What Are You Really Saying with Your Body Language? Take Our Quiz to Find Out.
As professionals, we are careful to weigh the potential impact of our words. We rehearse pitches, prepare perfectly calculated answers to questions, and spend precious time mulling over past conversations. We constantly ask ourselves if we are using the right words to leave a positive impression. While it is true that spoken language is the foundation of most connections we make, many people forget the significance of communication through body language – which accounts for 80% of what someone interprets from a conversation. Throughout my career in the people-centric talent acquisition industry, I have developed a passion for the study of body language and the real impact it can have in professional settings.
What are you saying without speaking a word?
How many times has a colleague or a manager approached you after a meeting and asked if you were okay, distracted, or annoyed? You can probably recall a few times and may have been taken off guard. You felt perfectly fine, so why would they ask that? The answer lies in the sub-conscious messages you were sending with your body language. In his study, UCLA psychology professor, Albert Mehrabian, concluded that when your words, body language, and tone do not align, people often rely more heavily on your non-verbal cues to interpret how you really feel. Taking the time to be mindful of the deeper meaning behind body language cues can completely transform the way you communicate and enhance your professional career.
Take this quiz to find out how in tune you are with your body language:
A deadline is approaching, and you plan to spend most of the day ironing out project details with your team. Towards the middle of your meeting, one colleague’s body language takes a turn. Their arms are crossed, eyebrows are narrowed, and one of their legs keeps shaking. What is this individual likely saying with their body language? (Select all that apply)
A. They are questioning your honesty
B. They are eyeing the last dessert left over from your catered lunch
C. They are being defensive
D. They are becoming impatient
Correct answer: A, C, and D
From their body language, your colleague is displaying a few different emotions. Their crossed arms signal that they are closing themselves off, often a sign that they are becoming defensive. Their narrowed eyebrows suggest that they are questioning the honesty of someone at the meeting, and their shaking leg signals impatience. While it is important to remember that they could be upset about something unrelated, it is a good idea to approach your colleague after the meeting, ask them if everything is alright, and give them a chance to express their potential disagreements without everyone around.
Reversely, let’s say you were the person displaying these signs at the meeting but inside you felt perfectly fine. All three of these negative body language cues might have been coincidental to you but combined signaled bad vibes to your colleagues. Therefore, it’s important to continuously be aware of your body language and to adjust as needed, despite what you might be feeling.
You are heading into a high-stakes meeting to present an innovative new idea to your company’s leadership team. You have rehearsed your pitch and are well versed on the subject, but you still feel nervous. While nerves are natural, you can showcase your confidence by being mindful of your body language. Which of the below choices are signs of confidence? (Select all that apply)
A. Firm handshake, but not overbearing
B. Head held high, shoulders back
C. Leaning back in chair
D. Hands visible, no fidgeting
Correct answer: A, B, and D
No matter how many hours you put into a project, when it comes time to present, you need to have clear confidence in your work. If nerves get the best of you, the impact of your presentation will suffer. You can mask your nerves by doing a quick body language check before and during your meeting. When entering the meeting, hold your head high with your shoulders back, relax your hands, making sure they are visible to your audience, and avoid all forms of fidgeting. If you shake someone’s hand, remember that a firm handshake with direct eye contact is a clear sign of both confidence and competency. With that said, be mindful, as too strong of a handshake can be interpreted as you trying to dominate the other person, especially if your hand covers theirs.
You are interviewing with a new company for a position that will require a long-term commitment. How can your body language show the hiring manager that you are truly in for the long-haul? (Select all that apply)
A. Your hands are generally still, open, and within vision
B. You maintain eye contact through the conversation, no sideways glances
C. You feverishly nod your head through the entire interview
D. Your mouth and teeth are relaxed
Correct answer: A, B, and D.
Turnover can have far-reaching impacts on a company. To prevent this, when interviewing multiple candidates, hiring managers need to ensure their winning candidate is committed to the position. Visible hands, eye contact, and a relaxed mouth are all non-verbal signs that someone has honest intentions and is not hiding an ulterior motive. In fact, body language expert, Patti Wood, explains that when your hands are not in view, people may wonder what you are subconsciously hiding. When multiple candidates are interviewing for the same position, being mindful of your body language just might give you the competitive advantage you need to shine above the rest.
Your team is hosting a brainstorming session for a new project. You disagree with a few of the ideas being passed around but do not want to appear defensive. How can you check your body language to ensure you appear receptive to new ideas? (Select all that apply)
A. Uncross your arms
B. Clap your hands enthusiastically every time a great idea is mentioned
C. Maintain eye contact with the person presenting
D. Open and relaxed hands on the table
E. Occasionally nod your head that you are following what is being communicated
F. Fidget with pen
Correct answer: A, C, D, and E
Brainstorming sessions are designed to get ideas flowing in a collaborative environment. Being open to the ideas of others is key. In situations where you disagree with someone’s idea, you need to be tactful. If you do not carefully check your body language, you risk your mannerisms doing all the talking for you and rubbing your colleagues the wrong way. As a start, ensure your arms are uncrossed, your palms are open and relaxed on the table, you are maintaining eye contact with the person presenting, and nodding your head in encouragement. Then, after ideas are presented, respectfully and tactfully voice any concerns you may have.
Many of us are guilty of “talking with our hands” during conversations or presentations as a way to physically emphasize our points. During formal settings, what can this common form of body language convey? (Select all that apply)
A. That you are outgoing
B. That you are passionate about the topic at hand
C. That you are on your third cup of coffee that morning
D. That you may be unsure of what you are saying
Correct answer: B and D
How many times have you caught your hands waving around profusely when recounting a story or explaining a new idea? While on the surface, talking with hands can be considered a small communicative habit, but it might be conveying something more. In a formal setting, such as a client meeting, excessively using your hands to communicate can be distracting and signify that you are unsure of what you are saying. That said, in other settings, such as a presentation, hand gestures can be used to convey passion for the topic and to engage the audience. Expert communicators know there is a time and place for both.
Intent vs. impact
Reading through the above examples, you may have thought to yourself, sometimes I just cross my arms and it doesn’t mean anything, or eye contact makes me nervous and avoiding eye contact doesn’t mean I’m being dishonest. When it comes to body language, the impact of your actions is more powerful than your intent. In other words, the message you are trying to convey does not matter if the people around you are interpreting an entirely different meaning. Working every day to be mindful of your body language and the subconscious messages you might be sending to others will prove to be beneficial in your professional relationships.
At Resource 1, we are passionate about technical and HR innovation, and have spent the last 36 years navigating the evolving IT marketplace while connecting top IT talent with our valued clients. Whether you are a talented IT consultant or a thriving organization, we focus on building a genuine partnership to ensure your success and satisfaction. Let’s discuss how we can help you.
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