Talking body language: Are great communicators born or trained?

Talking body language: Are great communicators born or trained?

Body language and power poses can have a significant impact on women’s leadership. UK BodyTalk director, Richard Newman, tells us why women should work on their non-verbal communication skills.

A study of more than 2,000 people by UK Body Talk, the professional training and coaching company, revealed that women in business are 44 per cent more likely to be seen as a good leader in the workplace by making a few changes to their non-verbal communication, including adopting a wider stance and using stronger gestures.

With the right techniques, a person can be 42 per cent more convincing and improve their public speaking, success in a sales pitch or speech. The study also found that with the simple changes implemented, the subjects were perceived as 25 per cent more inspiring, 25 per cent more knowledgeable and 29 per cent more confident. Significantly, women’s attire, had no impact on their persuasiveness. 


Are women generally viewed as less confident than men? 

“Whilst there has been research which examines this, for example, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, we should remember that we are all born to stand with our feet shoulder width apart,” Newman says. “The findings show that if women can overcome their cultural conditioning and communicate using a stronger style, it could significantly increase their impact and influence and overall success in the workplace.

“It is important to remember that great ideas don’t speak for themselves, they need to be delivered powerfully to ensure that people listen. Similarly to learning a sport, it is possible for everyone to learn the physical positions that lead to greater success. Gender should never be a barrier to ideas being heard. Instead of having a world led by people who are accidentally good speakers, we could have a world led by people who have the best ideas and know how to express them, regardless of their sex.”


How can women in business improve their communication style to make sure their ideas are heard?

Perfect your ‘power pose’ with these tips

– Stand with feet shoulder width apart and  distribute weight evenly 

– Avoiding swaying or putting your feet together

– Use a variety of gestures, including moving your arms away from your body in strong purposeful movements

Women should feel confident in adopting positions and postures that they were born with; it is not about ‘behaving like men’.

“Women in business will need to rebel against the muscle memory built up from years of working surrounded by symbols in magazines, movies and restroom doors that subconsciously tell them to hold back and take up less space.

“Instead, follow the likes of Beyoncé, Julia Roberts, Emma Watson and Michelle Obama, who speak and stand with great strength and dignity.”

More importantly, all women their individual style. The ‘power pose’ may not initially feel natural, but practice will ensure that women can feel confident in this stance. 

Signal and posture clusters that are most important for a leader to demonstrate

The most common clusters to avoid as a business head:

  • Swaying, standing or sitting in a position where gravity is pulling you off centre, thereby reducing your gravitas
  • Limp gestures, or stillness, both of which reduce your ability to visually engage people
  • Sitting or standing in positions that feel ‘comfortable’, such as folding your arms, crossing your legs, hugging your body, standing with your ankles crossed

The most effective clusters to increase your leadership ratings are:

  • Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, so that gravity works more effectively on your body. Ask someone to push you over when standing in this position, compared Compared to having your feet together, you’ll notice that you are physically much stronger)
  • Gesturing with a variety of purposeful movements including moving your palms up and down
  • Keeping gestures above waist height and below your shoulders, unless you are gesturing with extreme passion, which can happen above the shoulders


How can women in senior roles have a greater impact?

Newman says: “Women in senior roles can have a great impact by changing what is considered ‘normal behaviour’ for women at work. Women in junior positions will look to them as role models and this will include their communication style and technique. It is therefore important to embody the skills used by great male and female communicators, who use the ‘power pose’, stronger postures and positions, to make sure their ideas are heard.” 


If you enjoyed this, you should also read:

– Women possess all the ingredients required to be charismatic leaders

– Five successful businesswomen who broke the mould and refused to play by the rules




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