CPD tips - How to use body language to get ahead in your career

CPD tips - How to use body language to get ahead in your career

05 Sep 2022

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Interest in understanding body language has grown recently with popular creators on social media attempting to analyse what celebrities and politicians are ‘really saying’ through their body language and how it either supports or contradicts their overall message.

Though academics in the field may discount much of the ‘science’ of body language analysis being discussed on YouTube and other social media platforms, becoming more self-aware of our own body language in the workplace is something that can help us to become better communicators and develop professionally. This will be an informal CPD article that educates on the impact body language has when we communicate and how it can be harnessed to progress in your career.

What is body language?

Body language is how we communicate non-verbally through physical behaviours. Examples of these non-verbal actions include facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space. Each of these behaviours can be expressed consciously or unconsciously and are often used during verbal communication.

Why is body language important when communicating?

As we’ve noted, body language is often unconscious. In fact, for the most part, we’re completely unaware of what we’re communicating with our body language. This can present a huge problem, particularly in the workplace. We understand the need to conduct and communicate in the most appropriate way with what we say at work, and the same goes for our body language. 

Learning to understand what we’re communicating with our body language helps us to ensure we aren’t committing any faux pas and ensure we’re using our body language to add greater impact to what we’re communicating verbally. Improving our body language can help us communicate more effectively, make stronger connections and perform at a higher standard in the workplace.

Body language when communicating in the workplace

What body language tactics can I use in the workplace?

Eye contact

Holding eye contact with the person you’re talking to or listening to is one of the most effective ways to show them that you’re fully engaged with them and that you’re confident in doing so. If you’re speaking to a group of people like giving a presentation, a good tip is to focus on one person at a time, holding eye contact as if you’re speaking directly to them. This helps to keep the audience engaged and again displays confidence in what you’re saying. 

A key thing to remember about eye contact is that there can be too much of a good thing. If you hold eye contact for too long, it can appear as though you’re staring, particularly as a listener. A study by Michigan State University found that within a conversation, it is best to maintain eye contact 50% of the time when speaking and 70% of the time when listening.

Keep your head up

Tilting your head down or staring at the floor expresses insecurity, a lack of confidence and even sadness. If you’re looking to convey confidence, you need to correct your posture. A slumped or slouched position sends the message that you’re not interested. Holding your head up with a straight back shows you’re engaged, and having your shoulders back and in a relaxed position conveys confidence.

Leaning in while speaking or listening

The way you interact with the space around you is another factor of body language that can be used to your advantage. Leaning away can signal a desire to leave the conversation, and such is a common expression of negative body language. Leaning in, on the other hand, signals an eagerness to engage or even an increase of interest in what’s being communicated.

Don’t fidget

You may well have been reprimanded for fidgeting at home or at school when you were younger, and for good reason. If you overly fidget whilst in a conversation or a meeting in the workplace, it not only distracts those around you but sends the signal that you’re not giving your full attention. Also, oftentimes fidgeting behaviour is driven by feelings of nervousness so you’re also subconsciously letting everyone around you know that you’re not 100% confident.

Pay attention to other people’s body language

One of the best techniques to improve your own use of body language is to try to pay more attention to the body language of others, particularly those who you think communicate well. If there’s a colleague, a senior team member or an expert in your industry who you think communicates incredibly effectively and confidently, study how they behave in different scenarios. How do they hold themselves? How do they communicate that they’re engaged in the interaction with their body? What facial expressions do they make? How are they using their hands? 

Make a note of all of these questions, and over time you’ll have a playbook of habits to try to work on yourself to improve your own body language skills.

Where to find body language CPD courses

Trying the techniques we’ve looked at in this article is a great place to start to develop your understanding, and expression of body language. But a much more in-depth and practical way to develop it is by taking a certified CPD body language course.  Within the CPD Courses Catalogue, there are numerous courses on body language to help get started which you can find here.

Established in 1996, The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest Continuing Professional Development accreditation organisation working across all sectors. We hope this article was helpful. If you are looking to become an accredited CPD Provider, please contact our team to discuss your requirements in more detail. Alternatively if you are looking to record your CPD, please go to the myCPD Portal where you can manage, track and log your learning in one simple place.

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