: What to Do When Your Coworkers Find You Intimidating]

Body Language #8: Slouching in the back of a conference room.

What It Says About You: "The crown of your head has to be up, your eyes have to be up and your chin has to be up. Your shoulders have to be back. You must always keep that position, that’s number one. Somebody with a good posture is perceived as being successful and competent. You may not be, but you will be perceived to be and that’s half the battle. People will treat you different based on your body language."

Body Language #9: Stretching or yawning.

What It Says About You: "Stretching or rubbing you head in meetings signals that you’re bored. Don’t stretch in meetings. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom, if needed. Don’t do that in front of people because it sends the wrong message."

Recognize yourself in any of the above? Take action. "People who improve their communication skills and their body language have the upper hand when it comes to business, negotiating and life," says Dr. Glass. "You may not know what you’re doing wrong unless you [record] yourself. One day, stick a camera where you can see your entire body and record yourself. Once you play back the recording, you’ll see that your head is down, or that you shift your weight from one side to the other. By knowing what you do, then you can amend it. Being conscious of your body language is the first step to fixing it."


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