Actions speak louder than words
Lately, with my sons fast growing into adulthood, I find myself going over the lengthy mental list I keep about the things I think they should know. A recent customer service interaction led me to remember what I have told them time and again about body language and how a person’s actions can say so much more about a given situation.
How gracious was your acceptance of that award? Did you really mean that apology? Did you shrink in an in-person “social” situation today? How our bodies move in social situations or in the business environment directly impacts what we communicate to others. Here are some tips about what your body is telling others.
Some non-verbal cues indicate this confidence or a strong will. According to Mindtools.com’s article Body Language Understanding Non-Verbal Communication here are some signs of confidence: posture (standing tall), eye contact (direct), gestures with hands and arms (purposeful and deliberate), speech (slow and clear), tone of voice (moderate to low). Signs of defensiveness include: hand/arm gestures are small and close to the body, facial expressions are minimal, body is physically turned away from you, arms are crossed in front of the body, eyes maintain little contact, or are downcast.
Important note: The above referenced article also gives a warning related to cultural differences. Exposure to differing cultures may change this assessment as well as past experiences of the subject’s life. In other words, not everyone will fit the same parameters. But, there are still distinct examples of body language in all cultures. It makes sense, especially in business, to be aware of the person’s culture to whom you are communicating. In some situations, a bit thicker skin wouldn’t hurt either.
Why Body Language is important
Businessballs.com, a free ethical learning and development resource for people, lists off a number of reasons why body language is important. For example, the self-help guidelines say, “therefore very relevant to management and leadership, and to all aspects of work and business where communications can be seen and physically observed among people” and that, “Body language is also very relevant to relationships outside of work, for example in dating and mating, and in families and parenting.” Perhaps if your co-workers think you are upset consider your physical actions. Throughout a normal day we are confronted with a multitude of opportunities to communicate with people. It is important to always try to put your best foot forward and be aware that how you act may directly relate to how people approach or receive you. Stop communicating confusing emotions.
In the book What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People by Joe Navarro, a former FBI counterintelligence officer and a recognized expert on non-verbal behavior, teaches how to read the behavior of people in various social situations.