Body language is a very important part of human interaction and it tells a lot about a person. Body language changes as interactions change from formal to casual. As we all know we cannot exude the same body language at the workplace as we do at home or in interactions with friends. We cannot go to a job interview, lean back on the chair and sit opposite the interviewer like we own the world. We all know we have to sit straight and be attentive. But there are some subtle slips we end up doing not even realising we are doing that. There are certain body language mistakes women make in the workplace that often snatch away the brownie points from them.
What are those mistakes? In this detailed interview, psychiatrist and cognitive therapist Dr Shefali Batra tells us what are the body language mistakes women make and what can be done to correct those.
What is the office etiquette that should be followed when you are a woman?
There are two things that a woman leader needs to express through her body language, rather any leader needs to express through their body language.
The first one is warmth and the second one is authority.
So, when we say warmth, we mean that the person is approachable, empathetic, understanding and actually cares.
You also want to show that you are likeable by the way you communicate with the people around you. People around us are real followers, but the leaders I am talking about here are not essentially transactional leaders, but transformational leaders. Transformational leaders want to show warmth, however showing warmth does not mean they are your friend, they want to show authority without showing aggression. It means that a woman has a sense of control, a sense of power. She has status and credibility. If we are talking about confident woman body language then her body language should be all about this aspect.
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Transformational leadership is about being the leader yet being the soft-hearted person. So, I will give the next few points on how we can express these leadership qualities effectively and how women could actually mess up in these two because when they want to show warmth, they end up actually showing that they are too submissive, and when they want to show authority and power, they end up being too aggressive.
On these two fundamental aspects, we will have further discussion on how women should go about in the workplace.
What are a few body language mistakes made by a woman in the workplace?
We can focus on different body parts to explain the body language mistakes made by women at the workplace.
Be careful how you use your eyes
The human eyes are a fundamental organ which are essential for self-expression. The mistake that women make with eyes is they do not make eye contact while having a conversation or discussion at their workplace. That is a sign of low self-esteem and low self-confidence.
If women disapprove of something, it is very very characteristic of them to roll their eyes and they do not realize it. This is still okay with friends but if they do it at work, it gives a subtle wrong message that they are being dismissive.
When women want to appear authoritative they end up opening their eyes too wide. This ends up creating a very nasty stare and it becomes evident that they are trying too hard.
Then comes fluttering their eyes. Now the eye fluttering is cute if you are on a date but not desirable in a workspace.
Then we have a very flirtatious stare in our eyes which should be avoided because it gives subtle sexual messages at the workplace.
Therefore, harsh stares or fluttering of eyes, these can send wrong signals to your boss or colleagues at the workplace. Either you come across as being too submissive or too domineering.
A tilt and nod of the head
Now let’s talk about the head and the entire facial structure. A woman usually keeps her head titled- her neck is usually not straight- it is just a feminine tendency. Now, that tilt in the head does not look very professional.
It is important to say “yes” or “no” with a clear nod of the head. Sometimes nodding too much when someone is talking can make that person confused and make you look overenthusiastic. Avoid it.
Don’t lick your lips
Licking the lips with your tongue is a sign of under confidence. Smiling too much sends a very wrong message. I have seen it personally people who want others to give some attention to their presentations, they smile too much and it looks inappropriate. Smiling in context is totally fine, but when you just smile to generate that sense of camaraderie, it just doesn’t work and looks out of place.
Too much smiling could give people the wrong cue, so does biting your lips. When you are putting your lips together and then covering one lip with the other that might indicate you are thinking but also it is a sign of under confidence.
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What are few a body language mistakes that a woman does not realize she is making at work?
One important aspect is the tone of the voice. Women sometimes tend to talk softly which might sometimes give the impression that they are not quite sure whether their opinion will actually be heard.
Inconsistent pitch in the voice
The way you can hear me talking, you will realize that the start and the end of whatever I am talking has the same volume and the same clarity in pitch. So, when women do not maintain that, at the start if she is loud and it goes soft at the end, it kind of gives the impression that you are trying to be authoritative but in the middle of the conversation you have lost authority on yourself and you are not sure about yourself whether you can have that kind of authority on others too. You must have a consistent pitch.
Verbal ticks are essentially repetitive lines, for instance “like”. You may go on using the phrase “You know, like…” multiple times in the same sentence. The verbal ticks are like fillers and when you use fillers, you are giving the message that you yourself didn’t clearly know what you were saying. You need to be very cognitive about this, be aware whether you are starting your sentences with “Umm…” multiple times. Avoiding verbal ticks will ensure focused body language.
Too animated while talking
Then comes the aspect of over expression and the over animated like “Ohh!”, “Yeah!” etc. which women are notorious for. I think we need to watch the expression when we talk. It’s best to keep it subtle and elegant.
Another very, very important thing which I have been doing since I was about 14 years old is related to shaking hands. An interviewer came to my school. I think he was about six feet tall. After the interview, we shook hands, and he exclaimed, “Are you trying to break my hand or something?!” to which I replied, “No, I was just giving you a manly handshake.”
One very common body language mistake that women make when shaking hands with somebody is that they give a flimsy, loose handshake which is just about touch and go. Unconsciously they are showing their submissive character.
Too much or too less interaction
Another mistake that women make with communication is interacting too much, or not interacting at all. If a woman interrupts way too much, before a person has completed their sentence, that is inappropriate. But when you do not interrupt at all, absolutely not at all, it means two things, either you are not listening or are afraid to speak up.
So when there is a pause at the end of someone’s sentence, then an interruption is really, really welcome, it gives the impression that you are listening, you have a point of view and you are expressing yourself.
Interrupting in the middle of a sentence
One mistake is to interrupt in the middle of a sentence and another mistake is to not interrupt throughout a paragraph, which means that you really do not have any opinion at all.
Finally, there is something about flirtatiousness when a woman talks. They need to really forget that they are women. Flirtatiousness, in any situation, is a big no-no. It does not get anyone anywhere. Flirtatiousness like smiling incessantly, leaning your body forward while talking, tossing your hair continuously on the side of the head, these are very provocative moves. When it is overdone, it conveys very faulty messages. Women who are more confident do this a lot lesser. Women who are more submissive tend to do it more. Sometimes they think their point of view will be accepted simply because they are women. But it is always better to have a focused and formal body language in the workplace.
What are the body language mistakes a woman makes when she is standing?
Standing with a slight slouch is a sign of low self-confidence and looks terrible too. Sometimes the shoulder is square but sticking the chest out too much can be a sign of sexual flirtatiousness.
So we have to learn to balance it out in general.
Of course, not showing the cleavage is a very, very important and positive thing at work. Wearing a skirt is alright, but it does not have to have that long slit that goes all the way up. We know that human beings are sexual creatures and that a woman is a woman and she is always going to be different from a man. I think not exposing that sexuality is really important. Instead she would do better to focus on confident and elegant body language.
Walk slowly with grace and poise. Also, one must be mindful of the eyes, face, mouth, speech and all that we discussed earlier. One’s body, the way we walk, stand, move, the swing of our hands, everything must be natural. Don’t try too hard else it will appear unnatural.