Body language is a part of our everyday lives. Believe it or not, you use it even when you don’t intend to; it’s a dead give away to even the untrained eye as to what emotion you’re really feeling or want to convey to your conversation partner or partners.
As the head of a group, whether it be in a school or work situation, body language is crucial to maintaining a good relationship with your coworkers or project partners. Here are four essential body language tips for leaders:
1.) Eye Contact. The first and most obvious tip is eye contact; it translates into many different things, but as long as you meet the eyes of the person or the people you are speaking with, then you are providing them with positive body language.
Not looking at someone while you’re talking to them, or listening to what they’re saying, makes them feel unimportant, and it creates a sense of doubt. But don’t stare them down — it’s intimidating and downright scary! Keep your gaze soft; it’s a conversation, not an interrogation.
2.) Be Relaxed. Your posture is another very important aspect to your presence as a leader; if you are standing or sitting with a stiff, straight back and tense shoulders, you’ll come off as cold, awkward, and unapproachable. Think of it this way: if your body is tense and hard like a brick wall, people will think that you’re a brick wall when it comes to conversations.
Keep your posture loose, your shoulders down, and — if you’re sitting — your legs relaxed, and people will be glad to come up to you for anything.
3.) Be Aware of Your Arms. Think of your arms as a shield. If you have them crossed over your chest, your shield is up, protecting your body from harm — but in this case, it’s your mind you’re protecting. Even with your hands planted firmly on your hips, you’re still in a defensive mode, ready to use your arms to protect yourself.
Keep your arms comfortably at your sides, or if you’re sitting, hanging on a table or chair; the visual cue is that your arms are open, and therefore so are you to whatever is being said or done.
4.) Practice Active Listening. While the tips before are all technically small parts of the larger term “active listening”, we tend to think of head gestures when we mention it.
Relax your face muscles when having a conversation, smile and nod during the natural pauses in a sentence to let the speaker know you’re listening and retaining what they’re saying.
All of these are natural things we do in every day conversation if you are a confident person, but it’s great to know how to direct this energy in specific situations, especially if you’re trying to leave lasting impression on the people you’re working with. With these tips, you’ll find that you as a leader will become more approachable and more in-tuned to everyone around you, which will only ever breed opportunity.