Communication skills have always been an important element of success in business. Most people think of communication as verbal or written skills that include negotiating tactics, sales expertise, persuasive writing, and presentations among others. While these are extremely important—especially for the rising executive—we cannot emphasize enough the importance of non-verbal communication or body language as a factor for business success.
Evolution of Body Language
Eye contact, nodding, and even our posture communicates a variety of messages to others. For example, the simple act of leaning forward says, “I’m engaged,” and may help build rapport. Taking it one step further, actual body contact—albeit still non-verbal—may say even more.
Most feel a handshake is the safest way to interact in business today, especially with the possibility that any other kind of physical contact may be perceived as inappropriate. That said, we’ve noticed a trend of increased contact in recent years that seems not only more accepted, but also shows increased engagement. Men often “bring it in” and half-embrace or pat on the back along with a handshake today. Women are hugging more in business settings as a greeting or a show of support. Even women and men engaging in a brief hug or a two-handed handshake is increasingly more common. These gestures can put people at ease, help build stronger relationships, and complement or enhance one’s verbal messages.
Given today’s structured, technology-driven workplace where email and conference calls often dominate our communication—plus our “puritan” origins—it’s a wonder that personal relationships and the body language that goes along with them, indicating we’re friendly, attentive and engaged, persevere. To what can we attribute this level of increased, acceptable personal contact?
Why the Change?
In working with companies across the country to recruit executive leaders, we have assessed that this new level of comfort regarding body language comes from several trends:
- The flood and rapid rise of millennials in the workforce. Millennials often veer from traditional business methods, and are adopting and demanding exceedingly more casual forms of etiquette, work environments, and mannerisms.
- The overall relaxing of cultural norms and progressively informal and friendly interactions.
- The increasing globalization of business, with the integration and general awareness of other cultures’ traditions.
A study about appropriate body language in the workplace by Tricia Ellis-Christensen showed that body language has the potential to change how people perceive others. For instance, even though smiling is considered a form of welcome in many cultures, smiling may also read as a form of embarrassment in certain Asian cultures. If someone works with people of different nationalities and customs, cultural body language is crucial. The need for cultural awareness is a major impact of globalization on the required skillset of effective communicators.
Enhance Impressions with Positive Body Language
Our impressions of each other are derived from more than words. People can have pleasant conversations and not like each other. Often, the actions that we observe and messages we send with our body language are stronger than our words. For example, a person may dismiss someone based on body language even though their words are positive and pleasant. Like it or not, our body language makes a lasting impression on the people around us, and used positively—all other items being equal—can be the edge that increases our success in business.
At Executives Unlimited, we are committed to helping our clients achieve success in their recruitment strategies. For information about our services, please call us at (866) 957-4466 or contact us online today.