Whether you know it or not your body speaks about you without you having to open your mouth. It’s called body language or nonverbal behaviour and it can communicate a lot about your present state of mind or your level of self-confidence.
Just like we control what we say, we can control what our body says about us. It’s even more important for women in business who struggle with workplace biases.
9 ways women can use body language to look more confident in business situations:
1.Stop making yourself smaller
When we are growing up, we are taught that good girls don’t raise their voices, speak only when spoken to, sit quietly in one place and don’t bother anyone. Girls are expected to be invisible and take as less space as possible.
That’s what most grown women do: they make themselves smaller. Arms hanging on the side of the body, shoulders slouching, legs crossed.
Of course, you can’t do manspreading – it looks bad and it’s in poor taste to imitate men because you risk becoming a caricature of yourself.
Instead, you can do as follows:
- Extend the space you take up with your posture and possessions
- Straighten your back when sitting down
- Find a comfortable space for your elbows if you are sitting in a meeting
- Spread your notes on the table
2. Don’t over-nod
Women are generally supportive. They encourage their children and their spouse, other family members and friends. They are masters of active listening and show their empathy by nodding their heads in approval. Sometimes they over-nod to show support.
Over-nodding may be appropriate in family situations, but it’s inadvisable in business situations. So observe your body language and refrain from over-nodding.
If you’re talking to business partners, be sure to nod only when you really agree with someone, not by default.
3. Stop fake smiling
You don’t see parents asking their sons to smile and be nice, but you definitely see parents teaching their daughters to learn fake smiling early on. Women are used to hiding their true feelings and smiling even if they don’t feel like it.
In a business environment, your worth is not related to how much other people like you. You’ve been hired for your skills, creativity and work ethic. You are expected to deliver results and solutions, not being nice to everyone in the office.
You don’t go to the office to be nice and make friends.
You go to have an impact.
4. When nervous, refrain from self-comforting
When women are nervous, they tend to self-comfort by tucking their hair behind their ears, playing with a lock of hair, touching their face or adjusting their clothes.
These movements will be perceived as too feminine and they will take away from your professional power.
5. Give a firm handshake
Your appearance and looks generate the first impression while your handshake generates the second impression.
A firm handshake tells the other person that you are confident in your abilities and that you are well aware you deserve to be there.
You are as competent as your male counterpart so you need to convey this in your handshake. Your handshake should be firm, brief and accompanied by confident and steady eye contact.
6. Do the hand steeple
The hand steeple is when you prop up the fingers of one hand, with the finger of the other hand, to form a bridge. It’s a gesture of confidence and self-assuredness.
According to body language experts, “the steepler is someone that is confident, sometimes overconfident, genuine, authoritative, and particularly evaluative of others around him.”
Don’t use the hand steepling in team building because you could come off as arrogant. This gesture is effective if you already possess power or want others to think you do.
7. Keep head tilting to a minimum
The head tilt indicates sincere interest and curiosity.
Women and children tilt their heads to express admiration in a nonverbal way, to gain sympathy and protectiveness. It’s a posture which conveys vulnerability and submissiveness.
Try to keep the head tilting to a minimum so you don’t appear to lack authority or power.
8. Give an air of calmness and control
Women express themselves easily with words and gestures. They participate in conversations with a wide range of hand gestures, facial expressions, body position and movements. Among family and friends, women’s physical expressions are a way to connect and empathize.
In a business environment, an excessive amount of hand gesturing and body movement could be easily misinterpreted as a lack of control and people could have a hard time seeing you as a serious professional.
Give an air of calmness, control and allow people to take you seriously by keeping the amount of movement to a minimum.
9. Adopt the Wonder Woman pose
Wonder Woman is the symbol for a powerful woman. Remember her pose? Both feet standing firmly on the ground, chest out, straight back and hands resting confidently on the hips with the elbows flaring out.
The Wonder Woman pose is an expansive posture used to make the body appear larger and taking up more space. It’s the best posture to use before an important pitch to boost your confidence.
Research has found that expansive postures such as this one help boost testosterone and simultaneously lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
Adopt this stance when you want to take on a leadership role and you want your team to perceive you as confident and ready to get down to business.
Discover high-power poses that you can adopt to feel more confident and powerful in this talk given by social psychologist Amy Cuddy:
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