When you are communicating something to your team, your body is sending a message that is as powerful as your words. When talking about body language, remember that our interpretations are just that – common interpretations. For example, the person sitting with his or her legs crossed may simply be more comfortable that way, and not feeling closed-minded towards the discussion. Body language can also mean different things across different genders and cultures. However, it is good to understand how various behaviors are often seen, so that we can make sure our body is sending the same message as our mouth.
Think about these scenarios for a moment. What non-verbal messages might you receive in each scenario? How might these non-verbal messages affect the verbal message?
- Your boss asks you to come into his office to discuss a new project. He looks stern and his arms are crossed.
- A team member tells you they have bad news, but they are smiling as they say it.
- You tell a co-worker that you cannot help them with a project. They say that it’s OK, but they slam your office door on their way out.
In this article we will show you how to use body language to become a more effective communicator. It is also important that as a team leader you learn to interpret body language, add it to the message you are receiving, and understand the message being sent appropriately.
All About Body Language
Body language is a very broad term that simply means the way in which our body speaks to others. We have included an overview of three major categories below.
The way that we are standing or sitting
Think for a moment about different types of posture and the message that they relay.
- Sitting hunched over typically indicates stress or discomfort.
- Leaning back when standing or sitting indicates a casual and relaxed demeanor.
- Standing ramrod straight typically indicates stiffness and anxiety.
The position of our arms, legs, feet, and hands
- Crossed arms and legs often indicate a closed mind.
- Fidgeting is usually a sign of boredom or nervousness.
- Smiles and frowns speak a million words.
- A raised eyebrow can mean inquisitiveness, curiosity, or disbelief.
Chewing one’s lips can indicate thinking, or it can be a sign of boredom, anxiety, or nervousness.
A gesture is a non-verbal message that is made with a specific part of the body. Gestures differ greatly from region to region, and from culture to culture. Below we have included a brief list of gestures and their common interpretation.
|Moving head from side to side||Maybe|
|Shrugging shoulders||Not sure; I don’t know|
|Tapping hands or fingers||Bored, anxious, nervous|
|Shaking index finger||Angry|
|Thumbs up||Agreement, OK|
|Thumbs down||Disagreement, not OK|
|Pointing index finger at someone/something||Indicating, blaming|
|Flap of the hand||Doesn’t matter, go ahead|
|Waving both hands over head||Help, attention|
|Crossed legs or ankles||Defensive|
|Tapping toes or feet||Bored, anxious, nervous|