Most people think it’s what you say that matters. It’s not. As soon as you walk into the office this morning you’ll be shouting out loud and clear. You’ll be sending out signals and letting everyone know exactly how you are feeling. And you may not even have said a word. Visual communication got there before you. Survival skills at work depend upon communicating without ever saying a single thing!
Understanding the secret study of body language will allow you to communicate better. It will allow you to understand the reactions of your colleagues. It will enable you to be a better all-round communicator. It may even be the key to a more successful career.
It’s what we see that matters.
We are visual creatures. It’s a fact. The vast majority of the information we take in is visual. In fact, research has shown that percentage to be as high as 75%. This is why images and pictures are so important to the way we learn. On the way to work today, you will have picked up a wealth of information. You might not have stored it all, but it was there. You registered everything you saw from the first face you looked at this morning, to the visuals that accompanied all the way to the desk. They are there surrounding you now. Take a quick look. Understanding this is vital to good communication.
Your environment affects you. Even buildings speak.
A positive environment is crucial to us. You strive to create it at home and you dress purposefully to give off positive signals. Advertising brands work on your status and the things you aspire too. It will have guided you to your choice of car. One that reflects who you think you are. It will have been a consideration in choosing your smartphone or your mountain bike. It will dip into the places you hang out at the weekend and the holidays you take, perhaps even dictate what you eat tonight.
The lure of creating our environment extends to the places we work in, the office and the desk you sit at. You may have a fantastic office, with a great outlook. If not, are you looking for serviced offices? Call Office Space in Town! Every decision we make has a visual aspect that links into our idea of ourselves.
Understanding that is the key to making a better impression or simply being more adept in read others. really get what they are saying. It can help us send good positive signals out to colleagues. It can make us better and more effective in our roles.
The eyes have it.
The eyes are the windows to the soul is a well-worn cliche. The truth is it does not matter about anything else unless we are backing up the visuals with positive body language. When it comes to reading others, the eyes are the key. Eye contact can speak volumes about how straight and honest people are. People who avoid your gaze either do not want to have contact with you or are hiding something. The next time you have an encounter study how eye contact underlines reinforces, or denies what is being said.
Are you open or closed?
Consider how you are sitting. Are both feet planted on the floor? Perhaps your legs are crossed. These subtle signals are already chattering away. Take them out into a shared space and consider how they are altered. Interviews and “one on ones” are classic scenarios in which to study body language and how we connect with one another. Even the place you choose to sit in a room in sending out a signal about how you see yourself in terms of status. That is about your willingness to engage with others around you.
Much of what we give out is involuntary, but we can learn to control and adapt our body language. This can help us not just in terms of communication but also in terms of sending positive signals. For example, being open may involve not crossing the legs and turning way to the side. It will involve showing that you are ready to engage and be a part of the process.
Watching what our hands are doing is another fascinating way of reading people. Hands that skitter all over the place, pull at cuffs and wring nervously are clear indications that something is amiss. That person is uncomfortable and is giving off clear signals. Often these will be backed up with closed body language and a lack of eye contact. Hand gestures and their implications give us a very clear idea of how someone is feeling.
We can literally get a grip, by being aware of our hands. Keep them still and steady and allow them to back up what you are saying effectively. Pumped fists do not send out signals of calm reflection, but fingers used well can emphasize a point being made visually
Making communication count.
In the office environment, it is vital that we are aware of how verbal and visual communication work. Being open, positive, asking the right questions can demonstrate that we are listening and willing to give others a fair chance. Looking away, interrupting others, displaying inappropriate reactions and jumping to conclusions, show the opposite. Likewise, the tone of your voice can give away what you are really thinking. Match your actions to your words and your tone.
All of these things are real signals and keys to who we are. Every single one of them can be changed. We think nothing of moving house or choosing the office furniture that surrounds us. We’ll choose the environment that we work in and of course we can alter that. We might decide to wear certain clothes or colours. In the same way, we can change our body language, to really back up how we feel and to get the most out of our interactions at work, and in life.
Ultimately everything we say and do is backed up or negated by our body language. Appreciating it, being aware of it and using it, means that we will become better communicators and ultimately be more successful.