Walking the talk: the body language secrets you need to know

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There are a number of sensitive situations that crop up in HR – doing performance reviews, discussing pay rises, announcing redundancies and listening to complaints.

While you might know what to say, saying the right thing is only half the battle. Your body may be subconsciously undermining your words.

Body expert Alan Pease, the co-author of The Definitive Book of Body Language, reveals the signals you may be sending without even realising it and how to change them.

Keep your body uncrossed
“Most people, when they’re giving bad news, have a tendency to cross their arms on their chest or hold hands with themselves in front of their body or clench their fingers together,” Pease told HC Online.
“These are all self-protection signals. Somebody who sees you do that, particularly females, will think that you’re not feeling very confident about what you’re saying.”

Avoid signals that imply superiority
“The worst thing a man can do is sit back in his chair with his hands behind his head. It’s called the catapult – it looks like you’re about to fire your head at someone. That’s a superiority position used almost entirely by men. It’s the most intimidating management pose that a male can take in the presence of a female subordinate.”
To make people feel relaxed, lean forward, said Pease.

“We lean forward towards people we like, admire and sympathise with.”

Mirror their eye contact
If the person you’re talking to is having difficulty maintaining eye contact, and if you maintain eye contact, it gives the impression that you’re trying to stare them out or being critical or judgemental, Pease said.

Keep your palms visible
Don’t have your hands in your pockets or under the desk, have them visible and talk with them facing upwards.
“Monkeys and chimps do this too. It’s the most non-threatening position a human or primate can take because it shows you’re not concealing things in your hands or under your arms,” said Pease.

On Page Two: Palms up, gendered expressions and a good handshake

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