Continuous eye contact, reinforcement of speech through emphatic hand gestures and a big smile are just some of the non-verbal language cues billionaire Sara Blakely uses to convey her passion and remind you why she is so successful. Body language is truly one of our most powerful tools, especially in our careers. New research out of Colgate University looks at the effects of gestures on electroencephalograph (EEG) machines to measure “event-related potentials.” They found that whenever gestures didn’t match the words being spoken the verbal message was not conveyed clearly. So here are a few out of the body non-verbal language cues to help you come across more confident and as a better leader.

Women are more guilty of this than men (that is why they call it manspreading after all.) Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, the author of 12 books including The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead and contributor for Ladders News,  says women tend to condense their bodies, keeping their elbows to their sides, tightly crossing their legs, stacking their things in small, neat piles, and contracting themselves to take up as little space as possible. She points out that high-status males do the opposite. Men tend to expand into available space and take up room. “Remember that status and authority are non-verbally demonstrated through height and space. So stand tall, pull your shoulders back, widen your stance, and hold your head high.”

Don’t fold your arms

Seems like an obvious one but this is harder said than done.  If you’re standing in a room with your arms folded and looking down, no one will approach you. Sitting with your legs crossed gives off the same signal. However, if you literally open your body up when a person comes into the room—either by giving them a card or getting them a cup of coffee—this will lessen the resistance.  “Even at a coffee break, be aware that you may create a barrier by holding your cup and saucer in a way that seems deliberately to block your body or distance you from others,” Goman says.

Stand up straight

As my mother would say, stand up straight. According to her, standing up straight will fix everything wrong in my life. Research from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that if have a grand posture that really takes up space and makes your presence known, you will convey power.

Shake hands

Back to the importance of handshake again.  Goman cites a study that found people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. “Touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue. Touching someone on the arm, hand, or shoulder for as little as one-fortieth of a second creates a human bond. In the workplace, physical touch and warmth are established through the handshaking tradition, and this tactile contact makes a lasting and positive impression,” she says.


If babies can do it, then so can we. When clients or business colleagues unconsciously imitate your body language, it’s their way of nonverbally saying they like or agree with you. Goman wrote for Forbes, “When using mirroring in a business setting, you will know that you have developed mutual rapport if your partner begins to mirror you in return. Change your arm position and see if she will match your movement into the new posture. If you were to use this technique in a sales presentation, and your prospect subconsciously matched your body language, it would be a signal of trust and rapport. But if your prospect mismatched, you should consider the possibility that she isn’t yet convinced.”

This article was originally published on The Ladders.

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