You thought everything was fine at work, and your productivity and performance has been stellar. Now you’ve been passed over once again for the promotion and you can’t understand what went wrong. You might suspect office politics is to blame, but the answer might be your body language was working against you – even in remote office settings!
Chances are, while your message and results were great, your body language wasn’t, and you undermined that all-important trust factor we absolutely must establish in our personal brand. Where did you go wrong? Look at these common body language miscues that can be readily addressed to get you back on track.
You Were Slouching
Being slumped over generally means you’re tired, but at work, it’s going to look like you’re not interested in what’s being discussed. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll be perceived as not wanting to do your job, or that you’re unhappy being there. The solution? Straighten up! (Is this hard for you as it has been for me? Here’s the trick: Keep your feet flat on the floor. Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes. At work, adjust your chair height and work station so that you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up toward you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.)
You Were Off Kilter
Most of us know that when you are in a conversation with someone, you subconsciously mirror their body language. This establishes connection and synergy. The converse is also at play. When you are in a team situation, and you don’t make the effort to match your actions, tone, or body language with those around you, it creates dissonance between you. Best case, they’ll think you’re not paying attention. Worst? You’re not a team player. The solution? Pay more attention to the body language of others in order to sync your own with theirs.
You Couldn’t Sit Still
It’s no secret we live in a digitally distracted world. Additionally, hearing loss, sleep deprivation, depression or anxiety and many medications can amplify our inability to maintain attention. It can make it increasingly difficult to focus on any one thing for very long. However, it is still vital to try. People who fuss or fidget during a meeting are seen as disinterested, or even awkward, lacking in confidence. The solution? The next time you feel an urge to play with that pen or grab your phone, place your palms flat on the table, sit up straight and breathe until the feeling passes. This takes only a couple of seconds to make a lasting impact.
You Weren’t Engaging
When was the last time you had a conversation with a co-worker and were only half listening to what they said? Maybe If you weren’t making all the proper noises in all the right places, you’re seen as being standoffish and cold, and disinterested in being a team player. The solution? Lean into the conversation, take part. Make eye contact, nod or reflect back to them what you are hearing them say, to show you’re paying attention.
You Didn’t Smile
Even an occasional “fake” smile has been shown to have a positive impact on our personal level of stress and sense of wellbeing. It also has similar effects on those who see us smile, and they are more likely to trust us as a result. If you’re not given to smiling around the workplace, you’re seen as unhappy to be there, or as being disinterested in what’s going on around you. The solution? Find something to smile about. It doesn’t have to relate directly to your work, and it might simply be smiling as you greet a coworker. Don’t overthink it. Just smile.
You Blinked – Or Stared
There are many ways that a lack of eye contact can negatively impact communication, making misunderstandings more likely to occur. Not making eye contact with someone in a conversation leads people to believe you aren't interested in what they say, as well as seeming offensive and untrustworthy. Similarly, staring too intently can imply you are scrutinizing the other person, or may be inappropriately attracted to them. To strike a positive balance, you should maintain eye contact for roughly 50% of the time while speaking and 70% of the time while listening. This helps to display interest and confidence. Maintain it for 4-5 seconds. Once you establish eye contact, maintain or hold it for 4-5 seconds.
Paying just a little more attention to your body language and making sure it matches what you are saying and feeling, will grow your personal brand’s authority and impact, so when the next big advancement opportunity appears, you have a strong brand position to leverage.