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Is Your Body Language Helping or Hurting Your Business?

Is Your Body Language Helping or Hurting Your Business?

Body language is a tricky area. Not only is each individual person slightly different in regard to the messages his or her body sends, but entire cultures are different as well. For example, what is considered “good” eye contact in one area of the world could be considered insulting in other geographic regions. That makes understanding various basic non-verbal behaviors essential when conducting business with a variety of people, potentially helping your business versus hurting it.

One thing to remember about body language is that no one action should be used to draw a conclusion about a person—whether in regard to yourself or someone else. Therefore, if you do one or two of the things discussed in this article, you may not necessarily be sending off a negative vibe. But if you do a number of them, the likelihood of this occurring is stronger, so being aware of these actions may be your first step toward creating behaviors more conducive to your business success.

What Your Body Language May Be Saying About You

So, what is your body language potentially saying to your customers, colleagues, and employees? Here are some basic gestures and their meanings as provided courtesy of WebMD and Psychology Today:

  • The state of your hair. When your hair is cut and styled, it shows that you are attentive to detail and respect yourself and your business enough to look your best. Certainly, you could just be having an off hair day, but the state of your hair may also reveal that you feel overwhelmed or frazzled if it is unkempt and out of place. It could also say that you had a lot of fun the night before (bed-head) and likely aren’t on your game today, causing concern that your personal life is more important than your professional one.
  • Your basic facial expressions. There are some gestures that are universally well-known. These include basic facial expressions that express anger (narrowing eyes), happiness (smile), sadness (frown), and disgust (scrunched eyebrows). Therefore, if your face shows any of these emotions, your receiver is likely to realize exactly what is on your mind.
  • What your eyebrows are doing. If you’re engaged with someone and one or both of your eyebrows are raised, this could signal that you feel concern or discomfort either with them as a person or the topic at hand. This could be a red flag for them, causing them to be concerned or uncomfortable as well.
  • The way you look at the person you’re speaking with. As previously mentioned, eye contact is kind of a grey area as to whether it portrays you as confident or insulting. However, one key point when it comes to this area of your body is to remember that your eyes often reveal what you are thinking. So, if you are having positive or negative thoughts about the person with whom you are interacting, he or she may actually see it in your eyes.
  • The way you shake hands with someone. Establishing palm-to-palm contact is a sign of honesty, openness, and genuineness—three keys to promoting business success. However, grip too tight and you may seem insecure. Extend your hand with your palm faced down instead of sideways and you may appear to be domineering.
  • What your arms are doing during the interaction. Keep your arms crossed and in front of you while conversing with others and you may appear angry or unapproachable. Additionally, if your arms are constantly moving and your hands fidgeting, you’ll likely seem anxious, nervous, or uncertain. On a positive note, arms that are either folded gently in front of you or hanging at your side give the appearance of comfort and control.
  • The way you stand, sit, or walk. Stand, sit, or walk using good posture (your shoulders back and down, your head facing forward, and your pelvis slightly tilted) and you portray confidence, power, and control. On the contrary, if your posture is slouched over, you will likely seem unsure of yourself, potentially causing the other person to be unsure of you as well.

While these are just a few of the many non-verbal behaviors that can potentially tell those you interact with exactly what is on your mind, there are also some things you can do to create a non-verbal advantage.

Creating a Non-Verbal Advantage

First and foremost, paying attention to your body language is necessary to fully understanding what others may think while engaged with you. Therefore, you could gain tremendously by noticing the various ways you interact with others, as well as their responses to your non-verbal behaviors. This allows you to know which behaviors and actions you have that may be off-putting, replacing them with behaviors and actions that may elicit a more positive response.

Second, once you become more in tune to your own body language, start paying attention to the non-verbal cues that you get from engaging with others. For example, you may notice that certain actions make you feel as if you want to do business with them whereas others create feelings of distrust or concern. This can help you make smarter business decisions, relying on the other person’s body language to help tell you whatever it is they are not saying verbally.

Making the Biggest Body Language Impact

Finally, it is when your body language matches your verbal statements that you can make the biggest impact. In other words, when your body is telling the other person the same thing as your mouth, that is when you are better able to gain the trust and assurance of the individual you are doing business with. If your actions don’t match your statements, then you might run into problems.

So, what do you think? What does your body language say about you? Or, conversely, what are some non-verbal cues that you’ve noticed to either hinder or strengthen your business relationships?

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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.