How to Read Zoom Body Language

How to Read Zoom Body Language


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

In my speeches and seminars on Leadership Presence, I include a section about body language: how to use it to create a positive impression and how to become more aware of the nonverbal messages that others are sending. After this section, I’m often asked the same question: “If all I can see is someone’s head, how can I read body language on Zoom?”

While it’s true that we lose many nonverbal cues when moving from in-person to virtual interactions, we don’t lose everything. Here are fifteen body language signals that reveal people’s emotions and interests — and they all can be seen on Zoom:

1. Head tilts signal of engagement — while a slow deliberate head withdrawal is a sign of disengagement.

In primitive tribes, tilting the head was a way of hearing more clearly in order to be alerted to sounds of danger. Today, head tilting is a signal that someone is interested and involved. But when people are listening to a message that makes them uncomfortable, their heads may or pull back from whomever they are talking to in an attempt to create distance.

2. Head ducks express discomfort.

If you heard someone yell, Look out!” the posture you’d instinctively assume in reaction would be to raise your shoulders and pull your head down between them. In a business context, the head duck is a signal that often reveals extreme discomfort or an extreme difference in the status and relationship between individuals. It’s a posture I’ve seen employees display as they interact with their boss.

3. Heads held high or low send a message about confidence.

Many years ago, an experiment was conducted with a group of students who smoked cigarettes. After the results of an exam were given out, the students were observed to see if they had passed or failed the test. Those students who had done well exhaled their cigarette smoke upward, while those who had performed poorly exhaled downward. It’s all about head position. Feelings of high confidence unconsciously pull the head up. Feelings of low confidence lower it.

4. Head nods send different messages depending on their speed.

Just as shaking the head from side to side is an almost universal gesture meaning “no” or “I don’t agree,” head nods – the up and down movement of the head – are recognized in most cultures as indicators of approval, understanding, or agreement. The head nod is tremendously important in communication. When someone nods slowly, it usually indicates an ongoing interest in whoever is speaking. Fast nodding signals impatience with the speaker or the listener’s desire to get a turn to speak.

5. Facial touching is a primary pacifier.

Under stress, people self-soothe in a variety of ways. Women twirl their hair, and men stroke their beards for psychological comfort. To get the fastest relief from even mildly stressful situations, we touch our faces (chin, lips, cheek, nose, forehead) where a calming effect is most easily accessed.

6. Wide eyes signal approval and pleased surprise.

When someone’s eyes open wide in pleasure, their eyebrows rise and their mouth opens slightly. You’ll see a miniature version of this expression occurring when someone is discussing something or someone they like very much.

7. If people are emotionally aroused by what they see, their pupils dilate.

Many physical stimuli can cause human pupils to dilate, but the most fascinating reason for dilation isn’t physical, but emotional. Clinical studies by Eckhard Hess, the former head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, have shown that the pupil unconsciously widens when the eye sees something pleasant, exciting or arousing. Successful salespeople subconsciously monitor pupil dilation (indicating the customer is interested and ready to buy) and pupil contraction (signaling resistance, anger or negativity). Because pupil changes are not within a person’s control, they provide a very reliable indication of interest, attraction, and emotional attitude.

8. Blinking rates increase under pressure.

During conversation, a normal blink rate is six to eight blinks per minute—and the eyelids are closed for about one tenth of a second. This rate speeds up when someone is stressed. When I was a therapist in private practice, I became aware of the significance of a rapid blink rate when a patient was trying to conceal something. (Of course, I also knew that rapid blinking could be an indicator of annoying lighting in the room or of a heightened level of anxiety for a variety of reasons.)

9. Closed eyes is a form of eye blocking.

Our eyes have evolved as the primary way we get information about the world around us. But eyes that let input in can also block it. In fact, eye blocking is a survival mechanism that evolved to protect the brain from seeing undesirable or threatening images. Eye blocks include closing eyes, rubbing eyes, and covering eyes with hands or objects. Eye blocking is an unconscious gesture people use to exclude you during a conversation by blocking you from sight.

10. Tearing eyes signal high emotion.

At the most elementary level, tearing is a physical response to allergies, foreign particles in the eye, fumes (like ammonia or onions), and injury or pain. But tears are so much more. They often say what can’t be expressed adequately by words. Tears are an eloquent statement that something intensely emotional is taking place.

11. Raising the eyebrows may be a sign of submission or a request for approval.

When someone is unsure of whether he is believed or how an action is accepted, you will commonly see the eyebrows raise and pause – even if just momentarily. This is an unspoken inquiry: “Did I get it right?” “What do you think of what I just said?” The gesture of raising the eyebrows slowly, over a few seconds, along with a tilted head usually comes at the end of a sentence as a nonverbal inquiry to see if the listener has understood.

12. Smiles can be real or fake.

A fake smile is the most common facial expression used to mask other emotions. A person who doesn’t want her true feelings revealed (especially if she wants to disguise displeasure or anger) may “put on a happy face.”

A fake smile is easy to produce. It takes only one set of muscles to stretch the lip corners sideways and create a grin. But a false smile is also easy to detect. A genuine smile of delight affects not only the corners of the mouth; it changes the entire face. The eyes light up, the forehead wrinkles, the cheek muscles rise, skin around the eyes and mouth crinkles, and finally the mouth turns up. People use the fake smile in business settings when they don’t feel an emotional closeness to those around them; the real smile is reserved for those they truly care about.

13. Tight lips are almost always associated with negative emotions.

Pressing lips tightly together occurs when someone is angry, frustrated, dismayed, or trying to hold back information. That is one of the reasons why full lips are so appealing – they are subconsciously interpreted as a signal that people are responding to us in a positive way.

14. Chin jutting is a sign of anger.

Someone who is angry or defensive tends to jut the chin forward. You can see chin jutting in small children who don’t want to do something. Right before they holler, “No!,” they’ll stick their chins out. Your business colleagues may display a similar behavior when they are getting angry, feel they have been wronged, or are about to tell someone off.

15. Swallowing shows anxiety or stress.

Swallowing is especially conspicuous in males, with the up-and-down motion of the Adam’s apple (called the Adam’s apple jump). This jump is a sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress. For example, I’ve noticed in business meetings that a listener’s Adam’s apple may inadvertently jump if he dislikes or strongly disagrees with a speaker’s suggestion, perspective, or point of view.

Because these nonverbal signals give valuable insight into our emotional state, communication suffers without them. If you don’t use head movements and facial expressions, people may not even want to talk to you. One of my clients wondered why his business conversation so rarely gave him the results he was looking for. But after watching him for a few minutes, it was obvious. He would talk and listen with very little physical animation. This was so disturbing to his co-workers that they avoided conversations with him – and shortened the ones they were forced to have!

About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

Is Your Good Body Language a Bad Choice?

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

I want to tell you a story about Adam and Eve.

No, not that Adam and Eve.

The Adam and Eve I’m talking about are both being groomed to take larger leadership roles. And both are aware that body language is an important part of projecting the leadership presence that will help them succeed.

This is their story:

Adam’s assignment was to facilitate a highly collaborative meeting in which all team members would be encouraged to share insights and concerns about an upcoming project.

Before he met with the team, Adam had assumed a “power pose” position – with hands on hips and feet wide apart to get all the advertised benefits of doing so. And it worked. He could almost feel his stress level lowering and his self-confidence rising. By the time he strode into the meeting room, took his place at the head of the table, and made strong eye contact with all the participants, Adam exuded authority, power and status.

Eve was at her first strategy session with executives and saw this as an opportunity to be perceived as the credible and competent leader she truly was.

Naturally empathetic and likable, Eve automatically smiled a lot, nodded to encourage others to continue speaking and tilted her head in the universal sign of “giving someone your ear.” She waited politely before interjecting her own thoughts, and when she did, she spoke in a soft warm voice.

Both Adam and Eve exhibited good leadership body language. But both made bad choices for projecting leadership presence.

In the workplace, we continuously and unconsciously assess leaders for two distinct sets of nonverbal signals. The first is warmth/likability/empathy and the second is authority/power/status. The art of blending warmth and authority cues is the essence of effective body language for leaders . . . most of the time. There are business situations, however, when emphasizing one set of signals over the other gives you the advantage.

Power, status, and confidence are non-verbally displayed in height and space. The ability to project authority is a body language strength. But, like any strength, when overused or inappropriately used, that asset can become a liability. And it’s easy for power signals to slip into signs of arrogance. If your status signals are too strong, you can come across as arrogant, uncaring, or insensitive.

