Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 3:46 pm | Fair 76º


John Daly: Simple Tips to Help You Master the Art of Body Language in Business

Connecting to a person means making it clear how the content of a spoken message should be interpreted. Unfortunately, sometimes we are unable to deliver our messages by spoken or even written language, so we use body language to supplement what we want to say by gesturing, moving or making facial expressions.

Our body language sends a message to the other person, saying things like, “I’m bored and uninterested,” or “I’m interested and excited to be here.” No matter what words you use, your body language will always give you away. The body doesn’t lie!

To be a successful body language communicator, keep the following in mind:


Take care in the way you sit, for no other position connotes so much on its own. Think of the diversity of sitting positions that you’ve seen in business meetings, from practically horizontal to alert and upright. Sit upright. Never slouch. Sit with a straight back and with your legs together in front of you or crossed, either at the knee or at the ankle. Normally, women don’t cross their legs, but men are allowed to. Avoid jiggling your knee, which is a sign of nervousness (and can be pretty annoying to people sitting near you). Keep your hands away from your face. Always face the person with whom you are speaking or to whom you are listening. If you don’t, you’ll come across as uninterested. Think of it as trying to impress someone you’re interested in. Think about making yourself bigger and puffing out your chest.


When you stand, keep your back straight, with your midsection in alignment with your back (shoulders back and head up). This shows that you are comfortable with yourself and at ease in the situation. Slouching, sticking your belly out, stuffing your hands in your pockets and folding your arms defensively all suggest aggressive unease. When you slouch with your arms folded across your chest, you give the impression that you are tired, defensive and uninterested.


Some people talk with their hands; others stand with their hands glued to their sides. Most people haven’t the foggiest notion what their hands are doing when they talk. Do you scratch your nose, your ears or your eyelids when speaking? All of these can be a sign of deception. Other movements to avoid include pointing fingers, wringing your hands, knuckle cracking, picking your fingernails and playing with your pocket change. If you talk with your hands, you’re going to come across as distracted or nervous. Keep your hands at your sides, or place them in your lap if you don’t know what to do with them.

Rubbing the chin or placing the hand under the chin with one or two fingers on the cheek is a sign of contemplation or evaluation.

Using your hands is effective sometimes, aggressive other times and irrelevant most of the time. Controlling your hands takes effort and willpower. Monitor your hand movements. Avoid making sweeping, cappuccino-clearing gestures during meetings. If you have to, sit on your hands!

Head Movements

Head movements communicate important information. Nodding in agreement can be immensely helpful to others, but too much nodding makes you look like a bobble-head doll! Shaking your head can signal disagreement or disapproval. Avoid shaking your head too much.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is critical to conveying that you are interested. Letting your gaze wander around the room illustrates disinterest. Looking at your lap or the floor shows that you are not self-confident and feel insecure. Looking someone directly in the eyes while speaking with him or her will assure the other person of your self-esteem, confidence and ability to get the job done. It also conveys trust.


Nothing can make a person feel better than a smile from another. To brighten someone’s day and show off your positive attitude, smile. A frown will always set the wrong tone.

Great Video Information

(TED video)

3 Keys or Tells to Help You in Business

» To spot a lie, look for hand or face touching, crossed arms and leaning away.

» To reach an agreement, smile, nod, or mirror the other person.

» To maximize your authority, minimize movements. Take a deep breath, bring your gestures down to waist level, and pause before making a key point.

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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