How Body Language Can Improve Your Business Communications

Photo credit: Alexis Brown,

Have you ever wondered why your boss folds his arms while you’re pitching a new idea or why your vendor stares you down as he swears that he never received your order? The answer is body language.

What is Body Language?

Body language is a form of communication that’s all its own. The non-verbal cues body language conveys can offer important clues about what’s really going on in your conversations. Learning how to read body language effectively can dramatically improve the way that you communicate in business, which may also help enhance your relationships and make it easier for you to achieve your desired results.

A study conducted by UCLA showed that very little of our communication is relayed through words. In fact, a whopping 55 percent of what we’re trying to say is revealed through body language. Tone of voice accounts for 38 percent, while the actual words that we say make up a mere 7 percent of the communication package.

How Do I Speak Body Language?

Ignoring body language is like looking at just one part of a picture -– quite literally, according to a study conducted at Princeton. In the study, researchers showed participant’s photographs and asked them to interpret the emotion that was being conveyed. Some photos included just facial expressions, some included just body language, and some included both. Without fail, participants were able to identify the emotion more accurately in photos that featured body language or a combination of body language and expression.

Reading Body Language

Learning how to “read” people to correctly interpret their intentions is clearly important when it comes to effective business communications. So, how do you decode the secrets of body language?

It’s not an exact science, but there are signals that the majority of people send subconsciously to convey everything from happiness to worry.

Of course, you should use common sense and pay attention to all of the information at your disposal. While crossing your arms could be a sign that you don’t like what someone is saying, it could also be a sign that you’re cold, so rely on your best judgment in any situation.

To improve your business communication skills, watch for these common body language signals and learn how to interpret them to understand the subtleties of any conversation:

  • To see if someone is faking a smile, look at their eyes. A real smile involves your whole face, and little crinkles appear next to your eyes when you’re truly happy.
  • The position of someone’s feet shows you where they want to go. An open stance indicates that someone is open to your message, but if their feet point away from you, even while their head is turned, they want to get away from the situation.
  • When someone mimics your body language– like your crossed legs or your hand on your chin — it’s a sign that they feel connected. Copying someone’s movements happens subconsciously when we feel a bond and indicates an interest or excitement about the conversation.
  • Our brains associate power with the physical space that a person uses. If someone is slouched or has their arms wrapped around themselves, they’re perceived as less dominant. People assert strength by striking power poses -– like standing tall with their shoulders back or placing their hands on their hips.
  • Sustained eye contact isn’t natural and can indicate lying. Since we associate eye contact with telling the truth, a liar may overcompensate by staring you down to convince you that they have nothing to hide.
  • Raised eyebrows are a tell-tale sign that someone feels uncomfortable. If you notice a person’s eyebrows lifting, they may be worried, surprised, or afraid — even if their words are positive or they’re smiling.
  • Closed posture can indicate that someone is closed off to your ideas. If a person crosses their arms or legs during your conversation, they probably don’t like what you have to say. However, if they lean toward you with arms and legs uncrossed, they’re most likely feeling receptive to your message.

While these signals may be accurate for most of the population, remember that there are no absolutes when it comes to reading body language. You’ll have to rely on your instincts and pay attention to all of the cues that you’re receiving — being careful to consider both the person and the situation. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your business communication skills, life coach training can help.

The curriculum for certified life coaches includes several communication-related core competencies, including how to ask open questions and how to listen more actively. By combining those techniques with your ability to read body language, you can effectively build your business communication skills and boost your success.

Originally published at LIVE • LEAD • PLAY.

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