When it comes to facilitating collaborative teams and building high trust work environments, high-power behaviors can undermine your efforts. After all, if you act like “the boss who has all the answers,” why would anyone else need — or dare — to contribute?

Adam would have been more effective if he had looked more inclusive and less “in charge.” For example, he might have taken a seat in the middle of the table instead of the “power position” at the end. He could have remembered to smile more, to nod and to turn his entire body toward whomever spoke, silently indicating that he was giving others his full attention because their contributions mattered.

Eve faced an entirely different leadership situation, and the very cues that might have been so helpful to Adam were detrimental for her.

Warm body language including head tilts, nods and forward leans, definitely send signals of friendliness, interest and inclusion, but excessive or inappropriate warm signals can also be a credibility robber. Even a smile (which is the most positive display of warmth) is counter-productive if you smile too much when delivering a serious message or stating an objection. There are also cases where warm cues (like the head tilt) can make you look submissive — which, for Eve, was not the best image to project when her goal was to impress executives with her confidence and expertise.

Eve’s head tilts worked well when she wanted to demonstrate interest in other members of the team, but when she stated her own opinions she would have been wiser to keep her head straight in a more authoritative position. Her soft-spoken vocal responses also worked against her, lessening the impact of her comments by making them seem tentative. She needed to speak up in a stronger voice if she wanted her remarks to reflect her genuine competence.

My best advice for Adam and Eve — and for any leader — is to understand that body language is most effective when it is aligned with your intent. If you are in a situation where you want to be evaluated as authoritative, make sure that you are displaying nonverbal signals of confidence and power to reinforce that message. On the other hand, if your goal is to build collaboration, use your warmer signals to encourage others to contribute. By adjusting your body language, you can optimize your leadership effectiveness — and build your leadership presence.

About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

Body Language & Leadership Presence

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Lately, unsurprisingly, I have had increased interest in how to use body language when on a Zoom meeting. Here’s a link to an article from TechRepublic quoting me on the topic. And if you want a broader body language perspective, take a look at my LinkedInLearning course: Body Language for Leaders.

Virtually or in person, people evaluate your leadership presence not only by what you say, but how you sound when you say it (people’s brains register your vocal prosody before they evaluate the words you speak) and how your nonverbal signals support or weaken your verbal message.

Many leaders are non-verbally illiterate – completely out of touch with the effect their body language has on others and unaware of the clear nonverbal signals being sent by clients and colleagues in every business encounter. The human brain is hard-wired to read and respond to these signals, although some leaders don’t know that the process is taking place and are unequipped, therefore, to use it to their advantage.

That’s changing.  Today, body language coaching is my most requested service.

Body language savvy is becoming a key part of a leader’s personal brand. Powerful people sit, stand, walk and gesture in ways that exude confidence, competence and status. The most effective leaders also send nonverbal signals of warmth and empathy – especially when nurturing collaborative environments, acknowledging people’s emotions in a Covid reality, and managing change.

I’ve been awed by the impact that body language has on leadership presence. I’ve seen first-hand how nonverbal signals can literally make or break a leader’s ability to be perceived as the talented, confident, compassionate leader he or she authentically is.

Please send me your questions, comments, success stories and lessons learned. I’d love to hear from you and to help you position yourself for the next job, project, or promotion.

An offer from my publisher: My new book, STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence, will be released in September. For a 20% discount, along with free shipping to the UK and US, go to and enter the code: KOGANPAGE20. (Note: The code will not work on Amazon.)

Body Language and Leadership Effectiveness – How to Achieve ‘Executive Presence’

Dr. Nick Morgan, Author

Most of us think of charisma, or executive presence, as something mysterious and elusive that certain executives are born with or are trained to achieve in some executive school we haven’t been invited to.  We all know we need that mysterious quality when we’re in front of an audience, or in an important meeting, or taking part in a crucial negotiation.  But what is executive presence, or charisma, exactly?  Is it sprinkled like fairy dust on a few lucky individuals, or is it something anyone can learn?

Charisma or executive presence is something we all can learn.  In fact, it is relatively simple to understand.  But it takes real work to demonstrate it when it’s needed.  It consists of three related activities involving body language and your unconscious mind.

First, you need to understand that we are always communicating two conversations simultaneously – the content, what we’re saying, and the body language underlying it – which reveals our actual attitude toward what we’re saying.  So, to take a very simple example, if I say I’m excited to meet you, but my body language indicates that I’m unhappy, or distracted, or angry about something – I’ve got my arms folded, or I have a scowl on my face, or I’m looking over my shoulder at something else – then you won’t believe what I’m saying.  The body language always trumps the content.  It’s how we determine what we really are feeling toward each other.

So the first step to executive presence is to align your body language and your content.

The second step is to become clear about your intent, because if you are not clear, then you will fail to keep your body language and content aligned.  Becoming an intentional communicator means deciding how you are going to show up for that speech, or that important meeting, or that negotiation.  Are you going in with high energy and excitement?  Or are you letting your nerves distract you and cause your body language to display a lack of confidence?  You must decide how you wish to be present in the moment, and then work to achieve that feeling.

The third step to achieving charisma, or strong executive presence, is to focus.  Most of us go through the day with a complicated, ever-growing to-do list in our heads.  We’re thinking about where we’ve been, where we need to be, what’s for dinner, that vacation coming up, the balance on our credit cards – anything but the present moment.  When you carry that to-do list around, your body language looks distracted, unfocused, and ultimately weak, because your body signals what your mind is feeling – that you’re pulled in several directions at once.

In order to prepare for that important meeting or speech, then, part of the work – in fact, the most important part – is to spend a few minutes focusing your mind on how you’re feeling, what the meeting or speech is about, what you want to achieve in it, and eliminating any other distracting thought that might cause you to be less than fully present.  This focus is not simple to achieve, at first, but it does become easier as time goes on if you practice it.

So that’s executive presence, in three steps.  First, align your message and your body language.  Next, decide on your intention for the important meeting or speech coming up.  And third, focus just before the event so that nothing distracts you.  If you can achieve emotional focus and walk into the event with that focus clear and strong, then you will have executive presence.

It’s almost impossible for most people to take control over every aspect of their posture, their gestures, and their motions during an important event, while also thinking about what they’re going to say, listening to anyone else who’s talking, and to make sure they pay attention to anything else that’s going on in the room.  But you can take these three steps, and if you do them rigorously enough, your body language will take care of itself.

About the Author: Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication coaches and thinkers. His clients include leaders of Fortune 50 companies, and he has coached people to give Congressional testimony, to appear on the Today Show, and to take on the investment community. He is the author of several acclaimed books on public speaking and communication. His most recent book is The Washington Post bestseller Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World.


10 Body Language Hacks to Project Leadership Presence on Video

Ronn Torossian On How to Lead Team Through ChangeCarol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

You may be a senior-level executive, an innovative entrepreneur, or a respected expert in your field — but when you are on camera, do you know how to project leadership presence?

Sylvia Gorajek is a Video Strategist and Executive Producer helping Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley tech startups narrate their stories with impact. I was honored to add my expertise in body language and leadership presence to her expertise in interviewing and producing video commercials. Here are our ten hacks to project leadership presence on video:

