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Understanding Body Language in Office Communication


by Hannah Freeman, September 7, 2021

Do you wish sometimes you could read the mind of your boss, colleagues, or clients? Although mind-reading might not be possible (yet?) we do have a way to tell what the person sitting in front of us thinks, or feels

Here are some of the most commonly spotted body language in the office.

The Majority Of Our Communication At Work Is Nonverbal

It has been found that the majority of our communication at work is nonverbal. Between 65 and 90% of our thoughts come through our body language, facial expressions, and in the end – voice tone.

Let’s talk about the most common body language moves I’ve seen in work and co-working environments like FOCUS.

Some of these might be helpful to spot critical behaviors, workplace negativity, and recognize nonverbal ways of:

  • Determining if your coworkers are about to enter a confrontation
  • Hot to deal with know-it-alls,
  • Acquiring someone’s attention and sympathy (just by existing)

Wouldn’t it be great?

Well, it is possible…

Men looking at the laptop

What You Must Know Of The Body Language In The Workplace

Human facial muscles are incredibly adapted to be expressive. We can silently express emotions such as:

  • Anger
  • Happiness
  • Hurt
  • Disgust
  • Confusion
  • Boredom 

These emotions are some of the easiest to express with facial movements, using the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and other features.

The way a person sits, or stands, moves their arms, hands, and feet can as well serve as a subtle way to convey many meanings

Your colleague’s posture or how they carry themself can show their emotions and self-confidence level – including bearing, stance, rigidity, and uprightness.

You can easily convey a message just by striking certain poses, postures, and positions where you are leaning back comfortably, sitting rigidly, or choosing the edge of your seat.

Body Language Mistakes You May Be Making at Work

Although business surroundings and coworking spaces might be a place for certain clothing, briefcases, etc – the way you carry out your “equipment”, even handle pens and pencils, can send strong nonverbal messages. 

Appearances are always a big part of sending powerful nonverbal messages. Of course, a lot of that appearance-connected body language in the workplace is intentional, like when an employee wears a shirt with their favorite athletic team or enjoys wearing conservative clothing and a business-like suit every day.

Unintentional office body language is when the person is more comfortable in a dress or business suit when going to a meeting; maybe they wanted to appear ready for business, trustworthy, and dependable.

Eye Contacts as Nonverbal Communication In The Office

The visual sense is dominant for most people since eye contact is an especially important type of nonverbal communication in the workplace. 

The way you look, gaze, wink, or stare at someone can communicate many things, including:

  • Interest, attraction, or affection
  • Hostility
  • Disapproval
  • Fear, etc.

OK hand sign

The Lip Purse And Raised Eyebrows

If you spot somebody’s lips pouting out or smashed together, it could mean that they are holding something back; perhaps during a meeting?

We purse our lips when we want to say something but are either being interrupted or think we shouldn’t say what’s really on our minds because it won’t be approved.

One raised eyebrow usually signals the same, and it’s one of the most common signs of suppressed body language in the office.

Understanding Hand Gestures As Body Language in Office

Using our hands can signal or emphasize many things, especially when spoken of in the office. The palm wave is the most common signal for greeting, but it can be exchanged for a “rock & roll” sign, thumbs up, “piece” wave, etc.

Choosing Physical Distance In Communication

Did you know that most Americans prefer about 18 inches of physical space when speaking to somebody at work?

Anything closer is often viewed as too close and, especially in a work setting, a little bit intimate. Although it is normal to maintain your distance when speaking (again, COVID-19 approved), some people might choose not to get close to their colleagues because they feel threatened or insecure.

How To Improve Your Workplace Body Language

You can always practice and manage to perfect and control your body language office communication and convey your messages more effectively. 

This is especially important if your body language in the office makes you appear ineffective, a sloppy communicator or an employee gets mixed messages that are not trustworthy. 

Why not use nonverbal communication to your advantage? It’s a win for all.

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