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How Body Language Can Change Your Career Trajectory: The Employee

If communication is the key to success, then body language is how you turn that key.

In fact, a recent Inc. article from leadership expert Peter Economy revealed that “60 to 90 percent of our communication with others is nonverbal.”

It’s easy to believe that we have complete control over the way we present ourselves professionally, that the way our body twitches and fidgets unconsciously don’t really make a difference in the way we communicate.

The following workplace “language” habits demonstrate why we should work to hone even the most unassuming of weapons in our entrepreneurial arsenal.

The Work Slump
Literally. Slouching and slumping creates an aura of uncertainty and low-self-esteem, an impression that is never beneficial in a professional environment. Our posture can project more than a few overtime hours in an outdated and uncomfortable office chair.

If the body is perpetually hunched over, the message we’re sending to colleagues and employers can be one of disinterest, disrespect, or both. We may do this unconsciously, but who are conscious of it will take note of the perceived slight. There are physical ramifications, too.

“Every inch you hold your head forward, you add 10 pounds of pressure on your spine,” says  Dr. Jason Queitos, an experienced chiropractor who talked with Men’s Fitness writer Lisa Freedman about posture.

Being aware of posture’s effect on presentation is healthy for both the career and the self.

The Body Talks…
…And what it says about ourselves and our intentions is not always what we want. For instance, dramatic gestures tend to imply a lack of confidence in what is being illustrated or an uneasiness with the material.

Whether making a point or simply discussing strategy, fidgeting and nervous flailing are nonverbal landmines for negative impressions.

The idea is not to overwhelm an audience with sporadic gestures, but to make a point in an efficient and illustrative manner. Find a happy medium between gestures that illustrate a point and nervous ticks.

“Aim for small, controlled gestures to indicate leadership and confidence, and open gestures—like spreading your arms apart or showing the palms of your hands—to communicate that you have nothing to hide.” Forbes contributor Travis Bradberry wrote.

The “You Lookin’ at Me?”
Be neither the predator nor the prey. Whether it’s lizard-like darting or the highly focused, unblinking expression of a carnivorous creature ready to lunge for the kill, controlled, thoughtful eye movement is key to being one with business nature.

Nervousness, anxiety, and a lack of confidence manifests itself in the form of too much sporadic eye movement, not to mention shifty eyes could mean shifty intentions.

Avoiding eye contact makes it look like you have something to hide, and that arouses suspicion.”, but “Sustained eye contact, on the other hand, communicates confidence, leadership, strength, and intelligence,” states an article in Forbes.

Too much eye contact, on the other hand, and we can scare people away. Too much eye contact translates to an anxious person who is not confident in what they are saying or someone who has something to hide.

Another writer for Inc. magazine contends that the absence of eye contact also indicates we have better things to do than talk to the person we’re with, and that we’re anxious to leave.

Lack of eye contact is perceived as disrespectful and paints the picture of an aloof, possibly arrogant person who is not eager to be a team player.

The “Eh” Approach
Insincerity and noncommittal mannerisms are the true nemesis of many emerging entrepreneurs. To combat this evil, we must ensure that the gestures we make match the feeling or message we are trying to convey. Leaning away demonstrates a lack of engagement and interest in the matters at hand.

Another great killer of careers is saying one thing and doing another.

Inconsistency between your words and your facial expression causes people to sense that something isn’t right and they begin to suspect that you’re trying to deceive them, even if they don’t know exactly why or how,” Bradberry wrote in an article for Entrepreneur.

The potential of minute movements to make or break top-notch professionals is irrefutable. Being an employee unconscious of his or her body language can mean the difference between staying where you’re at or getting promoted.

With a loosening of the shoulders and a bit of steady eye contact, we show we are engaged and ecstatic about the work ahead.


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