Before we get into the nitty gritty of body language tips in the workplace, we need to step back for a little bit and look at the big picture: what are we trying to achieve here? The goal isn’t to make everyone feel as if you are powerful. Neither is it to have super charismatic body language that turns every head when you walk into a room.
Here is the actual goal: we want to come across as comfortable, confident, and relaxed in our own skins, so that we can make other people whom we work with, comfortable with us so that they will want to talk with us, collaborate with us, deal with us, and work with us. We don’t want our body language to suggest that we want it all to be about us- we want it to suggest that we want to help them. You want your body language to show that you are not thinking about yourself but are instead focused on working with your colleagues to build something better.
If someone looks at you and gets a feeling in their gut that says that this person is really trying to help me while being comfortable in his own skin, then they will ignore and forgive you if you fidget with your ring for a second or let an um or an ah slip out of your mouth. On the other hand, you can be perfect in every aspect in terms of your posture and distracting actions, but if people you are speaking to and working with think that the only thing you are thinking about is yourself and not helping them, they are not going to like you and they will not want to work with you.
Confident Briefing to Colleagues and Others
Here is a scenario: you are giving a briefing to someone in your office and you are seated. It may seem easier since you are not standing in front of a bunch of people so you are not as self conscious about your body and your hands. However, there are still things that you need to watch out for.
For starters, do not get too comfortable. There is a tendency for people to start thinking that since they are seated, they can lean or slump forward. My recommendation for you is that even though I want you to be comfortable, you need to hold yourself high, lean forward, and not touch your hands to the table when talking. If you are listening to someone, it is fine to have your hands on the table. But when you are talking yourself, you need to gesture which will help you come across as more comfortable, confident, and relaxed.
Many people tend to put their hands down. Problem is, when you do that, you tend to slump. Everything looks wrinkled and no one looks good that way. Plus, there is less energy in your voice since you are not moving your hands or your body.
The other thing to realize is that it is still your briefing or presentation. You may have a screen, or a projector, or a handout that you want the people to look at, but you need to be looking at the people you are briefing. All of the material is for them, not for you. So while it may seem like a less scary option, you should still practice on video to get it just right.
The Number 1 Tip for Curing Body Language Problems Is
I want to give you my number one solution to solving all of your body language problems. While this is the most effective tip, it is also one of the least popular tips with my students. Why do people hate doing it? Is it as tough as waking up at four in the morning and jogging ten miles to get in shape for the Olympics? No! Is it physically tough like learning how to dunk a basketball? Not really. Is it physically painful? Not at all. It is just that people do not like to do it.
If you really want to know what your body language is like, what is working and what is not working, and how you are coming across, you need to pull your cell phone out, pull up the option for recording video, and you need to practice your speech or presentation or even if you just want to raise your hand and ask a question at the annual meeting where 200 employees are going to congregate.
After recording, watch yourself, and figure out what you like and what you do not like. Then, here is the part you are going to dislike even more, you have to redo it again and again until you are convinced that this is the best that you can do. Until you actually like your body language. Until you like the way you look and sound. Until you cannot find any distractions in the way you move and speak. It may just take you two minute long takes. Rewatching and reviewing it and then recording it may take you a whole of 4 to 5 minutes only. So do not say that you do not have the time to do it. There is always time for anything important.
The people whom I train one on one do not have a choice- they get in front of the camera multiple times and review their performance until they love what they see. For someone starting at the base level, they can be done in a single day.
I understand why people do not like to do it but there is simply no other way to know how your body language is coming across. You may spend hours rearranging bullet points on your presentation but if you don’t practice on video, you will end up stiff and frozen in front of the audience.
At some level, if you really want to get to your best, you are going to have to video record yourself, ideally, before every type of interview, media talk, presentation, or speech you do in a workplace so you can be at the top of your game.