5 Powerful Body Language Tips for Career Success

What is your body language communicating to others about your competency?

We often think of body language as the result of our attitude or how we feel. This is true, but psychologists have also shown that the reverse is correct: changing your body language changes your attitude. When we think about non-verbal behavior or body language, it is communication, which in turn is interaction.

I want to give you some tips I’ve come across to help improve communication. But before we get into that, I’d like you to take note of your body language right now.

  • Are you slumping?
  • Crossing your legs or arms?
  • Are you spread out?

I invite you to pay attention to what you are doing right now.

If you learn to tweak your body language, it could significantly change the direction of your life.

Five powerful body language tips to convey competence:

  1. Take up some space – Taking up space by for example sitting or standing with your legs apart a bit signals self-confidence and that you are comfortable in your skin.
  2. Avoid touching your face – It might make you seem nervous and can be distracting for the listeners or the people in the conversation.
  3. Use your hands more confidently – Instead of fidgeting with your hands and scratching your face use them to communicate what you are trying to say. Use your hands to describe something or to add weight to a point you are trying to make. But don’t use them too much or it might become distracting. And don’t let your hands flail around, use them with some control.
  4. Lower your drink – Do you ever hold your drink in front of your chest? Hold anything in front of your heart, will make you seem guarded and distant. Lower it and keep it beside your leg instead.
  5. Widen your stance – When you stand with your feet close together, you can seem hesitant or unsure of what you are saying. But when you widen your stance, relax your knees and center your weight in your lower body, you look more “solid” and confident.

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Take a couple of these body language bits to work on every day for three to four weeks. By then they should have developed into new habits and something you’ll do without even thinking about it. If not, keep on until it sticks.

Why body language is so important

In a study conducted at Princeton, researchers found that a one-second clip of candidates for senator or governor was enough for people to accurately predict which candidate was elected. While this may not increase your faith in the voting process, it does show that the perception of competence has a strong foundation in body language.

Harvard psychologist, Amy Cuddy has devoted her studies to the impact body language has on your confidence, influence, and, ultimately, success. Her biggest findings center on the powerful effects of positive body language.

Positive body language includes things like;

  • appropriate eye contact,
  • active engagement/listening,
  • and targeted gestures that accentuate the message you’re trying to convey.

Studies show that people who use positive body language are more likable, competent, persuasive, and emotionally intelligent.

Men crossing his arms.
People who use positive body language seem more competent.

Your body language has an impact on your hormones

Positive body language changes your attitude. Cuddy found that consciously adjusting your body language to make it more positive improves your attitude because it has a powerful impact on your hormones.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that impedes performance and creates negative health effects over the long term. Decreasing cortisol levels minimizes stress and enables you to think more clearly, particularly in difficult and challenging situations.

In a Tufts University study, subjects watched soundless clips of physicians interacting with their patients. Just by observing the physicians’ body language, subjects were able to guess which physicians ended up getting sued by their patients. Body language is a huge factor in how you’re perceived and can be more important than your tone of voice or even what you say. Learning to use positive body language will make people like you and trust you more.  

“Don’t fake it till you make it.  Fake it until you become it.” - Amy Cuddy in her TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Strike a power pose to feel confident

Research into the effects of body posture on confidence, conducted at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools, has shown that simply holding your body in expansive, “high-power” poses (leaning back with hands behind the head and feet up on a desk, or standing with legs and arms stretched wide open) for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone — the hormone linked to power and dominance — and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Try this before your next important business meeting, and I guarantee you will look and feel more confident and certain. In addition to causing hormonal shifts in both males and females, according to the research, these poses lead to increased feelings of power and a higher tolerance for risk. The studies also show that people are more often influenced by how they feel about you than by what you’re saying.

Make sure to share this learning with others.

Positive body language is an important factor in nonverbal communication techniques. If you are looking for ways to improve your body language to make you more successful in business, consider to book a free introductory session with me on Coachilla and we can discuss your ideal leader self. 

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Jennifer Jimbere is a certified coach with over 17 years of experience in learning & development and co-author of the international best-selling series Dream Boldly I Dare You. She uses her rich knowledge to coach individuals, teams, and organizations to improve their leadership, change resilience and build positive relationships. If you want to work with her, have a look at her profile on Coachilla.

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