10 Tips for Reading Body Language in the Workplace - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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body language

10 Tips for Reading Body Language in the Workplace

There’s quite a few signs & signals we notice in any average workplace, but it’s the people around you we notice the most. Whilst you’re noticing each individual revolve around your office and business dealings daily, it’s their body language that evokes an emotion and gets you turning your head again to re-look.

Body Language Linking to Emotional Intelligence

Body language, including facial expressions, are a form of expressing emotion – anger, happiness, frustration or confusion, etc. When faced with a confusing situation that might annoy you, your initial reaction will result in a frown. Conveying confusion and annoyance through a frown is an appropriate manner in the workplace. Understanding how you feel and responding, not reacting,  appropriately, is what demonstrates your emotional intelligence – where you don’t allow your feelings to overrule your reactions. In the instance where you cannot control your feelings and result in projecting an overreaction i.e. a tantrum, not only is it unacceptable in the workplace, but it shows your lack of emotional intelligence.

Reading body language is what allows you, as either an employee or employer, to project self-confidence. With self-confidence, you’re able to influence others to motivate them, develop the right relationships with them and whatever you propose as an idea will have a profound impact on them. Reading body language is as easy as looking at their posture, stance, positioning and any arm, leg or facial movement. When you’re reading body language, it sees if there are any changes in movement or any movement at all. While not everyone is a professional at reading body language nor mindful of their own, there are a few tips to reading body language that will keep you on the lookout or help keep you in the loop of your projection:

Tips for Reading Body Language

  1. Eye Contact
    When talking to someone, it’s best to ensure you look at them. When I say look at them, I mean their eyes. Looking at their face or concentrating on a particular feature of theirs that isn’t their eyes, will not go unnoticed by the receiver (trust me!). Not only does it make the receiver feel uncomfortable thinking there might be a food stain or a hair, but it also makes them think you’re not giving them your full attention.
  2. The Handshake
    Strong and firm is what they say a handshake should feel when you greet someone. It shows strength, courage and overall, confidence. If you’ve got sweaty palms, try to wipe them in advance because no one wants a hand wash after shaking hands.
  3. Postures
    This is an interesting one. Your posture when you stand or sit throughout your everyday activities projects your confidence and impacts your productivity. Standing tall or sitting straight and upright (without slouching) are some small steps to feeling open and professional. You’re able to project yourself more clearly and what you say comes off as strong rather than weak.
  4. Open Hand – Use Your Hands as Body Language
    When some individuals speak, they tend to use their hands a lot. It could be shown through hand actions like waving them about to convey a specific movement or rhythm. Funnily, it’s quite important to use. Not only does it help the receiver see that you meant to say something with a passion, it helps you project what you mean to say without appearing like an automated bot. For cases where hands are also important, ties in with point two (2). Using your hands to reach out for a handshake is essential for greeting. It’s a form of common courtesy and comes off professional in the workplace as opposed to a wave.
  5. Crossed arms
    Be wary of this one. Having your arms crossed can mean several things in different scenarios. Generally speaking, arms crossed conveys a closed off emotion. This specific body language reads that there’s no more room for arguments because it’s clear that the person who has their arms crossed is furious and does not want to speak further of the matter.
  6. Raised Eyebrows
    Raised eyebrows show that you’re alert and surprised or at times, shocked. If something new or exciting happens, it’s likely your eyebrows will rise along with your eyes widening. Each of the three emotions linked to raised eyebrows is usually accompanied with sounds you make like a gasp.
  7. Clenched Jaw and Fists
    A clenched jaw and fists say that you’re beyond angry and feeling frustrated to the point where you’re ready for start an argument – whether it be verbal or even physical (let’s hope not). While these two body language forms are unacceptable in the workplace; they appear quite often in the world outside the office.
  8. People who mirror your language
    Those who reflect what you say or start to pick up the words you use frequently will leave you feeling understood. In some cases, you’ll even feel like you’ve made it in the world being able to influence others. Mirroring what others say after getting to know them, is a great way to show them that you’re building a relationship with them. You’re trying to let them understand that in this big world, you get them.
  9. Smile
    This is a no brainer. Smiling is clearly letting the receiver know that you’re happy or approachable. In the workplace, smiling gets you a long way because when you’re approachable, it means you’re easy to do business with – which is a bonus when you’re trying to engage with new stakeholders. However, understand when not to smile especially during serious situations that involve you to show more concern than awkward happiness.
  10. Voice
    No matter what you say, you need to be mindful of how you say it. Your voice projection, whether it be loud or soft, spoken bluntly or all jumbled up says a lot. At times, what you say wouldn’t even matter anymore because how you say it truly reflects what or how you feel.

Keep an Each of these 10 pointers to look out for when conversing with someone should be kept in mind for both yourself and for reading body language. It’s important for yourself to read body language from other people, to get an indication of how they’re feeling. As well, we should not forget it’s important to understand what to convey to ensure others know how you’re truly feeling. Presenting the right words but projected with the wrong gestures is what will confuse the receiver, and at times it may even result in some trouble for you.

Alexi Gavrielatos

Business Development at EmployeeConnect