  1. Sylvia Gorajek: Keep laser-focused eye contact. Whether you’re looking into the camera or at an interviewer, by no means let your eyes wander. While in general it’s OK to occasionally look around, it’s a definite no-no for leaders. You have to be sharp in delivering your message. The more you keep your eyes focused, the more you’ll appear principal, knowledgeable and confident. This will also keep viewers’ attention.
  2. Carol Kinsey Goman: Dress for success. It takes less than seven seconds for people to make judgments about your confidence, competence, professional status, and warmth. While a face-to-face meeting gives you added opportunities to project presence — by the way you enter the meeting room, shake hands, etc. — on video, that first impression is made the moment people view you on the screen. So be sure your grooming and wardrobe send the right message.
  3. Gorajek: Take 5 deep breaths. The silent breathing technique is a secret weapon of all on-camera hosts and presenters. Taking 5 deep breaths right before you hear ‘Action!’ not only helps your body relax and your mind focus, but also straightens your posture and projects an impression of confidence and integrity.
  4. Goman: Deepen your voice. The quality of your voice can be a deciding factor in how you are perceived. Speakers with higher-pitched voices are judged to be less empathic, less powerful and more nervous than speakers with lower pitched voices. While relaxing your body (especially releasing tension from your shoulders, chest, and jaw) will deepen your voice, here is another quick and easy tip: Before you go on camera, put your lips together and say “Um hum, um hum, um hum.” Doing so drops your voice into its optimal lower pitch.
  5. Gorajek: Straighten your posture. People make judgments based on someone’s posture more than on their actual role or title. While sitting comfortably or even a little slouched doesn’t do harm in real-life situations, you have to maintain good posture in front of a camera. Pay attention to how celebrities sit on a TV show, and you’ll notice that they keep their backs straight throughout the whole show. This is neither comfortable nor does it feel natural, but it does wonders on camera.
  6. Goman: Keep your head straight. Squaring your shoulders and keeping your head straight, with your ears in line with your shoulders, makes your look sure of yourself. When you tilt your head, you look more tentative. The only time head tilts are perceived as positive body language cues is when you are listening to someone else speaking.
  7. Gorajek: Use the right gestures. Using gestures, in general, is definitely advised as it adds energy to the video. But not all gestures work to your advantage. For example, you don’t want to have your hands anywhere near your face, since that projects a sense of uncertainty. Making wider arm movements does not look too esthetical on camera either. Keep your elbows comfortable and in line with your shoulders – you’ll appear self-assured and collected.
  8. Goman: Show your palms. Keeping your movements relaxed, using open arm gestures, and showing the palms of your hands — the ultimate “see, I have nothing to hide” gesture — are silent signals of credibility and candor. Individuals with open gestures are perceived more positively and are more persuasive than those with closed gestures. Hands hidden by crossing arms or held too close to the body make you look resistant or insecure.
  9. Gorajek: Smile, but not too much. If your expression is neutral or too serious, you will come off as sad, uninterested or, worse yet, upset. If your message is positive, you should always add a smile to what you’re saying so that you project good energy and keep the audience attracted to your message. Don’t overdo it, though. The camera will give your smile a boost, and you don’t want to be viewed as naive or inauthentic.
  10. Goman: Pay attention to prosody. Vocal prosody is the nonverbal aspect of speech. It’s concerned withhow you say what you say.  You’ll be more compelling if vary your tone, volume, intensity, inflection, and rate of speech. Above all, avoid a monotone delivery that makes you sound stilted or bored. Remember, too, that there’s nothing that kills credibility faster than letting your voice rise of the end of a sentence. When making a declarative statement, be sure to use the authoritative arc in which your voice starts at one note, rises in pitch through the sentence, and drops back down at the end.

Applying these hacks will help any executive, expert or entrepreneur leverage their credibility in a video presentation. Regardless of title or industry, we should all be mindful of how to project leadership presence on camera.

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker and leadership presence coach. She’s the author of “Body Language for Leaders” (her LinkedIn Learning’s  video course that has had over 2 million views. For more information, visit


5 Body Language Hacks That Make You Look Like A Leader

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

You may have a leadership title – or tremendous leadership potential — but do you look like a leader? Influencing people’s perception of you is called impression management, and body language plays a key role.

Here are five body language hacks that make you look like a leader:

1. Start with your posture

Try this: Raise your shoulders toward your ears. Now roll them back. Now drop them down. Keeping this erect posture with your shoulders back and your head straight makes you look very sure of yourself.
Power and authority are nonverbally expressed by expanding into height and space. When you want to project leadership presence at a meeting, sit tall and claim your territory. Uncross your legs and place your feet firmly on the floor. Bring your elbows away from your body and widen your arm position. Your expanded body language will not only change the way people perceive you – it will influence the way you feel about yourself.
When you stand, be aware that if your feet are close together, you can look hesitant or unsure. But when you widen your stance, relax your knees, and center your weight in your lower body, you look more “solid” and credible.

2. Make sure you’re present

An up-and-coming manager was being groomed for a leadership position, but after attending a staff meeting, her boss took her aside. “Never do that again,” he said. “You didn’t look like you were fully present. You didn’t make eye contact with the speaker, you didn’t join the discussion, and you certainly didn’t look like a leader.”

Her boss made a valid point. You can’t project leadership presence if you aren’t perceived as being present.

At every meeting you attend, make sure you stay engaged by actively participating, making eye contact with, and orienting your body toward, whomever is speaking,

3. Use gestures that signal leadership 

Leadership presence is enhanced by using smooth, controlled gestures between your waist and your shoulders. Warmth and openness are demonstrated by rotating hands with palms up at about a 45-degree angle, a way of indicating that you have nothing to hide.  Moving your hands and arms away from the front of your torso is another way of indicating sincerity and security. The more you cover your body with folded arms or tightly-held hands, the more it appears you need to protect or defend yourself.

Authority is shown by rotating your hands palms-down, a nonverbal way of saying, “Hold that thought.” The steeple gesture (where the tips of your fingers touch, but your palms are separated) is a sign that you’re sure of what you’re saying. As such, it can be very effective when you want to emphasize a certain point.

Gestures to avoid include the “fig leaf.” Most people unconsciously clasp their hands in front of their lower body, creating a protective fig leaf effect. Whenever you use this gesture, especially during a formal presentation, it indicates that you’re insecure or uncomfortable. A better choice would be to clasp your hands at waist level.

Gestures are a key part of how people perceive you. Using a variety of gestures helps you connect with your audience. You’re more compelling and convincing when you talk with your hands – as long as you know what they are saying.

4. Sound like a leader

As a leader you can be sure that people will not only be listening to your words, they’ll be evaluating how you say what you say.

Speaking loudly and quickly makes you sound confident – unless, of course, you are shouting, which makes you seem rude and insensitive. Speaking softly can be effective for signaling a confidential or very important message. But always make sure you are speaking with enough volume to be heard. And remember to enunciate and speak clearly.

Put enough emotion in your voice to avoid a monotone delivery that sounds as if you’re bored or detached. I’ve heard leaders praise people in such a flat tone of voice that none of the recipients felt genuinely appreciated.

By the way, when you’re speaking, don’t be concerned with filling every moment with words. Instead, try pausing. It’s unexpected, it’s attention-getting, and it’s effective . . . very effective.

5. Ace your business handshake

In the workplace, warmth and welcome are transmitted by shaking hands, and this seemingly simple greeting may be what someone remembers most about meeting you. That’s because touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue.

Be aware that people are personality judgments based on the kind of handshake you have. A weak handshake may mark you as “too timid for leadership.” And the “bone crusher” — where s person squeezes too tightly – almost always gives the impression of being overbearing or insensitive. The perfect handshake is firm, with palm-to-palm contact, so that the web of you hand (the skin between your thumb and first finger) touches the web of the other person’s hand. The more skin you can contact, the more you come across as trustworthy and reliable.

Remember to offer your hand with your palm facing sideways. If you extend your hand with the palm up, it makes you look submissive. When you hold out your hand with the palm down, or if you twist your hand downward during the handshake, it sends the message that you feel superior. But when you offer your hand sideways, it sends a message of equality and self-confidence.

Try these five body language hacks. You may be surprised to find that these simple nonverbal cues can give a powerful boost your leadership presence by positively influencing the way others perceive you.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker on Leadership Presence and Body Language for Leaders for corporations, conventions, universities, and government agencies. Carol can be reached through her website:

Does Your Body Language Sabotage or Support Your Message?

Dianna Booher

The perception of “personal presence” dictates decisions and actions every day. People with presence look confident and comfortable, speak clearly and persuasively, think clearly even under pressure. They act with intention.  People with presence reflect on their emotions, attitudes, and situations and then adapt. They accept responsibility for themselves and the results they achieve.  People with presence are real.  They present their genuine character authentically.  What they say and do matches who they are.

And most of these emotions, attitudes, stresses – and even values and competencies –show up in their body language.

So What Does Body Language Contribute to the Essence of Presence?

Body language overshadows all other attributes of presence because it’s the first thing observed—the “gatekeeper” component, so to speak. That is, although values and competence may be the most important over the long-term, if your body language turns people off, they may never take the time to know or trust you.

Consider How Your Body Language Might Undermine Your Words

Forget trying to fake your face.  You can’t do it, according to Dr. Paul Ekman, who has been studying facial expressions for more than forty years among cultures all over the world.  Facial expressions are created with more than 52 facial muscles. These muscles morph into more than 5,000 expressions that signal others what’s going on inside your mind.

Consider the following examples of negative body language that may diminish you. At best, the various gestures may reveal secrets you don’t want to communicate.

Does Your Body Language Say, “I’m Nervous; I Need Reassurance”? 

