Body Language in Business
Posted on June 26, 2012 by admin under
Julie-Ann Amos, one of the UK’s leading business consultants, authors and personal business experts, (having authored multiple books on business management and personal business skills) gives the following advice to individuals involved in business on how to manage their body language, which is a key aspect of any relationship.
The following is an excerpt from an article written by Amos on the use an importance of body language and the different uses that relate to specific industries and situations. BodyLanguageExpert.co.uk published the article in question on November 15th 2010:
“It’s tempting to lump all body language together when talking about the business environment but this would be a big mistake. Just as accepted non-verbal behaviours vary depending on the social culture or environment, so too do accepted non-verbal behaviours vary based on the culture of an individual business. If you want to determine the most effective body language to use in a business environment, you should first identify the dominant business culture in that environment.
Industrial Business Culture
The industrial business culture is somewhat mixed in many ways. It is typically divided according to job function, usually categorized as either management/administration or front line employee. Some examples of industrial business cultures include construction, manufacturing, maintenance, and the like.
In general, an industrial business culture rewards physical performance of work, attention to safety, and a larger sense of brotherhood or unity across the organization. This is reflected in the acceptable body language, which usually includes physical activity, self-confidence, and an overall willingness to participate and get the job done.
Conservative Business Culture
This is perhaps the type of business culture most people think of when they picture a traditional office environment. Conservative business culture is typical of banks, corporate offices, law firms, accounting firms, and the like. They are very structured in their hierarchy and processes, and very regimented in their schedules and activities.
In a conservative business culture the dress is often quite formal (suit and tie) and your attention should be clearly focused on business itself. The acceptable body language is also very formal and focused, such as showing deference to those in higher job positions, purposeful walking in the hallways, and no leaning, slouching, or excessive socializing.
Casual Business Culture
The casual business culture is most typical of modern, progressive organizations, especially those that are small to medium sized or involved in technology-heavy industries. A classic example is the ‘dot com’ company with ping-pong tables in the break room, beanbag chairs in the meeting rooms, and no discernible dress code. This is of course an extreme example, but it clearly illustrates the concept of a casual business culture.
Body language in a casual business culture is typically quite relaxed and often characterized as being light-hearted and fun. Most interactions are conducted in a more personal manner and with body language that is more relaxed, open, and some would say genuine. It’s okay to develop and nurture friendships in a casual business culture, and acceptable body language includes those non-verbal behaviors that are more social and relationship-oriented.
Academic Business Culture
While this might seem like a bit of an oxymoron, the academic business culture is alive and well in places such as universities, colleges, research foundations, and academic think tank/issue oriented organizations. The emphasis in this kind of culture is on creativity, thought, knowledge, and discussion.
Acceptable body language in an academic culture is usually open and thoughtful, not overbearing or dominant in most cases. Respectful but assertive non-verbal behaviors are quite common, and a great deal of emphasis is placed on face-to-face discussions and relationships. This means posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact are all quite important.
What’s Your Organization’s Culture?
Correctly identifying and adapting to an organization’s culture is important to job performance and overall career success. If your body language is out of sync with expectations in the business culture, you will likely be perceived as less capable, less qualified, and maybe even less trustworthy in some cases.
If you haven’t given any conscious thought to the business culture in your organisation, pause for a bit and do so right now. Make a list of cultural norms in the workplace, including examples of common body language and non-verbal behaviours. Look for patterns in these examples and then compare them to your own general body language and non-verbal behaviours. If there is a glaring difference between the two, start thinking about how you can better match your body language to the dominant business culture.
Many aspects of body language are integral to success in the business world. From the way you interact with co-workers to the way you interact with customers and beyond your body language is one of the most powerful and influential communication tools at your disposal. It’s reasonable, then, to learn all you can about enhancing your body language to enhance your success in the business world.
Body Language and Business Meetings
If you work in the business world, then you probably spend a fair amount of time in meetings. Staff meetings, sales meetings, planning meetings, project meetings, budget meetings, committee meetings, department meetings, group meetings – the list could go on and on.
Regardless of the type of meeting you’re in, quality communication is an integral part of your participation. That’s why it’s so important to consider your body language as part of your communication activities.
Your body language has a powerful influence on how you are perceived before, during, and after a meeting. Here are just a few of the ways in which your body language affects communication in meetings:
• Where you sit
• Whom you sit with
• Whom you don’t sit with
• How you sit
• Whether you should even sit at all
• What you do with your hands
• What you do with your arms
• What you do with your legs
• Eye contact
• Overall body position
Posture and Body Position in Meetings
Take a look around about halfway through your next staff meeting and take note of the different postures and body positions of others in the meeting. Chances are you’ll be able to ‘read’ their thoughts very clearly, such as their level of interest, their agreement/disagreement with the topic at hand, and the like. And of course, others can ‘read’ your body language as well.
So what should your posture and body position be? In general, your posture should be upright but not stiff. You don’t want to slouch, but you also don’t want to sit at what looks like military attention. Stay relaxed and even lean forward a bit, as long as you don’t lean so far forward that your arms are sprawled on the table itself.
It’s okay to keep your arms on the table without leaning on them, keeping an open body position and perhaps resting your fingers lightly together. If you have papers or anything else on the table in front of you, don’t play with them. Finally, if you gesture with your hands when talking keep them controlled and contained, preferably no higher than your chin level. If at any point you’re not sure about your own body language in meetings, recruit a trusted colleague to observe you and provide feedback. It might feel a bit awkward, but it’s worth it to make your body language as effective as possible.”
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