10 Unexpected Body-Language Adjustments That Will Boost Your Career

How you carry yourself makes all the difference in day-to-day interactions. Here’s how to straighten up and show your best side.

10 Unexpected Body-Language Adjustments That Will Boost Your Career
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We often talk about the absolute importance of body language at work. How you hold your body is up there with nailing the interview and speaking up during meetings.


One of our favorite experts on the subject, Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, author of 12 books including The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead, is helping us start off 2015 right with a bunch of great new tips that you probably haven’t heard before. Wow everyone in your office with these.

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1. Sit up straight

Goman says good posture not only influences the way that other people perceive you, it changes the way you feel about yourself. An Ohio State University study found that people who sat up straight were more likely to believe the positive comments they wrote about their qualifications for a job. See? Your mom was right telling you to stand up straight all those years.

2. To appear more trusting, hold a cup of coffee

Yeah, this one sounds weird, but a great excuse to get another cup of coffee. A study done at Yale discovered that participants who held a warm cup of coffee as opposed to a cold beverage were more likely to judge a confederate as trustworthy after only a brief interaction. Basically this means that when you hold hotter objects you tend to act more generous and a little softer, so not how you want to be when you’re trying to hold strong during a negotiation talk (though hopefully your manager is drinking a hot coffee). So if you need a beverage during negotiation, go for a cold water or iced coffee.

3. To increase your productivity, synchronize your head nods

Time to get your mirroring on. Scientists at Stanford University found that people working together on a project who moved their heads and bodies the same way came up with more creative solutions. When team members’ body language was in sync, they worked more collaboratively and generated more productive and innovative ideas.


4. To perform well under pressure, squeeze a ball with your left hand

This is a really interesting one. Goman says when seasoned athletes under-perform it may because they’re focusing too much on their movements (which, for right handed people, is a right hemisphere brain function) rather than relying on the automatic motor skills developed through years of practice (which are associated with left hemisphere function). So what do you do? Research found that athletes who squeezed a ball in their left hand performed better, and were less likely to underperform.

5. Relax your face

We aren’t saying actively hold your face a certain way (like Kim Kardashian with her refusal to smile), but do try to relax it, especially when reading emails. A study at the University of California found that people process messages as having an angrier tone when they’re asked to read those sentences with their eyebrows furrowed. Embrace your Ernie side, instead of Burt.

6. Shake after every deal

A simple handshake communicates warmth and cooperation, Goman says. Harvard Business School found that people who shook on it before negotiating ended up with a more equitable deal than those who went straight to business. Plus, hand-shakers were less likely to deceive each other as the deal was established.

7. To increase your paycheck, lower your voice

Channel your inner Emma Stone and go low. Scientists at Duke University discovered the optimal pleasing sound frequency to be around 125 Hz., and the lower the voice, the more authority it conveys. The researchers looked at 792 U.S. chief executives at public companies. After controlling for experience, education, and other influential factors, they found that a drop of 22 Hz in voice frequency correlated with an increase of $187,000 in compensation. Whoa!

8. Walk in strong

If you ever did theater in high school, then this one shouldn’t be tough. You don’t walk on stage out of character and then suddenly jump into it when you have a line. You have to come in playing the part and you need to do this at work, even when you’re scared. A study at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging discovered that it takes the brain just 200 milliseconds to gather most of the information it needs from a facial expression to determine a person’s emotional state. Goman says you can’t wait until you’re in the meeting room to “warm up.” You need to do that beforehand (maybe in the bathroom stall or at your desk).


9. Don’t be afraid to give a pat on the back

A little touch here and there can do wonders. Research by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration shows that being touched increases the tips that customers leave their servers. The results were significant. Customers who weren’t touched left an average tip of 12%. Tips increased to 14% from those who were touched on the shoulders, and to 17% from those touched twice on the hand.

This also works in many commercial settings. Casually touching customers has been shown to increase the time they spend in a store, the amounts they purchase, and the favorable evaluation of their shopping experience in that store.

10. Tighten up

Research at the National University of Singapore and the University of Chicago found that participants who tightened their muscles–hands, fingers, calves, or biceps–were able to increase their self-control. Muscle tightening also gives you more willpower.

Meredith Lepore is the former editor of the women’s career site, The Grindstone.

This article originally appeared in Levo and is reprinted with permission.