Some gestures show stress: finger-tapping, foot-tapping or shuffling, hair-tossing, sleeve-adjusting, watch-band adjusting, lint-picking, ring-twisting,  coffee-cup shuffling, leg twining, hugging yourself, hands rubbing neck, clasping your own hands in front of you or behind you (in imitation of having a parent hold your hand),  pacing, and waving your hands randomly.

Others clutch props such as a handbag, portfolio, laptop, or file folder in front of themselves for “protection” as they stand or walk nervously in front of a group.

Does Your Body Language Say, “I’m Arrogant”? 

The universally recognized gesture of arrogance or smugness is the raised chin.  We frequently hear the cliché, “She walked by with her nose in the air.”  Other signs of arrogance: chest out and hands behind the head, steepled fingers, pointing fingers as if lecturing.

Does Your Body Language Say, “I’m Laid Back – or Bored?”

C-suite executives often assume what they consider a “laid-back” posture. As I coach them and give feedback that they look tired, they offer this reasoning: “Well, I don’t want to intimidate employees. So I lean or stay low-key to connect better.” A better approach: Stand relaxed, not rigid, but with feet in the “ready position” so your energy shows you believe in what you’re saying.

Does Your Body Language Say, “You’re Disrespectful”? 

The sarcastic eye roll or eye shrug as in “whatever” so typically delivered from teens to their parents conveys boredom, sarcasm, frustration, or lack of respect.

Does Your Body Language Say, “I’m Lying Now, So Don’t Trust Other Things I Say”?

So what are the signs of lying?  Sweating. Flushing. Increased swallowing. Irregular breathing. Hand-to-mouth and hand-to-nose touching. Either frequent blinking or a stare (the opposite of what’s typical for the person).  A frozen face (an attempt to be expressionless and not give away any secrets). Over time, such signals diminish personal credibility.

Body language always trumps words.  Make sure your body doesn’t betray you.

About the Author: Dianna Booher’s latest books include Faster, Fewer, Better Emails; Communicate Like a Leader; What MORE Can I Say?; and Creating Personal Presence. She’s the bestselling author of 48 books, published in 61 foreign editions. Dianna helps organizations communicate clearly and leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence. She blogs for Forbes, Microsoft, and The CEO Magazine. For more information, please visit


Body Language: Telling Your Team How You Really Feel

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Do you know that your team is constantly evaluating your emotions through cues in your body language – and that they can do so in a fraction of a second?

At the Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging at the University of Glasgow, researchers found that it takes only 200 miliseconds to read someone’s emotional state from their facial expression. So “putting on a happy face” isn’t only a pleasant thing to do, it sends a powerful signal to those who work with you.

During a major change, for example, your staff will be on high alert – constantly looking to you for clues on how to react. If you look upset or angry, that negativity can spread like a virus throughout the team, affecting attitudes and lowering energy. Conversely, if you come across as energized and positive, you’re likely to make your entire team feel upbeat and optimistic.

Of course, it’s not only facial expressions that send a message. Emotional signals come from other parts of your body – including your feet.

I was in the audience when the Chief Executive Officer of a financial institute was being interviewed, seated at the front of the stage, facing us. One of his staff sat across from him, reading a list of questions that had been submitted by attendees.

As the CEO responded to the first inquiries, he shared his philosophy of “relationship banking” and the importance of employees to the company’s brand. While doing so, his body language was open and relaxed. His posture, facial expressions and hand gestures signaled comfort and confidence.

Then came a series of questions about executive compensation. As the CEO answered these, his body language stayed constant – except for his feet: From a comfortable, loose leg cross, the executive suddenly locked his ankles tightly together, pulled them back under the chair, and began to make tiny kicks with both feet. He then re-crossed his ankles and kicked his feet again. And this behavior continued throughout the entire set of compensation questions.

If all the audience could have seen was the upper half of the executive’s body, we might have been convinced that he was still at ease, but his feet told a different story – one of anxiety and stress.

Another way that leaders show emotion is through their posture. Because the heart, brain, and nervous system are so closely interlocked, your staff can often tell if you are happy or depressed by simply observing how you hold your body. If you are in a great mood, you are most likely walking around with your shoulders back and your head held high, but if disappointed or depressed, your shoulders will begin to round forward and you’ll cave in slightly at the chest.

How you breathe is also telling. Holding our breath is a primitive instinct – a hardwired reaction (the freeze portion of the “flight, fight or freeze” response) when facing a threat. Today, even though threats are more likely to be psychological than physical, any anxiety can cause you to hold your breath or to breathe high in your chest is small, shallow breaths.

Leaning is an unconscious way your body indicates emotion – especially your feelings about various people on the team. Positive attitudes toward those you like and whose opinion you respect tend to be accompanied by leaning forward – especially when sitting down. Leaning backward usually signals feelings of dislike, dismissal, or negativity. It’s another hardwired response from the limbic brain; we subconsciously try to distance ourselves from anything unpleasant or dangerous.

People will also judge the closeness of your relationships by the amount of eye contact you display: the greater the eye contact, the closer the relationship. They’ll notice, too, when you begin to mirror someone’s gestures and facial expressions, because by doing so you send strong signals of liking or admiring that person.

When members of your staff are evaluating whether this is a good time to approach you, they will check to see if you look “open” or “closed.” In the ultimate closed body posture, arms are folded, legs are crossed and the torso or legs are turned away. In open and receptive body postures, legs are uncrossed, and arms are open with palms exposed or resting comfortably on the desk or conference table. If your arms are relaxed at the sides of your body while standing, this is also generally a sign of openness, accessibility, and an overall willingness to interact.

Imagine that you’ve just made an important announcement and your staff wants to know if you really meant what you said. Subconsciously they’ll check your “say-do” alignment. If your body language is congruent with your words, people will believe that what you are feeling is aligned what you’re saying, and you will be perceived as authentic. But if your words say one thing and your body language indicates the opposite, you will be evaluated as uncertain, indecisive, or deceptive.

Your voice also conveys subtle but powerful clues into feelings and meanings. Think, for example, how tone of voice can indicate sarcasm, concern, or confidence. Or how an increase in volume and intensity grabs attention because of the heightened emotion (passion, anger, assertiveness, certainty) it signals.

The effect of vocal prosody (how you say what you say) is so potent that it can make bad news actually sound palatable or, conversely, take all the joy out of a positive message. I’ve seen leaders give unflattering feedback while still exhibiting warm feelings through their tone of voice – and those who were being critiqued felt positively about the overall interaction. I’ve seen other leaders offer words of praise and appreciation in such a flat tone of voice that none of the recipients felt genuinely acknowledged or appreciated.

This is because the limbic brain, where emotions are processed, also plays the primary role in processing vocal cues. Researchers from the University of Geneva in Switzerland discovered that they could tell whether a subject had just heard words spoken in anger, joy, relief, or sadness by observing the pattern of activity in the listener’s brain.

Vocal cues are important in any conversation, but they are most crucial when your communication is limited to an auditory channel — as it is on a phone call, a teleconference, or a podcast.

As a leader, you convey emotions to your team through the content of your messages and your nonverbal communication – but you may be surprised to learn that the latter is more powerful than the former. The Human Dynamics Group in MIT’s Tech Media Lab and the research centers at Xerox found that people are more likely to be influenced not by the spoken word, but by the kinds of signals that you (like most leaders) may overlook – your vocal nuances and your body language.

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is a keynote speaker at business meetings and conferences in 25 countries. Her list of over 300 clients include firms such as Google, LinkedIn, Petroleos de Venezuela, Dairy Farm in Hong Kong, Petrofac in the UAE, SCA Hygiene in Germany, Women’s Leadership Conference, Trinidad. She is a leadership presence coach, the best selling author of twelve books, including “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help or Hurt How You Lead, and the creator of LinkedInLearning”s video course, “Body Language for Leaders.” Carol has served as adjunct faculty at John F. Kennedy University in the International MBA program and at the University of California in the Executive Education Department. She is a current faculty member for the Institute for Management Studies. Contact Carol by email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman, through her website:, or call 1-510-526-1727.

The Body Language of Collaborative Leaders

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

During a break in my seminar on collaborative leadership, a man from the audience told this story: “My wife is an attorney, and I have always been a supporter of women in the workplace. I also believe in collaboration and try to make everyone feel included and appreciated. So I was totally taken aback when a woman on my management team said that I didn’t value her opinion. I assured her that I valued and relied on her insights and had often told her so. But then I got curious and asked her what I was doing that made the opposite impression. She said, ‘In meetings, you don’t look at me when I speak.’”

