I was in a meeting where a woman rolled her eyes at something someone said. This body language—rolling of the eyes—was significant enough for the person speaking to stop and ask the reason why the woman was troubled. The encounter between the two people continued, because the person speaking was appalled at the expression and wanted an immediate explanation. The woman who had rolled her eyes said nothing. She was speechless, because the speaker asked her to explain her behavior, which she hadn’t expected. Everyone in the meeting felt the outrage of the speaker.
Body language is nonverbal communication, where thoughts, intentions, or feelings are expressed by physical behaviors—such as facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movements, touch and use of space. There are movements, gestures, facial expressions, and even shifts in our whole bodies to indicate feelings. The way we talk, walk, sit, and stand all say something about us, and whatever is happening on the inside can be reflected on the outside. Body language can say a lot, even when nothing is said. Body language changes throughout cultures. What is acceptable in one culture may not be in other cultures. What is acceptable in one situation may not be in another.
The most common body movements help you understand an individual’s attitude. Facial expressions, hand gestures, mouth movements, arm and leg positions, and posture reveal a person’s true emotion. Upon meeting someone for the first time, good eye contact and a smile are nonverbal cues of friendliness, sincerity, and confidence. Facial expressions can express the emotions—whether sad, happy, excited, or even frightened. Hand gestures reveal a person’s anger, if their hand is clenched. The mouth can show signs of how a person might be feeling, too. For example, if a person bites their lower lip, this is an indication the person is feeling worried or insecure. Feet and arms similarly hint at how an individual feels. For instance, when a person has their arms crossed, it indicates they are feeling defensive, or they might be closed off. Crossed legs indicate the person is feeling closed off or in need of privacy. Overall, negative body language can be controlled, and should be managed in the workplace. Some negative body language signals include slouching, avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, frowning, touching facial hair, and crossing the arms.
Remember, as in the movie Ocean’s 11 when Julia Roberts stated to Terry, “Terry, you of all people should know, in your hotel, there’s always someone watching.” There’s always someone watching!