Understanding Body Language In Meetings
  • Dec 5, 2023

Understanding Body Language In Meetings

Reading Between The Lines: Understanding Body Language In Meetings

Words alone cannot convey the full impact of your message. Your gestures, postures, and facial expressions can ignite understanding, build connections, and inspire confidence.

This is the power of body language in meetings.

Body language plays a significant role during meetings as it conveys non-verbal messages and influences how others perceive you. Here are some reasons why body language is essential in meetings:

  • Non-verbal communication: Body language is a non-verbal communication that complements and enhances the spoken word.
  • Demonstrating confidence: Confident body language contributes to how others perceive you. Standing tall, using assertive postures, and speaking clearly can create a positive impression.
  • Enhancing understanding: Body language can strengthen understanding and clarity in meetings using appropriate gestures or visual cues.
  • Influencing perception: How you carry yourself can shape how others perceive your credibility, competence, and leadership skills.

Body language is a powerful tool that can impact how others interpret your messages and presence in a meeting. Awareness and using effective body language can enhance communication and contribute to a positive and productive meeting environment.

Contrariwise, being mindful of other people's body language can also be advantageous! By doing so, you can gauge how to approach people and predict the outcome of your meeting.

It's a worthy skill to master!

Understanding different types of body language and what they convey

Body language encompasses a wide range of non-verbal cues. Each can convey different messages. Here are common body languages you may want to look out for in your meetings:

1 Facial Expressions

This is a powerful indicator of emotion. A smile conveys happiness, while a furrowed brow expresses frustration or concern. Some facial expressions may be involuntary responses. Watch out for the different facial expressions made by your peers!

2 Eye Contact

This is crucial in communication. To tell that a person is genuinely interested and shows confidence, one must sustain eye contact.

Avoiding eye contact can indicate shyness, discomfort, or lack of interest. On the other hand, prolonged staring can be perceived as aggression.

3 Posture and Body Positions

Open and relaxed postures convey confidence and approachability. Leaning forward slightly can indicate interest and attentiveness.

During meetings, you should avoid closed postures such as crossed arms or legs, which can indicate defensiveness, discomfort, or disagreement.

4 Gestures and Movement

Using hand gestures is a great way to complement verbal communication.

Expansive gestures while speaking conveys enthusiasm and engagement. Nodding while listening to your peers indicate agreement and willingness.

Fidgeting and restless movements can suggest nervousness or impatience.

5 Proximity

Maintaining proper proximity and personal space is essential. The distance between individuals can reveal their comfort level and the nature of their relationship. Maintaining appropriate distance indicates respect for personal boundaries.

Body language cues will vary depending on cultural and individual differences. Context and multiple cues should be considered when interpreting body language. It's best to observe and consider the different situations and cultural contexts to perceive your non-verbal communication better.

The 5 Cs of body language

The Nonverbal Advantage by Carol Kinsey Goman tackles the five C's of body language and how these non-verbal cues are important, especially as first impressions.

Although first impressions are not the most reliable means of learning about a person, they can be a helpful tool in honing one's ability to read a person through body language. It is crucial to filter your first impressions through the five Cs.

1 Context

This refers to the circumstance or situation in which the body language is observed. The meaning of certain body language cues can vary depending on the context. It's essential to consider the broader context to interpret body language accurately.

2 Clusters

Nonverbal cues can occur in what we call a gesture cluster. This group of movements, postures, and actions reinforces a common point.

We all know a single gesture can have several meanings or mean nothing. However, if you couple that single gesture with other signs, the purpose becomes clear.

Clusters provide a comprehensive understanding of someone's non-verbal communication.

3 Congruence

Congruence implies that body language should be consistent with verbal communication. Someone's body language should align with their words because it enhances their credibility and authenticity.

Incongruence between verbal and non-verbal cues can indicate deception, discomfort, or lack of confidence.

4 Consistency

Body language patterns and signals should be consistent over time. Observing someone's body language consistently during a conversation is great practice for measuring consistency.

By doing so, you can identify patterns and better understand their attitudes, emotions, and intentions.

5 Cultural Awareness

Lastly, cultural awareness highlights the significance of considering cultural differences and norms when interpreting body language.

Different cultures have unique body language cues and interpretations. Being aware of cultural variations helps avoid misinterpretations and fosters effective cross-cultural communication.

The 5 C's of body language provides a framework for understanding the complexities of non-verbal communication. Considering these tips, you can enhance your ability to accurately interpret and respond to body language.

Group Of Business People

Where to sit at a meeting

A person with a hearing loss may already have strategies for where they sit at meetings.
Usually the best position to sit is across from the leader or 'gate-keeper' or person you want to influence at the meeting so you can hear well and pick up visual cues read lips etc.

If there is a noisy object like a fan, air conditioner or projector you may want to avoid being too close to that. Background noise like an open door can really cause issues.

There are various position to sit depending on the context of the meeting and the influence you would like.

In a confrontational meeting the best position is opposite the person you expect confrontation or an opposing view from.

The term right-hand-man refers to someone you are close to or are aligned to. So sitting to the right of someone you consider powerful and an ally can be useful.

Also sitting next to someone you wish to network with can be a benefit.

It doesn't hurt to survey the room early and pick a location that suits.

Refer to the article on Where to sit at a meeting.

Study: Only 20% right at predicting thoughts and feelings

University of Chicago professor Nicholas Epley has found that when your dealing with strangers, you correctly detect their thoughts and feelings only 20% of the time.

Author Eric Barker Plays well with others pg 25 Harper One. 2022

Body Language and being Hearing Impaired

Comparing Body Language interpreting skills between hearing and non-hearing people

Finally some good news for people with a hearing loss-:

Deaf people who use sign language are quicker at recognizing and interpreting body language than hearing non-signers, according to new research from investigators at UC Davis and UC Irvine.

Deaf sign language users pick up faster on body language https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120112142243.htm

Periferal Vision

Horwitz, an ASL and English interpreter, says deaf and hard of hearing people are very aware of what's in their peripheral vision: "Sometimes they're not looking at you, but can catch everything that I am interpreting or signing to them. They have such strong peripheral vision, they catch the smaller, more subtle nuances, better than hearing people who can rely on the audible cues that we give one another."

Sign language experts on the nonverbal cues you're missing in meetings https://www.fastcompany.com/90265668/sign-language-experts-on-the-nonverbal-cues-youre-missing-in-meetings

References and Sources

Where to sit at a meeting

Eric Barker
Plays well with others pg 25 Harper One. 2022

Deaf sign language users pick up faster on body language

Sign language experts on the nonverbal cues you're missing in meetings

Nonverbal Cues to Help You in Meetings


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