Then, he said, “My question to you is, how could this one small nonverbal cue have had such a powerful impact?”

His inquiry was well timed because the topic I was about to cover after break was the body language of collaborative leaders.

Our brains are hardwired to respond instantly to certain nonverbal cues, and that circuitry was put in place a long time ago – when our ancient ancestors faced threats and challenges very different from those we face in today’s modern society.

For example, in our prehistory, it may have been vitally important to see an approaching person’s hands in order to evaluate his intent. If hands were concealed they could very well be holding a rock, a club, or other means of doing us harm. In interactions today, with no logical reason to do so, you will instinctively mistrust me if my hands stay out of sight – shoved in my pockets or clasped behind my back.

The world has changed, but our body-reading processes are still based on a primitive emotional reaction. Today, the potential threats (and our brains are always on the alert for potential threats) are to our ego, our self-esteem, our identity. We are especially vulnerable in our desire to be included, to feel valued, to belong. This is why collaborative leaders need to be aware of their body language.

Think of it this way: In any interaction you are communicating over two channels – verbal and nonverbal – resulting in two distinct conversations going on at the same time. What my audience member underestimated was the power of alignment — that is, the spoken word needs to be aligned with body language that supports it. When this alignment doesn’t occur, the other person has to choose between the words and the body language. Almost always, she will believe the nonverbal message.

There are two sets of body-language cues that people instinctively look for in leaders. One set projects warmth and caring and the other signals power and status. Both are necessary for leaders today but, for a Chief Collaborator, the “warmer side” of nonverbal communication (which has been undervalued and underutilized by leaders more concerned with projecting strength, status, and authority), becomes central to creating the most collaborative workforce relationships.

When you use warm, “pro-social” body language with all team members, you create an emotionally rich environment that supports collaboration and high performance. Here are some examples of what I mean: A genuine smile not only stimulates your own sense of well-being, it also tells those around you that you are approachable, cooperative, and trustworthy. A genuine smile comes on slowly, crinkles the eyes, lights up the face, and fades away slowly. By way of contrast, a counterfeit or “polite” smile comes on quickly and never reaches the eyes.

Since collaboration depends on participants’ willingness to speak up and share ideas and insights, try using your head – literally. Research shows that you can increase participation by nodding your head with clusters of three nods at regular intervals.

Head tilting is also a signal that you are interested, curious, and involved. The head tilt is a universal gesture of giving the other person an ear. As such, head tilts can be very positive cues when you want to encourage people to expand on their comments.

And, as the man in my audience found out, one of the most powerful motivators to encourage participation is eye contact, because people feel that they have your attention and interest as long as you are looking at them. As a leader, you set the tone for the meeting. If you want people to speak up, focus on whomever is talking to make sure that he or she feels you are listening.

When talking with someone we like or are interested in, we subconsciously switch our body posture to match that of the other person – mirroring his or her nonverbal behavior. When you synchronize your body language with members of your team, you signal that you are connected and engaged.

You look more receptive when you uncross your legs and hold your arms comfortably away from your body (not folded across your chest or tight into your waist) with palms exposed or hands resting on the desk or conference table.

Positive attitudes toward others tend to be accompanied by leaning forward – especially when sitting down. When two people like each other, you’ll see them both lean in. Research also shows that individuals who lean forward tend to increase the verbal output of the person they’re speaking with. Also, face people directly. Even a quarter turn away creates a barrier (the “cold shoulder”), signaling a lack of interest and causing the speaker to shut down.

Physical obstructions are especially detrimental to the effective exchange of ideas. Take away anything that blocks your view or forms a barrier between you and the rest of the team. Close your laptop, turn off your cell phone, put your purse or briefcase to the side.

If you think it makes you look more efficient (or important) to be continually checking a laptop or cell phone for messages, I’d advise you to think again. As one member of a management team recently told me, “There’s this senior exec in our department who has a reputation of being totally addicted to his smart phone–which is especially distracting during internal meetings. When he finally focuses on others, peers make jokes about his ‘coming back to earth.’ The result is that when he does contribute, he has little credibility.”

The bottom line is: If you really want to foster collaboration, make sure you look and act like you do!

Reading Body Language at Work: Five Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Human beings are genetically programmed to look for facial and behavioral cues and to quickly understand their meaning. We see someone gesture and automatically make a judgment about the intention of that gesture.

And we’ve been doing this for a long, long time. As a species we knew how to win friends and influence people — or avoid/placate/confront those we couldn’t befriend — long before we knew how to use words.

But our ancient ancestors faced threats and challenges very different from those we confront in today’s modern society, with its layers of social restrictions and nuanced meanings adding to the intricacies of our interpersonal dealings. This is especially true in workplace settings, where each corporate culture adds it own complexities and guidelines for correct behavior.

No matter what the culture at your workplace, the ability to read nonverbal signals can provide significant advantages for the way you deal with people. You can start to gain those advantages by avoiding these five common mistakes.

1) Forgetting to consider the context.

Imagine this scene: You come into the office and notice your coworker who’s seated behind her desk in the cubicle next to yours. Her head is down, her eyes are closed and she’s hunched over, shivering slightly, and hugging herself.

Now the scene changes . . .

You see the same woman, in the same physical position, sitting on a bench at a bus stop. It’s a freezing-cold winter evening with a light snow falling and a north wind blowing. Her nonverbal signals are the same but the new setting has altered your perception of those signals. In a flash she’s gone from telling you, “I’m in distress” to “I’m really cold!”

The meaning of nonverbal communication changes as the context changes. We can’t begin to understand someone’s behavior without considering the circumstances under which the behavior occurred.

2) Trying to find meaning in a single gesture.

Nonverbal cues occur in what is called a gesture cluster — a group of movements, postures and actions that reinforce a common point. A single gesture can have several meanings or mean nothing at all, but when you couple that single gesture with other nonverbal signals, the meaning becomes clearer.

For example, a person may cross his arms for any number of reasons. But when that action is coupled with a scowl, a headshake, and legs turned away from you, you now have a composite picture and reinforcement to conclude that he is displeased or resistant to whatever you just proposed.

Reading Body Language at Work3) Focusing too much on what’s being said.

If you hear only what people are saying, you’ll miss what they really mean.

A manager I was coaching appeared calm and reasonable as she outlined the reasons she should delegate more responsibility to her staff. But when she read the list she also (almost imperceptibly) shuddered. While her words declared her intention of empowering employees, the quick, involuntary shudder was saying loud and clear, “I really don’t want to do this!”

4) Not knowing a person’s baseline.

You need to know how a person normally behaves so that you can spot meaningful deviations.

Here’s the sort of thing that can happen when you don’t: A few years ago, I was giving a presentation to the CEO of a financial services company, outlining a speech I was scheduled to deliver to his leadership team the next day. And it wasn’t going well.

Our meeting lasted almost an hour, and through that entire time the CEO sat at the conference table with his arms tightly crossed. He didn’t once smile, lean forward or nod encouragement. When I finished, he said thank you –without making eye contact — and left the room.

I was sure that his nonverbal communication was telling me that my speaking engagement would be canceled. But when I walked to the elevator, the executive’s assistant came to tell me how impressed her boss had been with my presentation.

I was shocked and I asked how he would have reacted had he not liked it. “Oh,” said the assistant, her smile acknowledging that she had seen others react as I did, “He would have gotten up in the middle of your presentation and walked out!”

The only nonverbal signals that I had received from that CEO were ones I judged to be negative. What I didn’t realize was that, for that individual, this was his normal behavior.

5) Judging body language through the bias of one’s own culture.

When we talk about culture, we’re generally talking about a set of shared values that a group of people hold. And while some of a culture’s values are taught explicitly, most of them are absorbed subconsciously, at a very early age. Such values affect how members of the group think and act and, more important, the kind of criteria by which they judge others.

Cultural meanings render some nonverbal behaviors as normal and right and others as strange or wrong. From greetings to hand gestures to the use of space and touch, what’s proper and correct in one culture may be ineffective — or even offensive — in another.

For example, in North America, the correct way to wave hello and good-bye is palm out, fingers extended, with the hand moving side to side. That same gesture means “No” throughout Mediterranean Europe and Latin America.  In Peru it means “Come here,” and in Greece, where it’s called the moutza, the gesture is a serious insult, and the closer the hand to the other person’s face, the more threatening it is considered to be.

