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Reading Body Language in the Workplace

Have you ever sensed that a person was in an angry mood simply by noticing they were standing with their feet shoulder width apart? If so, you successfully read that person’s body language and were able to ascertain their mood without the exchange of words. Most of us look for nonverbal cues when dealing with friends and family members. However, regular observation and interpretation of these silent emotional sensors, or body language, can also be a tremendous asset in the workplace.

“If language was given to men to conceal their thoughts, then gesture’s purpose was to disclose them.” John Napier

Posture, eye movement, distancing, gestures and facial expressions are the main elements to examine the next time you are in a meeting with a supervisor or staff member. Take a look at what some of these body language signs can mean:

–habitually clenched fists indicate aggression, defensiveness and resistance

–staring downward while speaking implies nervousness or insincerity

–scratching the nose means the idea presented has produced a negative response

–constantly shifting the weight from one foot to the other means the person is feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable, and wants to exit the scene

–a tense smile indicates a desire to hide dislike or disapproval

–a relaxed, full smile from the eyes is a sign of a pleasant emotional state

–open hand and arm positions usually indicate confidence, trust and the ability to receive

–a person who gets inappropriately close while speaking is trying to dominate the listener, erode personal boundaries and convey superiority

–checking a watch, texting, surfing the net or doing general paperwork sends a clear and obvious message: “Whatever you have to say is not important enough to require my full attention.”

Ray Birdwhistell is credited with being the first to use the terms kinetics and kinesics in the early 50s to describe the significance of nonverbal communication. Birdwhistell theorized that a person’s behavior while speaking is more telling than the actual words they use. Volumes have been written about the science of body language since Birdwhistell first shared his findings in his book, Introduction to Kinetics. New data is added each year about the latest experiments and observations involving body language.

Experts say the body is not able to hide the truth. Being able to interpret gestures, facial expressions and posture allow a sneak peek into a person’s true emotional status. Such insight can give you a definite advantage on the job. Review the basics of body language then observe the emotional signals that others give off long before any words are spoken. With practice, you can become a proficient reader.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Self-Esteem Enhances Life

Adrienne Jones

Adrienne Jones has worked as a freelance author, ghost writer, copy editor and writing coach for several years. She is the author of “Rhymes of Death”—a mystery novel and “Bible Theories”—a critical synopsis of biblical text. Her work has been published in various print and online media sources. She specializes in movie reviews, feature articles and artist profiles.

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