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September 11, 2017

What every engineer should discover about body language - 7 tips 

Body language it's something so important, yet we give it very little thought to, especially at work, whether on the shopfloor or the office. Body language actually accounts for over 55% of the overall message, with tone of voice 38% and the words you speak, just 7%.

So being aware of your body language is one of the most subtle, yet important things to master at work.

If you're not in tune with what your posture, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues, you could be revealing your true feelings to your fellow work colleagues and engineers, which means potentially you could be setting yourself up failure.

Here are 7 powerful tips to help you in your workplace:

1. Want to sound authoritative? Keep your voice down

Before a speech or important telephone call, allow your voice to relax into its optimal pitch by keeping your lips together and making the sounds "um hum, um hum, um hum." Instead, when stating your opinion, use the authoritative arc, in which your voice starts on one note, rises in pitch through the sentence and drops back down at the end.

2. Feelings little nervous? Assume a power pose to boost your confidence

Research at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools shows that simply holding your body in expansive, "high-power" poses (leaning back with hands behind the head and feet up on a desk, or standing with legs and arms stretched wide open) for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone—the hormone linked to power and dominance—and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Try this when you're feeling tentative but want to appear confident. In addition to causing hormonal shifts in both males and females, these poses lead to increased feelings of power and a higher tolerance for risk. The study also found that people are more often influenced by how they feel about you than by what you're saying.

3. To increase participation, look like you're listening

If you want people to speak up, don't multitask while they do. Avoid the temptation to check your text messages, check your watch, or check out how the other participants are reacting. Instead, focus on those who are speaking by turning your head and torso to face them directly and by making eye contact. Leaning forward, nodding, and tilting your head are other nonverbal ways to show you're engaged and paying attention. It's important to hear people. It's just as important to make sure they know you are listening.

4. To encourage collaboration, remove barriers

Physical obstructions are especially detrimental to collaborative efforts. Take away anything that blocks your view or forms a barrier between you and the rest of the team. Even during a coffee break, be aware that you may create a barrier by holding your cup and saucer in a way that seems deliberately to block your body or distance you from others. A senior executive told me he could evaluate his team's comfort by how high they held their coffee cups. It was his observation that the more insecure individuals felt, the higher they held their coffee. People with their hands held at waist level were more comfortable than those with hands chest high.

5. Want to improve your speech? Use your hands

Brain imaging has shown that a region called Broca's area, which is important for speech production, is active not only when we're talking, but when we wave our hands. Since gesture is integrally linked to speech, gesturing as we talk can actually power up our thinking. Experiment with this and you'll find that the physical act of gesturing helps you form clearer thoughts and speak in tighter sentences with more declarative language.

6. Want to stimulate good feelings? then smile!

A genuine smile not only stimulates your own sense of well-being, it also tells those around you that you are approachable, cooperative, and trustworthy. A genuine smile comes on slowly, crinkles the eyes, lights up the face, and fades away slowly. Most importantly, smiling directly influences how other people respond to you. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person's emotional state in a positive way.

7. Trying to get to the bottom of an issue? to learn the truth, watch people's feet

When people try to control their body language, they focus primarily on facial expressions, body postures, and hand/arm gestures. Since the legs and feet are left unrehearsed, they are also where the truth can most often be found. Under stress, people will often display nervousness and anxiety through increased foot movements. Feet will fidget, shuffle, and wind around each other or around the furniture. Feet will stretch and curl to relieve tension, or even kick out in a miniaturized attempt to run away. Studies show that observers have greater success judging a person's real emotional state when they can see the entire body. You may not know it, but instinctively you've been reacting to foot gestures all your life.

Keep these 7 tips in mind, the next time you're talking to your fellow engineering colleagues to see what their body language is really saying and also be aware of what your body language is revealing to other people.

This article is written by Phil Walker, Recruitment Director at Precision Recruitment. Precision are specialist recruiters in the fields of engineering, technical and sales recruitment operating in the Midlands with positions nationwide.

Looking for a new engineering or technical role? Check out our latest roles right here. Call us on 0116 254 5411 or email your cv to


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