Remember: Body language cues are undeniable. But to decode them accurately, you need to understand them in context, view them in clusters, evaluate them in relation to what is being said, assess them for consistency, and filter them for cultural influences. If you do so, you’ll be well on your way to gaining the nonverbal advantage in work situations, among others.


About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is an executive coach, author and keynote speaker who addresses association, government, and business audiences around the world. She is the author of the best-selling book, “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead,” and creator of LinkedIn Learning’s top 2017 video course, “Body Language for Leaders.” Contact her at or through her website,

Examining the Body Language of Charisma

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Let’s face it, in business dealings, charisma counts. A lot. And charisma is as much about impressions and body language as it is about issues and substance. I’ve seen many qualified people get passed over for promotion (or lose a sale or fail an interview) simply because they couldn’t project an engaging attitude.

Max Weber, the father of sociology, first coined the term “charisma” to describe inspirational leaders. Originally from the Greek kharisma, meaning favor or divine gift, charisma has also been defined as “part confidence, part presence, and part sex appeal.” But however we define it, we know it when we see it. We call someone charismatic when they somehow compel us to embrace their vision — whether it’s corporate, social, or political.

As a leadership presence coach, I define charisma as focused passion/energy that results in complete congruence between what you say and how you look and sound when you say it.

Body language communicates your emotions and motivations, likes and dislikes, interest and disengagement. Whether you are interviewing for a job, pitching your idea to a venture capitalist, or presenting a new business strategy to the board of directors, you are the most charismatic and convincing when what you are feeling internally is perfectly aligned with what you’re verbally expressing. (At which point your body language automatically becomes congruent with your words.) That’s why my coaching sessions always begin with questions about your emotional intent: What is the heart of the message you want to communicate? How do you truly feel about it? How important is this to you? Why do you think others should care?

Let's face it, in business dealings, charisma counts.Charismatic leaders utilize a wide range of nonverbal warmth and likeability cues. They display genuine smiles, maintain positive eye contact, use a variety of gestures, orient their torsos toward those with whom they are engaging, touch others during conversations, etc. And anyone can be coached to include more of these positive signals (and to reduce unwanted, negative signals) in their interactions.

But here’s something else I discovered about charisma. Sometimes all you have to do to be truly impressive is to get out of your own way.

I once worked with the head of a research department who was preparing for a major business presentation. One-on-one, this man was charming, smart, and had a great sense of humor. In informal settings, his body language was congruent and expressive. But he was also an introvert. Put him on stage in front of an audience and he became a nonverbal disaster: he slumped behind the lectern, read from notes without making eye contact with the audience, and used very few gestures.

You may be in a similar situation. When talking with friends, you use your hands and face to help describe an event or object. You smile, frown, shrug your shoulders and make broad illustrative gestures. Yet during important business presentations, you become anxious or self-conscious. And, as a result, your usually eloquent body language suffers.

If so, you may not need to work on nonverbal techniques. Rather, like my client, you might be better off learning to relax and to focus more on your audience than on yourself — in order to let your natural, sparkling personality and body language “speak up.”

Most of all, we tend to follow charismatic leaders because they are perceived as confident and upbeat. And here you can see the power of the body/mind connection in action.

You already know that the way you feel affects your body language. (If you are depressed, you tend to round your shoulders, slump, and look down. If you are up-beat you tend to smile and hold yourself erect). But did you know that the reverse is also true? The way you hold and carry yourself, your gestures, your movements and even your facial expressions affect your emotions by sending messages back to your brain.

In several experiments, individuals were asked to smile and were then shown pictures of various events. The smiling participants reported that the pictures pleased them and even made them feel elated. When asked to frown during the same kind of experiment, subjects reported feelings of annoyance and anger. Additional studies demonstrated that a smile is not only a consequence of feeling happy or content, but also that putting on a smile can induce physiological changes in body temperature, heart rate, and skin resistance. Smiling can make you feel happier.

So the next time you want to be seen as your most charismatic self, try these simple, but powerful tips: Begin to align your verbal and nonverbal communication by focusing on the emotional intent of your message. Then stand up straight, pull your shoulders back and hold your head high. Just by assuming this physical position, you will start to feel surer of yourself. And if you add a smile you will affect your brain and attitude even more positively.

You’ll be irresistible!


About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker, leadership presence coach and media expert on body language in the workplace. She’s a Leadership contributor for Forbes, author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead,” and creator of LinkedIn Learning’s top video course for 2017, “Body Language for Leaders.” 

10 Body Language Myths That Limit Success

10 Body Language Myths That Limit SuccessCarol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Body language plays a key role in your career – from your first job interview to the ongoing process of building professional relationships to being perceived as having leadership presence. But not everything you’ve heard about body language is accurate. Don’t limit your success by buying into these ten myths:

  1. Using body language to make a positive impression is inauthentic.

This is a myth I hear expressed whenever I give a speech or seminar. And it often comes from the same participants (managers, leaders, executives) who understand the value of spending hours creating, reviewing and rehearsing what they are going to say to make a positive impression in an important meeting or negotiation. I ask them to consider this: In any business interaction you are communicating over two channels – verbal and nonverbal – resulting in two distinct conversations going on at the same time. While a well-written speech or well-designed bargaining strategy is obviously important, it’s not the only important message you send. In a thirty-minute business discussion, two people can send over eight hundred different nonverbal signals. And it is no more (or less) inauthentic to prepare for this second conversation than it is to prepare for the first.

  1. Body language is 93% of communication.

On the other hand, if you think that all you have to do to be an effective communicator is to watch your body language, you’ll underestimate the power of your verbal message. The 93% myth is based on this misquoting of a classic study by Dr. Albert Mehabrian: “The total impact of a message is based on: 7% words used; 38% tone of voice, volume, rate of speech, vocal pitch; 55% facial expressions, hand gestures, postures and other forms of body language.” But Mehabrian never said that. His research was focused solely on the communication of emotions — specifically, liking and disliking.

  1. Liars don’t make eye contact.

The biggest body language myth about deception is that lairs avoid eye contact. While some liars (especially children) can find it difficult to lie while looking at you, other deceivers, especial the most brazen or habitual, may overcompensate to “prove” that they are not lying by making too much eye contact and holding it too long. If you correlate lack of eye contact with deception, you will misread cues from people who are shy, introverted, or come from cultures where extended eye contact is considered rude or threatening.

  1. The “Superman” or “Wonder Woman” pose changes blood chemistry.

The concept that two minutes of “power posing” (for example, standing feet apart with hands on hips) increased testosterone (a power hormone) and decreased cortisol (a hormone associated with stress), was popularized by Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about her 2010 social psychology study. These impressive results were quoted in various body language blogs and speeches (including mine). But recent backlash from Dana Carney, Cuddy’s co-researcher, and the inability of other universities to replicate the results, have thrown doubt on this assertion. What you can still rely on however, is that good posture (standing or sitting tall with head held high, both feet firmly on the floor, and shoulders back) makes you look and feel more confident.

  1.  10 Body Language Myths That Limit SuccessCrossed arms always means resistance.

Of course, crossed arms often does indicate resistance, but it can also mean many other things — or nothing at all — depending on the individual and the situation. If a person sits in a chair that doesn’t have armrests, it increases the likelihood of crossed arms – as does a chilly room temperature. If someone is deep in thought and pacing back and forth, crossing arms is a common way to increase concentration. The problem with believing the crossed arm myth is that you may not realize the gesture is coming from someone who is cold, concentrating, or simply assuming her normal, most comfortable arm position.

  1. Eye direction is correlated with lying.

In Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), the idea was proposed that looking to the right indicated deception, while looking left suggested truth telling. This, however, has been disproven by research. The University of Edinburgh conducted three separate studies and found no correlation between the direction of eye movement and whether the subject was telling the truth or lying.

  1. You can tell what someone is thinking by analyzing their body language.

No, you can’t. Neither can I. We are not mind readers. While body language can offer insights into the emotional state of someone (angry, sad, happy, disgusted, fearful, contemptuous, etc.), it can’t tell why the person is exhibiting that emotion. Here is how John Sudol, an acting coach describes the danger in assuming we know what’s behind a negative expression: “In a business interview or acting audition, what you read on the interviewer’s face can provoke a variety of unwanted responses, such as anxiety, self-doubt, and insecurity. If enough stress is produced it can trigger a limbic response and put you into a freeze-fight-or-flee state.” Sudol later told me that he has adopted a personal mantra to decrease the negative impact of an angry or hostile expression: What’s on their face is not about me!

