Learning how to read body language in the workplace can help you know if what your boss, co-workers and clients are saying what they really mean. Some forms of body language are already burned into your mind, such as having a firm handshake, making eye contact or dressing for success. There are more subtle clues, however, that can tell you more about what a co-worker is really trying to say.
- Read the eyes. While spoken words verbally communicate a message, the eyes can help complete the thought. A co-worker who maintains eye contact has body language that shows interest in a conversation and indicates they feel confident. A person who does not look at you while he speaks may indicate he feels guilty or ashamed about his words.
- Notice posture. A co-worker who has poor posture may not feel confident about a situation or about what she is saying. A person in the workplace who suddenly slouches while you speak may nonverbally be questioning what he/she heard. A co-worker who displays body language such as a puffed out chest and a raised chin shows their feeling of confidence and dominance.
- Listen to the hands. Hands can insult, show confusion and greet without saying a word. When you read body language in the workplace, notice what your co-worker’s hands are saying. Fingers placed in the form of a steeple or tapping one another (like Mr. Burns on the TV show “The Simpsons”) show that an individual feels dominance. Fingers tapping on a table may indicate anxiety. A person who holds one of his/her hands in the other as she speaks demonstrates she is trying to reassure or comfort herself.
Body language, when sincere, is like a natural polygraph machine. The results, however, are sometimes hard to interpret, especially when you do not have much experience. Ultimately, reading body language takes the ability to pay careful attention to what a person in the workplace is saying and doing.