Non Verbal Communication
Nonverbal communication is equally important as the ability to use language to your advantage. A leader’s attitude, gestures, stance, and appearance all tell people that he or she is a leader.
Plain English: Nonverbal communication is conveying a message or idea without using words—for example, through facial expressions, gestures, stance, or appearance. Also called body language.
A leader must project an air of positive confidence. Part of that confident manner should be in the form of assertiveness. For example, assertive nonverbal communication includes firm handshakes, a relaxed yet forthright posture, and the ability to look other people in the eye. Pamela was a new manager and wanted to quickly make her mark as a good leader. However, she often slouched during meetings and avoided shaking coworkers’ hands. Her shyness also made it hard for her to look people in the eye. Pamela was nonverbally communicating that she was unsure of herself and therefore not assertive.
Wendy, who did not have as much experience in the same business, was also a new manager who attended many of the same meetings Pamela attended. Wendy made sure to shake hands with her new coworkers, and she always sat a little bit forward with her arms on the table during meetings. When talking, she was sure to meet the eyes of her listeners. Although Wendy didn’t have the experience Pamela had, she was able to make a better impression on her new superiors and peers by making them feel confident in her abilities.
Your eyes, mouth, and head convey your attitude more than any other part of your body language. To successfully communicate your leadership qualities, try the following:
- When talking to an individual, give that person your full attention. Looking past that person at another person or off into space will put them off.
- As stated previously, when addressing a group of people, make eye contact. This gives the impression that you really believe in what you are saying.
- Avoid sighing or rolling your eyes when listening to someone else talk. Sighing and eye-rolling give the impression that you are bored. You may be, but there’s no need to communicate that fact.
Your posture also is a big indication of your assertiveness and self-confidence. In the preceding example, posture made all the difference in people’s perception of Wendy’s power. When you’re standing, stand straight up with your feet slightly separated and pointed outward. If you’re sitting at a conference table, lean forward a bit. If you’re sitting at a chair in a lobby or someone’s office, relax, but cross your legs and use the chair’s armrests. Avoid sinking or slouching in chairs.
Hand gestures can be particularly effective at nonverbally communicating your feelings about a particular subject. The “thumbs up,” for example, is universally recognized as conveying positive feelings. Some other gestures that may be worth using from time to time include the following:
- Clapping your hands together when things are going right or you hear about a recent success from a group member.
- Using a finger to lend increased weight to a point you’re making.
- Gently, but forcefully, punching a fist down on a conference room table to lend weight to a point.
Caution: Avoid using negative gestures such as the middle finger in your business relations. Like profanity, such gestures are not appropriate for the workplace.
When speaking with one person, try to stay close enough to be able to speak in a normal conversational tone. If you’re too far, you may give a standoffish impression. If you’re too close, you may risk invading personal space, making your listener uncomfortable.
Your choice of clothes, hairstyle, and personal hygiene all make a statement about the type of person you are. Although this may seem superficial, a first impression is often made before you open your mouth to speak. Leaders should dress appropriately for their position. Also, those who aspire to be leaders should dress for the level they aspire to. For example, if you want to be promoted to the director level at your company and all the directors wear khakis and golf shirts, wear the same type clothing to give them the sense that you are one of them. The workplace has changed over the past few years, with dress codes loosening. No longer are most men required to wear a three-piece suit to work; nor are women required to wear suits or dresses. A general rule for both men and women is to wear clean, pressed clothes, whether they are formal business attire or casual clothes.
Here are some personal appearance tips for men:
- Avoid wearing jeans. Although jeans may be permitted in your workplace, a leader should avoid wearing them on a regular basis. You might limit yourself to wearing them on a light day, such as a day before a major holiday when you are less likely to have to meet with superiors or clients.
- T-shirts are not appropriate work attire, unless the T-shirt bears a company logo and is worn for a specific reason, such as a company barbecue.
- Hair should be kept clean and neatly trimmed. Many work-places are accepting longer hair on men; however, even long hair should be neatly groomed and worn in a ponytail if it’s long enough.
- In most cases, err on the side of the conservative. If you enjoy showing off your tattoos and wearing jewelry, limit this dress to evenings and weekends.
- Keep nails and teeth clean and maintained.
Most of the preceding rules apply to women as well. However, here are some specific personal appearance tips for women:
- Avoid wearing revealing clothing in the workplace. Femininity is a good thing and should be highlighted; however, wearing incredibly short skirts or shirts with plunging necklines is not appropriate at work.
- Don’t wear too much perfume. In moderation, perfume adds great flair to personal hygiene. But if you use too much, perfume can be annoying, distracting, and the object of ridicule.
Ultimately, use common sense when it comes to your personal appearance at work.
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