Body Language Tricks for Increased Business Performance

Body Language Tricks for Increased Business Performance

Once mastered, body language and body awareness can be powerful tools for doing great business.  Whether you want to close a sale, get the upper hand in a negotiation, effectively maneuver through a salary increase discussion, or be seen by colleagues and bosses as more confident and powerful, these tips can help you! Keep in mind,  gestures come in clusters.  They mean more together than when they are isolated.

To illustrate how much we rely on body language to communicate, I would like to share a story of something I witnessed a few days ago.

It was a beautiful day outside and I decided to take a walk. I couldn’t remember the last time that it the temperatures hit 65 degree in Philadelphia in December. As I walked by the first chamber of commerce on Walnut street, I watched a man in a suit posing for business photographs.  He was very well dressed in a beautifully tailored pin stripe suit and fine leather oxfords.  In shape and impeccably groomed, he stood taking directions from a handler and a photographer.  “ OK. Yeah! That will be a great LinkedIn shot!”

“I thought that this could be for the firm’s website.”

Open Body language, open palms, confident
Zig Ziglar using Open Body Language

1. No torso minimization.

2.  Arms uncrossed.

3. Open palm gestures.

As the two creative professionals discussed how to present the best image of their client, they forgot one of the most vital points of all.  His body language. Even though he had clearly spent a fair amount of time and money to create the perception of a strong and powerful business persona, these photographs would be sending a very mixed message.

closed off, quartering
Crossed arms and minimized torso.

He stood with his body turned to the side and away from the camera.  This is called minimizing, and is something human beings do when we are uncomfortable, feel defensive, threatened, or indicating that we are breaking rapport to take leave of the situation.  He kept his feet close together.  Even those pricy dress shoes wont be able to add value to a stance that small.  He held his hands crossed across his torso with one hand gripping the wrist of the other.  His hands formed the gesture called the “fig leaf,” which covered one of the body’s “power zones,” the groin.  All three of the players in this scene seemed oblivious to how weak these gestures would be perceived.   As I stood off to the side, another onlooker approached me and said, “That guy looks so nervous, He must be fresh out of school.”

Body Language
Facial touch gesture of nose scratching while nervous in Asphalt Jungle.
Jovial, confident,
Even the Koch Brothers,

whose reputation was tarnished by scandal

are able to appear confident, jovial, trustworthy,

and friendly by using open body language.


Moral of the story? Weak body language can destroy your image. Fancy clothing and expensive photo shoots won’t be enough to save you if you do not master your own body broadcast.

Woody Allen looking perpetually nervous or closed off.

Weak Business Gestures

These gestures are often perceived as nervousness, defensiveness, insecurity, or a lack of power.

  • Feet close together (1-6 inches apart)
  • “Fig Leaf” gestures. Covering groin or other power zones with hands or arms.
  • Body minimized with less of the torso visible.
  • Fidgeting with cuff links, sleeve collar, or watch.
  • Crossed ankles while standing or sitting at a table.
  • Shoulder shrug or hunched over (bad posture or minimizing).
  • Self Touch or Facial touch gestures (scratching the nose or rubbing the back of the neck while nervous).
  • Hand Shake with your hand on the bottom.

Strong Gestures

These gestures are most commonly perceived as confidence, strength, having power, being sure of ones choices and ability, open.

  • Stance of about 12-15 inches apart
  • Hands relaxed.  Arms hanging down at their sides.
  • Hands clasped behind the back.
  • Steepling (can come off as arrogant.)
  • Torso exposed, pointing your torso directly towards the audience, camera, or person you are negotiating with.
  • Open hand gestures like “beggars palm” or “heart gestures.”
  • Feet planted firmly on the ground.


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