Optimizing Your Body Language for Improved Productivity & Performance

Take a moment to think about what your body is doing right now. Are you smiling? Are your legs stretched out or crossed? Where are you resting your elbows? Is your back hunched? Are you staring at a screen with a dazed look on your face???

Whether you are aware or not, everything your body does communicates something to your brain and to the people around you.  Though some bodily gestures may send more obvious messages than others, even the most subtle positioning can affect your mood and the impression you make on colleagues, clients, and friends. So if you’re already sending messages with your body all of the time anyway, why not leverage your body language to your advantage?

Though many people understand how to influence others with body language (yawning during a meeting tells others you’re bored; a wimpy handshake implies weakness; and lack of eye contact makes you seem untrustworthy…), fewer people are aware of how to use body language to influence themselves, their productivity level, or their careers.

According to a theory called “embodied cognition,” your physical movements can shape and influence your thoughts and moods.  By taking a moment to adjust your posture or expression, you can affect the way you feel, and thus the way you work.

The following are a few ways you can optimize your body language to get the most out of your work day.

Strike a [POWER] Pose for a More Productive Day:  In an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine, Dana Carney, cognitive psychologist and assistant professor at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, said, “Power Poses” are a way to tell your body to get moving. “Productivity is really about telling your brain: ‘I’m in charge, I feel good, go,’” Carney says. She continues by explaining that “power poses” actually cause bursts of testosterone, which is responsible for feelings of dominance. According to Forbes, holding a power pose for as little as two minutes can help confidence, reduce stress, and encourage a higher tolerance for risk.

Try one of the following the next time you want a little boost in confidence:

Put Your Hands on Your Head with Your Elbows Out This pose straightens and opens your chest, which improves your posture and helps when problem-solving or brainstorming.

Extend or Prop Your Legs Up This pose is ideal for motivating you to do desk-work, such as writing, answering email, or making phone calls.

Matt Power Pose

Rest One Arm on a Chair Next To You –This increases the amount of space your body takes up, making you feel more powerful. Try this pose during an important phone call or before approaching a tough negotiation.

power pose

Stand Up With Arms and Legs Outstretched – This is an alternative to other power poses. With your newfound confidence, you will love the attention this pose gets you in the office.

power pose

Talk With Your Hands (Literally): While speaking, use your hands to gesture and accent what you say. According to Forbes, making hand gestures activates the part of your brain called Broca’s area, which plays a role in speech production. When public speaking, debating, or negotiating, use your hands as well as your voice to illustrate a point – your thoughts and sentences will likely sound more articulate.

power pose

Open Your Body for Better Retention: According to a study by body language researchers Allan and Barbara Pease, when a test audience at a lecture had its arms and legs crossed, the audience members retained 38% less than the test audience with its arms and legs uncrossed.

power pose

power pose

Smiles are Contagious: Well, they are – and they also make you happier!  Forcing a smile when you’re feeling discouraged or upset can actually improve your mood, according to an article in US News & World Report.  Bonus move: as more people “catch” your smile, you directly affect the moods of those around you. That’s quite a bit to accomplish with just one simple facial expression, don’t you think?

power pose

All in all awareness is key when controlling how your body language affects your performance and your presence in a room.   At various points throughout the day, especially when you find your focus drifting, your stress levels high, or your confidence low, check in with your body and make a conscious decision to try one of these body language strategies.  Your future-happier-more productive self will thank you!  Now go strike a (power) pose.

Special thanks to Matt Thomas (BeCause Water) and Christian Roselund (Solar Server) for their modeling services.
About the Author: Alexa Lightner is one of the Space & Community Managers at Workbar. Contact her via email alexa@workbar.com or Twitter @alexalightner.

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