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How Body Language Can Change Your Career Trajectory: The Leader

In the first part of our series on body language, we talked about how our unconscious movements can influence the way we’re perceived.

There are certain postures and habits that communicate weakness, laziness or disinterest. With those rogue body movements now identified, we can focus on fine tuning our nonverbal communication skills, turning them into weapons of mass seduction.

These four tips share how to turn unconscious ticks into handy management tricks and avoid the workplace woes that occur when there is a breakdown in communication. Even when not a word was said.

Obvious, we know. Even so, it’s surprising how often we need to be reminded of its importance, as it’s one of the best ways to relieve tension. Exhaling deeply radiates outward and helps us adjust our whole body.

Whether sitting or standing, constant clenching and unclenching negatively affects how others view us. Holding in stress and anxiety will never serve the success we seek.

Tension in the body can give off an aggressive or domineering air, while closed-off gestures like crossing one’s arms or legs can be perceived as a display of defensiveness.

Body language expert Janine Driver may have tried to debunk the myth, but people still have a tendency to see crossed arms and a closed stature as a sign of poor confidence or contention.

Though her research has shown that people are “30% more likely to stay on a difficult task with crossed arms, so during brainstorming, it’s actually a good idea to cross arms,” a little breathing to relax our stance and posture can promise a sweet reward for aspiring professionals.

Reflections of Success
When we are engaged and interested as we communicate with a coworker (or a friend for that matter) we tend to mirror their expressions, tone and — you guessed it — body language.

All of the nonverbal cues we might otherwise take note of in ourselves can also be used to interpret the body language of our professional peers, but “when we like someone, we naturally match and mirror their voice, tone, tempo, body posture, and movements,” says Patti Wood, a body language expert who offered her advice to Business Insider.

Being cognizant of how others can translate our body language may be the makings of a conscious and conscientious employee, but a good leader knows that the influence we can have on people is by and large a direct result of what the person thinks about us, so modeling our behavior after those we communicate with is a sure-fire way to impart confidence and garner respect.

Be the Room
Power is most effective when it is spread out rather than consolidated. The same rings true for taking command of a room. Power can be attained by taking up as much space as possible with the body, using heights and space to nonverbally bolster an image of confidence and determination.

As Tonya Reiman, author of “The Power of Body Language” illustrated to Business Insider, “how we feel affects how we stand. In order to be perceived as confident, you must stand tall, with your neck elongated, ears and shoulders aligned, chest slightly protruding, and legs slightly apart, distributing weight evenly.”

Extensive research has also been done by Harvard and Columbia on how confidence is best translated through a both relaxed and sturdy stance, or “power pose.”

Say It With a Smile
While nonverbal communication is held to be more of an art, what we can show with just a smile is hard science, according to an Entrepreneur article: “MRI studies have shown that the human brain responds favorably to a person who’s smiling, and this leaves a lasting positive impression.”

When we smile, people can’t help but react in kind, and Forbes’ research from a study at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging has indicated “it takes the brain just 200 milliseconds to gather most of the information it needs from a facial expression to determine a person’s emotional state.”

Body language directly translates our meaning and intentions, but with great nonverbal power comes an even greater responsibility.

To entrepreneurs, harnessing the power of untapped unconscious behavior is the first step. Through confident, deliberate gestures and posturing, these skills can be channeled into unleashing the leader that lies dormant in all of us.


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