Beauty & Fashion

Body Language at Work And Beyond

Body Language at Work And Beyond

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young professional man in office relaxes in chair with his hands clasped behind his head; he has a large white monitor sitting on a white table in front of him

Here’s a bit of an odd question today: how sensitive are you to body language, at work and beyond? For example, do you feel like you can pinpoint a mansplainer from across the room by how he sits, or if he strikes certain poses? Do you feel like adopting certain body language helps smooth communication in unspoken ways? Do you avoid certain body language (hands on hip, arms crossed) because you feel like it has negative connotations?

We’ve talked about how to get a poker face at work, as well as discussed the (now-debunked, I believe) myth of the power pose as a way to overcome imposter syndrome… but I don’t think we’ve talked about this.

Here’s the basis for my question: many, many moons ago I was in an interview with a fellow who rested both hands on his head, leaned back, and proceeded to be a complete jerk to me. Hilariously (to me, at the time at least), he had an assistant sitting in on the interview, and when The Jerk adopted this pose, so did the assistant (who was also male).

(In my memory his hands were clasped on top of his head, not behind his head, but the stock photo is close enough…)

Was the assistant conscious of this mirrored pose? Was he doing it intentionally to try to say, “I’m one of you,” or perhaps “I’m more like you than she is.” Was the initial pose a play for dominance or something, in that he was taking up space? Had he decided at some point in his youth that this was a “thoughtful” pose, and he pulled it out for moments when he had Opinions to Share?

On my end, I kind of wondered what would happen if I also adopted the pose while sitting in the interview. Would we all start laughing about it? Would they think I was mocking them? Or would they not even realize I had done it and yet slowly begin to think “hey, I liked her more than I thought.”

In the many years since this interview (which I did not nail), I have often thought about this pose and that interview.

I’ll admit I have adopted it in some rare situations, primarily in situations like the one in which I first experienced The Pose — I’m forced to be sitting with someone in an interview or work situation, and I don’t like the person or what they’re saying, so I just casually put my hands on my head and lean back.

In my mind I am saying all of the things that I felt that interviewer was saying to me long ago — isn’t it cute that you have opinions? can we end this thing yet? wow you’re still talking — but maybe that long ago interview has forever soured me on The Pose, and perfectly normal, thoughtful people adopt The Pose all the time.

So — weird question, yes — but what body language communicates something to you? People who stand way too close to talk to you, people who spread their legs when they sit to take up more space, people who put their hands on their heads and lean back? Do you sometimes find yourself adopting certain people’s body language in intentional ways?

On the flip side, do you avoid some body language because in your mind it’s communicating something bad? For example, putting your hands on your hips, crossing your arms — I feel like even arranging your face a certain way to avoid RBF kind of fits this description.

Stock photo via Deposit Photos / Wavebreakmedia.

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