What if you found out that someone was constantly chattering on about you at the office to undermine your chance at a promotion? Now hear this: unmanaged body language does exactly that. The wrong body talk silently inflicts more damage to your professional presence and career than the worst kind of loudmouthed gossipy coworker. But the good news is that you can do something about it.
Like all human beings, you are hardwired to believe what you see more than what you hear. When your body talk is incongruent with your verbal and brand message, others judge you as being slightly off your A-game. That little bit of wobble can be enough to knock you off the path of your career fast-track. Body talk is instant messaging. Depending on what signals it tweets, it can inspire people to see you as likeable, approachable, and trustworthy or make them uneasy and uncomfortable.
Here are five of the most harmful body language saboteurs to avoid:
1) Low on Fuel
To have a strong leadership brand everything you do has to be in consistent alignment and vigorously energized. Senior leaders want to promote individuals who can handle high pressure and heavy workloads. But if your posture is slouched, your stride is weak, and your gestures aren’t energetic it tells them you are uninspired, tired, burned-out and definitely not leadership material.
2) Splayed-Out and Scattered
You may be able to multi-task with the best of them, but when you’re in a conversation you need to give the person your full and undivided attention. I’m sure you’ve been networking when the person you were talking to was looking around the room, down at their watch, or over your shoulder. You’ve spoken to people while they did email and you’ve been at luncheons where others are more focused on their smart phones. That’s not only disrespectful but it says you don’t know how to center your attention to lead. But make the person you’re with feel like the most important person on the planet and they’ll work their heart out for you.
3) Not Ready for Prime Time
What your body messaging says when you aren’t listening to it can steal the podium right out from under you and upstage your career. Do you have stage fright doing presentations? Are you an introvert who hates to go to networking events? The jitters you feel inside will show like a flaming wig unless you learn to control your body language. Men tend to keep their hands in their pockets and jingle change. Women often play with their hair or fiddle with their purses. When humans can’t see your hands it makes them nervous thanks to a primitive self defense instinct wired to the brain stem. If you’re fidgeting that’s equally bad because it draws all the attention away from your message.
4) Closed Down to the Ideas of Others
A telltale sign that you disagree with or dislike someone is that you fold your arms across your chest. It says you are not open to listening to their ideas. We also cross our arms when we feel cold, so this gesture subtly tells people that you are cold and unfeeling. Crossing your legs also says you are closed off, and if you cross both your arms and legs you just amplify the message that says “I’m inhospitable, guarded, and defensive.” So I’m here to tell you that if you aren’t managing all your outward signals then your private resistance to or disagreement with the other person will be as clear as the nose on your face. Plus if you tell them one thing with words and quite the opposite with your body they’ll size you up as a corporate Pinocchio. Not good!
5) Barricaded in Your Office
Did you know that even your desk can be an obstacle to communication? I learned that lesson while at Macy’s because I’d sit behind my executive desk and give performance evaluations or constructive feedback but the employees didn’t open up to me or respond well. So I started having those conversations while sitting where a desk was not between us and we could observe each other’s body language. Immediately it generated warmer, more productive rapport and dialog.
I have frequently been asked by major corporations to help coach leaders who possessed all the skills, abilities, and education to rise to the top of the organization – but who just didn’t know how to manage their everyday body language. Believe me – you don’t want to come off like a C-suite tourist lost in foreign territory when it comes to body language fluency. Use positive and persuasive body talk to promote your leadership and accelerate your career. Remember that what you silently say sometimes makes the biggest statement of all about who you really are.
Predictable Promotion Exercise:
1) On a scale of 1-5 (1 = Needs improvement, 2 = Fair, 3 = Good, 4 = Very Good, 5 = Excellent) rate how well you manage your body talk in these areas:
- I’m aware of my non-verbal communication when I am in a work meeting.
- When I am really stressed out or in crisis mode, I know how to manage my body language to project a calm exterior.
- Even during difficult conversations with my boss, I consistently keep my body language open and receptive to what they are saying.
- When interacting with others I observe and interpret their body talk and respond to it in effective nonverbal ways.
2) What are the one or two body language techniques that you need to improve or add to your body talk vocabulary?
As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.
Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS
1-800-267-3245, [email protected]
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