What Message Do You Communicate with Your Body?

Often women complain that they aren’t taken seriously in the business world.  Here is a common complaint:

“I offered up a great suggestion in that meeting but no one paid attention and then Tom said the exact same thing and it was like he invented air!”

It might be the way you use body language that keeps you from being taken seriously in the business world. I just read a really great article by Carol Kinsey Goman entitled the 10 Common Body Language Traps for Women in the Workplace.  The research for the article comes from her latest book entitled The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead, published in April 2011 by Jossey-Bass.

I’m not going to repeat the article here because she does such a great job of detailing each of the body language examples and then offering tips to overcome bad habits, but here are two traps that are especially important for the woman who doesn’t feel listened to in at work:

TRAP #4: Speaking “up.” Women’s voices often rise at the ends of sentences as if they’re asking a question or asking for approval. TIP: When making a declarative statement, be sure to 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.

TRAP #7: Waiting your turn. In business negotiations, men take control by talking more than women and interrupting more frequently. TIP: One perspective on the value of speaking up comes from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who—when asked what advice she had for up-and-coming professional women—replied, “Learn to interrupt.”

Interrupting may feel rude and in poor taste, but be more observant in your next committee meeting and watch the differences between men and women and how they are perceived. 

Another important trap that women fall into is apologizing before they offer an idea.  Does this sound familiar?  “I have an idea, it may be silly or not feasible but…” When we start our comments, questions, suggestions or ideas with a disclaimer up front, people already stop listening to what we say.  Speak with confidence.  Speak with authority and use your big girl voice. Valley Girls need not apply!


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