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What your body gestures communicate to your employees

When most people hear the word "communication," they are likely to think of the words they use and how they're conveyed. However, non-verbal communication, or the use of body gestures, has a much larger impact on the way your message is communicated to your employees.

What is body language?
Whether you know it or not, your body gestures are sending a message. The way you're sitting or standing, where your arms are positioned, where you're looking, and even what you're doing with your hands all send a message to your employees when you're talking to them.

The following are some of the most common body gestures, or non-verbal methods of communication, and what they communicate to your employees and other people you speak with:

Eye contact
Where you are looking is one of the easiest ways for your employees to tell whether you're actually listening or paying attention or not. Averting your gaze, reading or glancing over papers, rolling your eyes, looking around, or making eye contact with someone else shows your employees that you are bored, distracted, or not listening. Employees who don't feel like you are listening to them are more likely to feel underappreciated or that what they have to say isn't important. Blinking rapidly, staring, or squinting can also make the person uncomfortable. In addition, avoiding eye contact sometimes portrays an aura of sneakiness, guilt, or deceit.

On the other hand, maintaining eye contact and looking directly at the person who is speaking to you shows respect and interest in what the other person is saying to you. It also helps to foster more positive relationships with your employees.

Body position
The way you position your body while sitting or standing also conveys certain messages to your employees. Standing face to face with someone can imitate confrontation, while standing side by side can make you seem disinterested. It's best to stand or sit across from someone at an angle, and make sure you are on their level when talking to them if possible; towering over someone or sitting while they talk does not help you to come across as an equal to your employees.

Gesturing is natural for many people. Avoid fidgeting with clothes, your fingers, jewelry, pens, or other objects while you are speaking. This can make you seem nervous and is distracting to the person who is speaking or who you are speaking to.

Crossing your arms over your chest or placing your hands on your hips also sends a message of anger and closure. If you are not gesturing with your hands, leave your arms relaxed at your sides.

Personal space is important. The distance you leave between a person when you are speaking to them conveys respect for a person's personal space. Standing too close to your employees will often come across as obtrusive or intimidating. Instead, leave a reasonable amount of distance between the people you are speaking to.

Facial expressions
Your facial expressions can and probably do say more than your words, which is why it's important to be aware of the messages you're sending with your face. Be careful when it comes to frowning or giving disapproving looks. This will cause your employees to be on edge.

Making a conscious effort to be aware of your body gestures and the effect they have on your employees will help to improve your overall communication with your employees.

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