Your body might be sabotaging your career. Not on purpose, your heart’s in the right place. In fact, you’ve mastered the basics. You’re way past avoiding eye contact, wussy handshakes, and the proverbial fig leaf arms. Beware of 3 more subtle nonverbal communication mistakes that can seriously damage your credibility.
3 Subtle Nonverbal Communication Mistakes Leaders Make
“I speak two languages, Body and English”-Mae West
Making Yourself Small
When in comes to confidence, I’m with Amy Cuddy, “don’t fake it to you make it. Fake it until you BECOME it.” Her TED talk provides important evidence that our body language shapes our own confidence, not just our credibility with others. Her research shows that closed arms, slouched postures, rubbing our neck and other self-protecting poses, actually impact our hormones, making us feel less confident. Those feelings then further shape our nonverbal communication behavior and the cycle continues. If you want to become more confident, open up your arms and stance and take up more space in the room. Being more conscious and deliberate about your body language will not only help you show up stronger, but to actually become more confident.
When you’re in a meeting, do a posture check every 15 minutes or so. Notice what your body does when you’re not paying attention. Do you have a tendency to make yourself larger or smaller? A good way to become more aware of how you’re holding your body is to take a yoga class. Notice how the strength and heart opening poses like the Warrior poses or backbends make you feel.
Choosing the Wrong Seat
I’m not talking about the power dynamics of working your way to the head of the table. I’m actually amazed at how many people will choose to sit on the periphery of a meeting rather than to pull a chair to the table. This is a consistent dynamic I’ve seen across companies. Even when I’ve invited people to pull up a chair to join, I’ve faced reluctance, “Oh no, I’m just fine here.” If you don’t belong at the table, you shouldn’t be in the room. If you’re running the meeting and don’t have seats at the grown-up table, get a bigger room or find a different approach. You won’t build confidence or create engagement by casting people to the sidelines. See also: 5 Ways to Define Your Seat at the Table
Letting Your Cortisol Show
This takes many forms, from coming in late and disheveled to fidgety impatient behavior, to chronic mult-tasking in meetings. “You look stressed” is not a compliment or a badge of honor for how hard you’re working, or how much you’re taking on. Calm and collected breeds confidence in those above you and in those you serve. See Also: Why Stress is Hurting Your Career
As Martha Graham says, “the body never lies.” Paying close attention to what your body is telling you, and others, will go a long way in bolstering your credibility.
Your turn. What non-verbal mistakes do you see hurting people’s credibility?