Business

Career-Propelling Nonverbal Behaviors for the Workplace

Nonverbal expressions not only color the way other people see you, they also shape the way you see yourself.

Kallee Feuz Feb 15, 2018

The timbre of your voice; the part in your hair; the arc of your spine, the distance between your feet: these nonverbal expressions not only color the way other people see you, they also shape the way you see yourself.

“When we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us and what the outcomes are,” says social psychologist Amy Cuddy in her popular 2012 TED talk.  “We tend to forget, though, the other audience that’s influenced by our nonverbals, and that’s ourselves.”

Cuddy’s lecture on the relationship between posture and power illuminates how body language and other nonverbal cues impact how we think and feel about ourselves. Accordingly, her research concludes that by changing our body language, we can change our own minds and come to internalize the characteristics we are imitating.

Following are some career-propelling nonverbal behaviors to practice in the workplace:

Smile. A smile projects confidence, openness and energy. But absent those preexisting feelings, the very act of smiling can incite them within us. “Most people think that we smile because we feel happy, but it can go the other way as well: we feel happy because we smile,” writes UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb. A 2012 study found that participants who smiled — either on their own or by having their mouth manipulated with chopsticks — had a better stress response than individuals who maintained a neutral facial expression. The smiling patients had lower heart rates during stress recovery.

Strike a power pose. Cuddy suggests spending two minutes “power posing” — positioning your body in an open, expansive posture — before heading into an interview, presentation or other evaluative situation.  According to Cuddy’s research, power posing raises testosterone levels and lowers cortisol levels, increasing confidence and decreasing stress.  “Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize it,” she says.

Dress for success. Science backs up the old advice that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Workers who wear nice clothes are perceived as more dominant and achieve more in negotiations, according to research by social psychologists Michael W. Kraus and Wendy Berry Mendes. What’s more, people in the study who donned a business suit — as opposed to sweatpants or street clothes — were more confident and assertive.

Use connective body language. The poet Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Nonverbal communication may be the most important tool in forging connections, the bedrock of business success.

“Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the person who’s speaking are all forms of positive body language that high-EQ (emotional intelligence) people use to draw others in,” writes Travis Bradberry, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.
 

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