Q. How do I understand nonverbal communication at work? I've read books on body language, but I am still pretty confused. Are there any easy guidelines to help interpret what body language means?
A. Western culture mostly associates the physical body with sex. When I teach nonverbal communication, people often squirm and giggle because bringing up the fact they have bodies makes them embarrassed.
Being able to understand body language is more complicated than getting a guide that says if your boss scratches his nose, he's lying. Most body language is unique to the person using it.
Pay attention to what your body and others' bodies do when you're in boring situations (e.g., meetings). Experiment with imitating different postures or gestures you see people use. How do you feel when you pound your fist, drape your arms over the chair, or sit with legs and arms crossed. Notice your feelings when you use assume positions and you'll have better information about what's going on for others.
Make sure you're breathing deeply when you're trying to notice nonverbal behavior. If you're having an out-of-body experience rather than being in your body, it will be tough to observe anyone else's.
If you see a coworker make a gesture repeatedly, try asking them what it means when they look at their watch, tap their foot or lean away. After a while, you will get a working physical vocabulary of the people around you.
One critical aspect of body language is that it often reveals much more than people want to about their real agendas. Moreover, people will even tell you information they themselves don't fully grasp or want to admit. For instance, I had a client who pounded his fists whenever he talked about his boss. I asked him why he was so mad at his boss, and he looked surprised. He hadn't thought about his fury until I pointed out his fists.
If you ever find a person's nonverbal and verbal communication to be in conflict, always believe the body. Very few people can control their body language. What you hear when the body talks may even save your career one day!
The last word(s)
Q. I just got a new job and now have another offer double my current salary. Would it be wrong to take the job?
A. No. Ask yourself if your company would consider it wrong to let you go if it were in their best interests? Then take the job.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
Body language can make or break career
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