You may spend hours combing the internet researching exactly how to get a raise, impress your manager or find a mentor to help you conquer corporate politics. But career experts say the way you sit, stand and move can be just as important as your words in the working world.
According to a MoneyLion survey, 65 percent of Americans believe their income would increase in last year, so you want to make sure you’re doing the right things to make those beliefs come true.
Click through to see if your financial future is as bright as other Americans — and how you can use your body language to ensure that it is.
Mirror Body Language
When strategizing about how to ask for a raise, Bill Corbett, president of Corbett Public Relations Inc., recommends reflecting the body language you see from your supervisor.
“In the case of a salary negotiation, if you are the boss, you may be more receptive to a person who is mirroring your positioning at the table,” said Corbett, who trains clients for media appearances and public speaking events. “For the person asking for the raise, if they fail to get in sync with the boss, the request may not be accepted or may be more challenging to secure.”
Find out when you’re in a great position to ask for a raise.
Beware of the Bluff
Not everyone sends the same signals when they aren’t being completely honest, but heeding your own intuition and keeping an eye out for common body language indicators — such as their level of eye contact — as to whether someone is telling the truth can also assist you in office settings.
“Understanding these movements, gestures, micro-expressions and where people are looking can tell a quite a bit and will indicate if they are lying or telling the truth,” Corbett said.
Practice Good Posture
Proper posture is the fastest way to shift your body language and project a confident persona, according to Chris Williamson, director of the nonverbal communication and leadership training firm Eastern Pathways.
“Stand tall with equal weight distribution across both legs and present yourself openly to the person you’re speaking with,” he said.
If you need a quick jolt of energy and confidence before an important interaction in the office, April Klimkiewicz, owner of the career coaching firm Bliss Evolution, recommends taking a few deep breaths in while rolling your shoulders forward and up toward your ears and exhaling as you roll your shoulders back and down.
“When you’re done, your shoulders will be relaxed, your chest will be open rather than contracted, and you’ll have more oxygen circulating through your blood and to your brain,” she said. “This will wake up your mind, help you stand — or sit — tall, and project confidence through your body language.”
Dress and Speak the Part
What you wear and how you communicate can have a subconscious effect on every aspect of your workplace behavior, including your body language. Alison Henderson, founder of Moving Image Consulting, recommends reading your office environment, then mirroring the managers and mentors you want to impress.
“We simply move differently in business attire than jeans and a T-shirt. Speaking in slang terms will also affect our nonverbal behavior,” she said. “Err on the side of proper dress, posture and language.”
Master Your Mindset
Employees should think of themselves as strong professionals if they want to climb the career ladder — not as a new employee, one of the only women in a male-dominated office or as an IT intern — said Laurie Richards, president of the workplace coaching firm LR&A, Inc.
“The appropriate body language will follow: shoulders back, head up, not nose in the air, confident eye contact without being aggressive, purposeful hand movements, standing on both feet, not one foot or crossed feet.”
Posture isn’t only important when you stand. Sitting tall makes you come across as more confident and can increase your visibility to the people you want to impress, said career coach Karol Ward.
“Make sure your weight is evenly balanced on your feet and when you are sitting … and you are not hunched over,” she said.
Make Eye Contact a Habit
“Practice making eye contact when you meet people in the morning whether you are ordering your coffee, greeting your colleagues or ordering lunch,” said Ward, author of several books, including “Find Your Inner Voice: Using Instinct and Intuition Through the Body-Mind Connection.”
Then, it will come as second nature even when you’re asking for a raise or conversing with a coworker about an awkward situation.
But Don’t Stare
It’s also critical to remember not to make too much eye contact with someone, like holding a stare, which may come across as confrontational and offensive, said Caleb Backe, a certified personal trainer and health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics.
“Try and remember that you shouldn’t hold your stare for more than 3 to 4 seconds at a time, and you’ll be fine — at least until you really know the person or if you’re trying to get a very serious point across,” he said.
Even though they may never meet clients in person, Dana Case, director of operations at the online legal filing service MyCorporation, also appreciates appropriate eye contact when she’s interviewing prospective employees. She also recommends brushing up on basics you may have forgotten since high school speech class.
“Make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to and smile at them. If you feel jittery while speaking, use your hands to transfer those jitters into excited, energetic movements.”
And before you even have the job, smiling goes a long way in interviews, too.
Uncross Your Arms
Depending upon the context of the situation, crossed arms are considered a blocking move, even if you just happen to be cold, said Shelly O’Donovan, principal and lead body language trainer with Illuminate the Message.
“It makes colleagues think you are opposed to what is being communicated or that you are not engaged in the topic,” she said.
Show Your Hands When Talking
The hands are our trust indicators, said O’Donovan, so it’s important to integrate them when talking.
“Yes, there is an appropriate level of hand movement, but not moving your hands at all can feel sneaky or untrustworthy,” she said. “Integrate a few key movements in slowly if you aren’t used to showing your hands.”
Minimize Nervous Gestures
Almost unconscious movements can indicate nervousness or boredom, said O’Donovan.
“How often do you tap your pen in a meeting, rub your arms, pace, tap your foot? If you can keep these in check you can make a much better impression at work,” she said.
Increase Your Awareness
You can’t stop bad habits or adopt good ones if you aren’t aware of the image you’re projecting now, O’Donovan said. When thinking about how to negotiate for a raise, for example, put some effort into editing your body language.
“The best way to start learning body language is to take stock of how much you might be doing some of these cues. Ask a trusted friend to evaluate your body language and then remind yourself gently when you need to show your hands more or stop nervous gestures.”
Look for Cues
Learning to read other people’s body language is just as important as mastering your own moves when it comes to getting ahead in the office, said O’Donovan.
“Is your boss tapping his foot during your meeting because he is bored or nervous? Is your co-worker crossing his arms because it is an icebox in the office or does he not want to talk about the subject you just raised? You’ll be surprised how much you can learn and decode in others.”
Learning to interpret others’ body language and mastering the messages your own moves are sending won’t magically attract more money and meaningful mentors, but walking the walk may help you talk the talk when the time is right, said Williamson, the leadership coach with Eastern Pathways.
“A more confident set of body language is likely to ultimately result in a genuine sense of self-confidence. It is that development of self-confidence that will enable someone to better negotiate a raise, find a mentor or resolve workplace conflict.”
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About the Author
Charlene Oldham specializes in education, workplace issues, consumer finance, health and wellness and business personalities. A former business news staff writer for The Dallas Morning News whose varied resume includes a stint with Teach For America, Charlene has written freelance works that have appeared in publications including the Orlando Sentinel, SUCCESS, Organic Gardening and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.