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Body language in a business world
Body language in a business world
Body language in a business world
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Body language in a business world

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  • 1. Body Language in a Business World By Chelse Benham “The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism by those who don’t have it.” – George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) What we say and what we do can have totally different meanings, so which one is more honest? The author, Joy Davidson, writes that understanding body language in the workplace isn’t just a game – it’s a career necessity. “Body talk” matters more than the spoken word. The nonverbal cues are more immediate, instinctive and uncontrollable than verbal expression by bringing genuine attitudes and feelings into the open. “We offer an interviewing skills workshop where we go over body language and how it impacts students in the interview process,” said Lourdes Servantes, placement specialist at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Career Placement Services Office. “Body language has more to do with hiring than many students ever realize. We’re here to help equal the playing field and increase the student’s chances at getting the job.” According to John Millner, police chief of Elmhurst, Illinois and one of the nation’s foremost experts in forensic uses of body language, “Liars don’t give themselves away with large gestures, but with “micro-expressions.” The title of “liar” maybe a little harsh, but concealing intentions, reactions and truths is an everyday practice in the workplace, perhaps for no other reason than maneuvering through office politics or practicing diplomacy in tough situations. Learning and recognizing certain behaviors can make a huge and virtually instant improvement in your business-communication skills. Don’t just listen – watch. Joy Davidson listed many behaviors and their meanings in a July 1998 article in Men’s Fitness magazine titled “Office Tics”: • Open palms: sincerity, openness, receptivity • Leaning away: discomfort with the facts being presented or the person presenting them • Nodding: interest, agreement and understanding • A relaxed posture: openness to communication • Gesturing warmly or talking with hands: interest and involvement in the conversation • Hand to cheek: evaluating, considering • Hands clasped behind back: anger, frustration • Sitting with hands clasped behind head: arrogance, superiority (except in long-standing relationships) • Tapping or drumming fingers: impatience, annoyance
  • 2. • Steepling fingers: closing off, creating a barrier • Fidgeting: boredom, nervousness or impatience • Hand over mouth: generally negative; often denotes disapproval or reluctance to speak openly • Clutching objects tightly: anxiety, nervous anticipation According to Davidson, it isn't enough just to understand other people's body language - controlling your own nonverbal signals can improve your image and increase your success. If you want to appear confident, open and in control, Davidson suggests practicing these moves until they're second nature: • Walk with a brisk, easy stride, eyes forward. • Stand evenly on both feet. Keep your arms relaxed and casual. • Look at others straight-on. Meet their eyes, but avoid staring. • Avoid "commando" postures such as hands on your hips or clasped behind your head. Also avoid "barrier" language, such as turning your body away or keeping your arms folded. • Avoid fidgeting with your hands or bringing your hands to your face. • Move slightly closer to others if you want to "warm up" the relationship. “Students need to keep eye contact,” Servantes said. “Eye contact and leaning in illustrates engagement on the part of the student and indicates a positive attitude to the employer.” Judi James, author of “Body Talk At Work,” writes, “Knowing how to give the right body language signals and knowing how to read those around you can actually boost your career.” James discusses how to get ahead in the workplace by decoding the hidden signals and messages of colleagues and superiors. She also offers some advice on how to present yourself to your best advantage and sets out ‘ten tips to get to the top': • Use high-status body signals: eye contact, open gestures, finger-steepling and so on. • Clean up your act. Create visual symmetry and harmony, which will convey confidence and mental clarity. Tidy your desk. Simplify your wardrobe. • Clear out the visual clutter. Stop giggling or playing with loose change in your pocket. • Improve your entrances. Remember that you only have three seconds to make a positive impression on anyone you meet. Use eye contact. Move with energy and enthusiasm. • Use 'intentional' gestures to get your point across. People who are listened to have non-verbal ways of announcing that they want to speak. • Be congruent in your communications. • Position yourself well. Networking means being seen in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.
  • 3. • Move quickly. Successful people never amble or hover. • Don't fiddle. • Press the flesh. Become charismatic. Learn how to give a good handshake. "The handshake is the best non-verbal communication we have in America's business world," said independent image consultant Yvette Austin. "The perfect handshake is strong and firm--it shows confidence," she explains. She states the hand should be offered with the thumb up and fingers together. Hands should always be clean; avoid perspiration by keeping a handkerchief or handi-wipes with you at all times. Handshake don'ts according to Austin: The "Dead Fish" handshake – This is the limp, clammy, "prissy" handshake. A definite "do not" in the professional arena. The "Bone-Crusher" handshake - "This one happens a lot in the workplace," Austin says. "It's the intimidating handshake." If you know someone who delivers one of these squeezing and painful handshakes, Austin has this solution: when shaking, press your thumb down hard on the area between their thumb and fingers. Their grip will immediately loosen. The "One-Finger" handshake - Some people offer just one finger as a handshake this is a definite taboo. It’s viewed as “creepy.” The "Pump" handshake - This is when the hand-shaker gets a little too enthusiastic and pumps up and down continuously. "Very phony," Austin says. The "Sandwich" handshake - This is when you take the offered hand in one hand, turn it so it is palm-down, and then put your other hand over it. "This type of handshake is very condescending," Austin said. "It is completely inappropriate in a professional setting." In conclusion, communication could be seen as the culmination of all the senses used to clarify meaning between people through verbal and non-verbal interaction. Relying on just half of that interchange shortchanges the opportunity to gain more honest communication and truthful meaning. “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” – George Washington Carver, (1864-1943) Carver was a Chemurgist; a specialist is chemurgy -- a branch of chemistry that deals with industrial application of organic raw materials especially from farm products (as in the use of soybean oil for paints and varnishes and of southern pine for paper pulp).

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