Please enjoy this post from staff writer, Mitchell Pauly. Mitchell blogs over at SnarkFinance.com.
Non-verbal communication in the workplace is paramount to any successful career. Pending on your desired career, this could mean a lot of things. For example, the body language required of Blackzilla is very different indeed to that required by Tyron the accountant. Since there is an 80% chance you are reading this blog post at work, I am going to assume you’re a cubicle gopher working somewhere as exciting as listening to Ben Stein read the phone book. The body language required for success in an office setting is subtle, deliberate and timed—like a good pick up line or a good ol’ fashioned surprise trouser dropping. Unfortunately, that also makes body language in the office place among the most difficult to master. Fortunately you have social savants like me to teach you.
Pull a Roger Rabbit and Get Animated
Consider communication like good sex: it requires multiple movements at once. Complex body movements reflect complex thinking. Think both hands above the waste moving in a direct, succinct manner in time with the important points you are obviously going to be making. Be wary of overly aggressive movements like pointing, or gestures which infer mental instability like fist pumping as if you’re an audience member of the Arsenio Hall show. Movement doesn’t simply start and stop at the hands like some masturbatory fever dream either. If appropriate, don’t hesitate to utilize the space you are in and move through it. If you are limited to a chair be sure to sit straight and lean slightly forward, which infers interest in the topic at hand.
Eyes on the Audience
I knew a guy in California who made strong eye contact with those he communicated with; at first I was pretty sure he was hitting on me, but then I remembered that I am irresistible to gay men and the mere fact he hadn’t made his move meant he was just super good at making me feel special—and then I felt a little disappointed and then a little confused about myself. We can all take a lesson out of his playbook though. Eye contact is the most important non-verbal communicative device we can use. If giving a presentation, break the room down into sections and address each section periodically by making eye contact with one or two people. This is one of the most effective ways to engage the audience. For those who use their literacy as a crutch (reading off slides), eye contact will force you to memorize information which has the added benefit of making you truly competent.
Talk to Yourself, or Strangers
The best way to learn body language is to practice using it correctly. If you think it is weird to talk to yourself in front of a mirror then you’re right, it is weird, but it is incredibly effective practice because most people think that speaking in front of others is weird. You will always be your own worst critic, so learn to pass the “guy in the mirror test” and you should do fine in front of those non-refracted light particles. Do you talk to strangers? You should. Not only will it get you laid more often and expand the number of friends you have, but it will teach you to calibrate your body language to the reactions of others. I talk to strangers all the time and at first they always find me to be a little strange; I rate myself based upon how many I win over. I test new ways of framing ideas and body language. These days, I win over more than I lose. If I can do that with people who might stab me, do you think a boardroom scares me?