  1. Body language is an effective tool for disguising your true feelings.

The problem with buying into this myth is that research has shown that attempting to suppress genuine emotion requires so much conscious effort that it is rarely successful. Whenever you attempt to conceal any strong feeling and fake another, your body almost always “leaks” nonverbal cues that are picked up consciously or subconsciously by your audience.Stanford University’s research on emotional suppression shows why it’s so difficult to hide your true feelings: Subjects instructed to conceal their emotions reported feeling ill at ease, distracted and preoccupied. And this was validated by a steady rise in their blood pressure. But another, quite unexpected finding showed a corresponding blood pressure rise in those listening to the subjects. The stress of suppression wasn’t just palpable; it was contagious.

  1. Taking with your hands is unprofessional.

If you respond to this myth by keeping your hands still when speaking, you are limiting your effectiveness as a communicator. Not only do gestures help listeners track and interpret what you are saying, brain imaging has shown that gesture is integrally linked to speech. Gesturing as you talk can actually power up your thinking. Whenever I coach clients to incorporate gestures into their deliveries, I find that their verbal content improves, their speech is less hesitant, and their use of fillers (“ums” and “uhs”) decreases.

  1. Increasing communication effectiveness, takes major changes in nonverbal behavior.

This is my favorite myth, because it is so easy to dispute. Just try smiling more and see how much it improves the dynamics of your interactions. A genuine smile not only stimulates your own sense of well-being, it also tells those around you that you are approachable, cooperative, and trustworthy. A genuine smile comes on slowly, crinkles the eyes, lights up the face, and fades away slowly. Most importantly, smiling directly influences how other people respond to you. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way. Not bad for one small nonverbal change.


About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is an international keynote speaker and seminar leader, the creator of LinkedInLearning’s video course “Body Language for Leaders” on, and the author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.” She can be reached by email, phone1- 510-526-1727, or through her website:

Leaders Need Flexible Body Language

carol.featuredCarol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Before the meeting began, Adam had assumed a “power pose,” standing with hands on hips and feet wide apart, for two full minutes, to get all the advertised benefits of doing so. And it worked. He could almost feel his stress level lowering and his self-confidence rising. By the time he strode into the conference room, took his place at the head of the table, and made strong eye contact with all the participants, Adam exuded authority, power and status.

Eve was at a different meeting. Naturally empathetic and likable, Eve smiled a lot, nodded to encourage others to continue speaking and tilted her head, in the universal sign of “giving someone your ear.” She waited politely before interjecting her own thoughts, and when she did, she spoke in a soft warm voice. 

Adam’s leadership assignment was to facilitate a highly collaborative meeting in which all team members were expected to share insights and concerns about an upcoming project.
Eve’s meeting was her first strategy session with senior leaders, and an opportunity to enhance her “leadership presence” by being perceived as credible and competent. Both Adam and Eve exhibited good leadership body language. Both made bad choices.
In the workplace, we continuously and unconsciously assess leaders for two distinct sets of nonverbal signals. The first is warmth/likeablilty/empathy and the second is authority/power/status. Obviously, the art of blending just the right amount of warmth and authority signals is the “secret sauce” of leadership effectiveness . . . most of the time. There are business situations, however, when emphasizing one set of signals over the other gives you an advantage.
Power and status are non-verbally displayed in height and space. The ability to project authority is a body language strength. But, like any strength, when overused or inappropriately used, that asset can become a liability. And it’s easy for status signals to slip into signs of arrogance. For example, a nonverbal signal of confidence is to hold your head up – but if you tilt your head back even slightly, the signal changes to an arrogant sign of “looking-down-your-nose.”
Leaders Need Flexible Body LanguageBody language signals of warm are assessed almost instantly, as people check to see if you are “friend or foe” – or in a corporate setting, whether or not you have their interests at heart – even before they care about your level of competence and confidence. If your status signals are too strong, you can come across as uncaring an insensitive.
When it comes to facilitating collaborative teams and building high trust work environments, high-status behaviors can undermine your efforts. After all, if you act like “the boss who has all the answers,” why would anyone else need – or dare – to contribute?
Adam would have been more effective if he had looked more inclusive and less ‘in charge.” For example, he might have taken a seat in the middle of the table instead of the “power position” at the end. He could have remembered to smile more, to nod and to turn his entire body toward whomever spoke, silently indicating that he was giving others his full attention because their contributions mattered.
Eve faced an entirely different leadership situation, and the very cues that might have been so helpful to Adam were detrimental for her.
Warm body language including head tilts, nods and forward leans, definitely send signals of friendliness, interest and inclusion, but excessive or inappropriate warm signals can also be confusing and a credibility robber. Even a smile (which is the most positive display of warmth) can work against you if you smile too much when delivering a serious message or stating an objection. There are also cases where warm cues can make you look submissive – which is not the best image to project in a meeting where your goal is to impress executives with your confidence and expertise.
Eve’s head tilts worked well when she wanted to demonstrate interest in other members of the team, but when she stated her own opinions she would have been wiser to keep her head straight up in a more authoritative position. Her soft-spoken vocal responses also worked against her, lessening the impact of her comments. She need to speak up in a stronger voice if she wanted her remarks to reflect her genuine competence.
High-powered or confident body language is expansive. When you manifest powerful body language, you are seen as more influential. When you need to be seen as high-powered or confident, remember that power is displayed by height and space. If you stand you will look more powerful to those who are seated. If you move around, the additional space you take up adds to that impression. If you are sitting, you can still project power by sitting straight with both feet on the floor (which makes you look and feel “grounded”) and by spreading out your belongings on the conference table to claim more territory.
Body language not only affects the way others see you but also the way you see yourself. To make sure that your good body language doesn’t go bad, you need to understand what is at stake in any given situation, and adjust accordingly. If you want to be evaluated as authoritative, make sure that your body is reinforcing that message. On the other hand, if you want to encourage others to speak, use your warmer nonverbal signals to bolster collaboration.

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker, and the author of “The Truth About Lies in the Workplace.” She can be reached at or through her website: 


Trump’s Body Language During the Inaugural Address

carol.featuredBy Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump took the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States. While audiences listened intently to his inaugural address, some of us were more focused on what his body was saying.

I exchanged initial observations with Patrick A. Stewart, Ph.D., Department of Political Science at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Stewart has published research on nonverbal communication by politicians in the journals Presidential Studies Quarterly, Political Psychology, Motivation and Emotion, International Journal of Humor Research, and Politics and the Life Sciences.

It’s always interesting to compare notes with Patrick as he is a scientist and I am a practitioner, a leadership coach, so we approach this topic from different perspectives. Here is the gist of our conversation:

Carol Kinsey Goman:  Donald Trumps’ signature nonverbal cues were in evidence during his speech. For example, he relied heavily on his most recognized hand gesture — the air pinch with thumb and forefinger. This gesture signals precision and control. And when he then exploded it into an open-hand, fingers spread gesture and hand chop, it sent an effective signal that he was ready to take that certainty into action.

(Photo Source: Twitter)

(Photo Source: Twitter)

Trump also uses batonic gestures, such as the up-and-down beat of a hand, to mark out content he deems significant. What did you notice about this during the speech?

Patrick Stewart: The speech itself appeared to be more scripted with Trump’s displays less crisp; however, as the speech continued, his hand and arm movements became more emphatic, with crisp punctuation of his words with batons (hand-and-arm movements that started either mouth level on his dominant right hand side, or slightly lower on this non-dominant left hand side that come down to punctuate his point often mid word and then come back up).

Goman: During the speech, and in pauses between thoughts, Trump’s expression stayed pretty much unchanged. While eliminating his signature jaw juts and smirks was a good choice, Trump missed the chance to non-verbally express positive feelings about his vision of the future. Why didn’t he – ever – smile?

Stewart: Trump engaged in polite smiles (posed with lip corners pulled up, but tight jaw and lips together) on the way to the podium and afterwards, but only when focusing on individuals. But there were no Felt smiles (where the cheeks raise and produce crow’s feet at the corners of the eyes). I viewed this as the norm for Trump – since he has a more “agonic” nonverbal style that focuses less on happiness/reassurance and more on anger/threat displays.

Goman: Trump has another familiar hand gesture that I spotted. His uses a side-to-side motion, with fingers together and his palm facing front, when discussing what he believes has gone wrong, and he did so when talking about “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge.” He then immediately returned to tighter gestures to reinforce that he will supply the remedy. It was very effective.

