When most people think about communication, they think about the words they choose. But even if you say all the right things, your body could be communicating something completely different.
Likewise, if you’re listening to what your staff members have to say without picking up on their body language, you could be missing a critical piece of what they are trying to say.
In their book Without Saying a Word: Master the Science of Body Language & Maximize Your Success, Kasia and Patryk Wezowski break down how you can learn to read body language to become a better communicator.
“The secret is to pay attention to the spontaneous and involuntary microexpressions that rapidly flit across everyone’s faces at times of intense emotion,” the Wezowskis write.
In an experiment conducted by the Wezowskis, they found that salespeople with the ability to recognize microexpressions were higher performers than people who didn’t recognize microexpressions.
By learning to recognize body language tells, you can understand your employees better and use that information to become a better manager.
Increase body language intelligence
Some people are naturally more in tune with their body language and the body language of the people around them. But even if you’re not a natural, body language is something you can learn about.
The Wezowskis point out that learning more about body language can make you more emotionally adept and help you improve the quality of your professional relationships. “Projecting confident, trustworthy body language enhances the impact of your presentations,” they write.
Your body language affects your communication even if the other party can’t see you. In a study of call center employees, an employee that sat in an uncomfortable position came off as irritated on the phone, while another employee hunched over and sounded insecure.
“Body language shows what is happening inside your body and mind,” the Wezowskis conclude. “If you want to change that body language, the only way to do it is start with your own emotions and moods.”
How to change your body language
If you’re determined to change your body language to come off as a capable and trustworthy manager, the solution isn’t as simple as just deciding to smile more or improving your posture.
Instead, the Wezowskis recommend getting to the root of the problem. For their call center employees, they helped people improve their body language by encouraging them to take steps outside of work to help them maintain a better mood.
Participating in activities like sports or spending quality time with their family made them happier overall, which helped them relax the tension in their muscles while they were at work and project a more positive body language.
The other step they took was to make the workplace more pleasant. If there are consistent stressors in your pharmacy that make you tense up or frustrate you, those stressors will start to affect your body language.
Change pharmacy processes to remove those stressors and you will ultimately feel more relaxed, which means your body language will become more positive.
The principles of body language intelligence
These principles will help you see what’s going on outside and make interpretations that will help you make better decisions in the workplace.
1. Combinations matter
When interpreting body language, an isolated incident doesn’t mean much. If someone rubs their forehead during a conversation, you might jump to the conclusion that they are feeling stressed out, when in reality, they might have just had an itch that needed to be scratched.
While a single movement might not mean much, you can draw a clearer picture when multiple movements seem to be signaling the same thing. If that first forehead touch is combined with poor eye contact and eye rubbing, it’s a much stronger signal that the person is feeling stressed.
The Wezowskis say three to five movements that give off similar signals in a short period of time are enough to start drawing a conclusion about what a person’s body language is saying.
2. Inside feelings manifest outside
“If you have to make a choice between what you hear (words) and what you see (movements), it is better to believe what you see,” the Wezowskis write.
Your employees may feel the need to downplay a situation to make it seem like they have things under control, but their true feelings will spill out in their body language.
Studies of the limbic system have proven that unconscious expressions and gestures happen faster than most people can consciously adjust them. That means if you are attuned to your employees’ body language, you can flag potential issues before they bubble over.
3. Context matters
Body language isn’t a static secret code, and sometimes gestures mean different things in different contexts.
An employee might cross their arms across their chest because they are upset. But they could also make the same gesture because the room is cold and they want to warm themselves up.
Before you draw a conclusion about what specific body language means, take a step back and think about the context. Ask yourself how where they are, what task they’re working on, or who they’re talking to will affect their body language.
4. Pay attention to sudden changes
A sudden change in body language can be a big clue that there’s something going on with an employee, even if they hadn’t said anything.
Picture this: An employee is sitting in a relaxed manner during a staff meeting, and then you announce new hours for the pharmacy that require them to stay later. Your employee then crosses their arms and starts tapping their foot. That change is a signal that they might not be happy with this new development.
Remember that timing is important. If the body language change happens right after a piece of news is announced, that’s a reliable signal that an employee has had a strong reaction. But if the change happens at a neutral point in the conversation, it’s less likely to mean something.
5. Notice habits
Body language is not universal, and one person’s nervous tick might be a mindless habit for another person.
When trying to read body language, it’s critical to learn people’s habits so you can make a better interpretation.
“If, for example, someone is always in the habit of smiling, even when she is feeling hostile, then you cannot automatically interpret this person’s smile as an indication of pleasure,” write the Wezowskis.
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