Stewart: I believe that a good deal of Trump’s allure comes from his ability to use his hand-and-arm movements, including his various illustrators, so effectively. Another example of how he showed he was emphatic was when he stated: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.” He said the word “America” with a precision hand and “first” with a “we’re #1” icon (index finger point up, second finger and thumb together, palm facing the audience).

Goman: Did you notice any body language that wasn’t so impressive? For example, what did you think of Trump’s unilateral shrug? Did you catch that his right shoulder raised slightly when, early in his speech, he said: “It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.”

Stewart: Yes, I saw it. I first noticed a Trump unilateral shrug with his “apology video” concerning the Billy Bush outtake video. That gesture tends to be an indication of deception or uncertainty.

Goman: Trump typically uses a lot of gestures in which both hands move in unison. I was surprised that during the inaugural address, he gestured primarily with his right hand and occasionally with his left. It wasn’t until the very end of his address that Trump used a parallel gesture (with both hands making a “L” shape). This is interesting because, as opposed to one-handed motions, the use of parallel gestures creates an impression of confidence and authority – which is why I would have expected to see more of them. On the other hand, ending with the dual L gesture was a powerful nonverbal way of saying, “I’ve got this right!”

What caught your attention?

Stewart: The big thing that I hadn’t seen before was his flourish gesture – used twice in this speech. Once when saying “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams” and again with “we will be protected by God.”

Goman: I’d like to close with an observation as a coach: I think that Trump missed a bet. He has been adept at using inclusion gestures (open-palm hand gestures with arms spread apart) to reinforce his statements that “we are all in this together.” But inclusion gestures were not shown anytime during his speech. They would have been especially powerful when he stated, “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

As a researcher and analyst, what are your closing thoughts?

Stewart: After analyzing a minute long clip from his RNC nomination acceptance speech on a frame-by-frame basis, as well as considering this much longer speech, I came away with the conclusion that he does a most exceptional job of coordinating the “end peak” of his points to exactly mid-word. More colloquially, he means what he says (when he says it). The big question is does he say what he means to actually do? That is something we will see over the next four years.


About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker, and the author of “The Truth About Lies in the Workplace.” She can be reached at or through her website: 


Body Language At The Trump And Obama Meeting

By Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

It was a meeting that was obviously highly stressful for both men. We’ll never know what was discussed when President Barack Obama and President-Elect Donald Trump were alone, but at their joint press conference their words were cordial and respectful.

(Photo source: Twitter)

(Photo source: Twitter)

So was their body language – up to a point.

As the press conference began, the men were in a “limbic symmetry” pose, (feet on floor, legs apart, hands in lap) so that their body language was identical.  Mirroring postures happens naturally when two people feel they have something in common. In this case, though, it might have been mutual fatigue, as both men rounded their shoulders and slumped slightly. Their feet, at least, were on the ground. If they had been seated with legs crossed and upper feet pointed away from each other, it would have been a negative sign.

As they waited for the conference to begin, Trump tapped his finger tips together – which can be a sign of impatience or a pacifying gesture to release stress.  Obama’s stress showed as well. When speaking he was hesitant and used a lot of “uh” and “um” vocal fillers. In addition his blink rate was higher than normal. Both men displayed an occasional lip compression – another signal of distress.

The president has always had good body language, aligned tightly to his verbal messages, and this was apparent again during the press conference. He gestured toward Trump when stating that his first priority was to insure a smooth transition, he brought his hand to chest when taking about “my team,” and both hands opened with palms up when he stated that he wanted to make sure both Donald and Melania Trump would feel welcome.

Donald Trump’s nonverbal cues were congruent with his “post election” body language that we saw as he gave his acceptance speech – softer, less strident, vocal tones, and slower gestures. During the press conference, his body language included broad arm gestures (which non-verbally send power and authority signals) and  his signature “air pinch” in which thumb and forefinger come together in a tight circle. (This is a signal he uses most when being definite or precise.) But the one body language signal that caught my attention was a shoulder shrug when he stated that the president had “explained some of the difficulties . . .”.  When a person shrugs while making a declarative statement, it usually means that the speaker doesn’t quite believe or agree with what he is saying.

At the end of the press conference President Obama extended his hand for the handshake, but he rotated his palm up slightly rather that presenting it sideways. Perhaps this was a gracious way of giving Trump the “upper hand” or an unconscious acknowledgement that Trump already had it.

As cordial as the encounter seemed to be, it was obvious that there was no real warmth between the two men. Not that I expected to see it, but I missed Obama’s genuine smile (which is one of his most dynamic and attractive non-verbal signals). Only its shadow appeared, accompanied by a touch on the arm with a personal aside to Trump as the reporters left the room.


About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. Contact Carol by phone: 510-526-1727, email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman, or through her 

Body Language Secrets For People (Like Me) Who Hate Networking

Carol Kinsey Gorman  discusses Body Language Secrets For People (Like Me) Who Hate NetworkingBy Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Imagine that you are at a networking event with the intent of doing business with some of the other attendees. In your mind, how’s that going for you? Do you see yourself socializing with ease and grace, or – if you are anything like me – has the very word “networking” increased your stress level and sent shivers down your spine? At least that is how I used to react. I dreaded (and avoided, whenever possible) all networking events. Now I look forward to them.

Here are six changes I made in my body language that morphed my networking experience from frightening to fun. Maybe they will do the same for you . . .

1.  I changed my perspective. It was a relief when I learned that networking is not about getting new business (although that certainly can happen). It’s about making connections and building professional relationships. The minute I took the focus off myself and put it on others, I relaxed. I stopped selling and started listening. I also found it helpful to pretend that I was the host of the event and that my job was to help others have an enjoyable time. Approaching people with this attitude immediately resonated in a more positive way.

2.  I straightened my posture. I’m a bit of a posture junkie anyway, but at networking events I found I was slouching — and by condensing my body, I looked tentative and less assured. Now, before I enter the room, I check that my shoulders are pulled back and that my arms are slightly away from my body – which is a posture of openness, confidence and self-esteem.

3.  I put down my plate. My default networking behavior was to go directly to the wine and food stations – so that I would have something to do immediately upon arrival. I’ve learned that if I wanted people to see me as comfortable and friendly, I needed to stop using objects (my drink and plate of food) as physical barriers. It made me look closed off and resistant. And the minute I stopped blocking my body (which can also be done with a purse, briefcase, cell phone, or crossed arms), I looked and felt more open and approachable.

4.  I made it a point to touch everyone I met. I knew that touch was the most primitive and powerful nonverbal signal. I knew that we are programmed to feel closer to someone who’s touched us. (A study on handshakes by the Income Center for Trade Shows showed that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them.) But it was difficult to shake hands when clutching that plate of food! Once I freed my hand, I was able to offer it whenever I introduced myself. The result was just what research predicted it would be: people reacted by being more open and friendly – making engaging them in conversation much easier.

5.  I slowed down my smile. I knew that charismatic people tended to smile more, with that distinctive crinkling around the eyes that was a sign of genuine emotion. (Which I thought I was already pretty good at.) But I also learned that slow onset smiles led to more positive reactions. So, rather that approaching people with a grin, I learned to begin with a slight smile and let it grow organically.

6.  I ramped up my eye contact. Looking at someone’s eyes transmits energy and indicates interest. I found that networking events provided a prime opportunity for enhancing this skill. I made it a practice to notice the eye color of everyone I met. This meant that I held my gaze just a little bit longer (which made it feel just a little bit more personal) than usual.

Focus on the other person (make it about them, not you). Stand tall and let your body show others that you are confident – which changes your self-perception as well. Open your body: no barriers, no crossed arms or other defensive postures. Smile sincerely and slowly. Make positive eye contact. Reach out and touch someone. It’s not rocket science – but it does have the power to transform a dreaded networking event into a positive experience!

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. Contact Carol by phone: 510-526-1727, email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman, or through her 

Body Language in the Presidential Debate – A Leadership Lesson

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

There is a magician’s trick called the “Vanishing Ball Illusion,” in which a ball tossed in the air seems to disappear – but in reality is never actually thrown. The trick depends on the magician’s skill in creating such a strong expectation of the throw that the audience actually hallucinates having seen it. The trick works because we are psychologically programmed to see what we expect to see.

It’s called “confirmation bias” and it is the reason why making a good first impression is so crucial for any leader – because that impression tends to stick. Once people mentally label you as “likable” or “unlikable,” “powerful” or “submissive,” “competent” or incompetent,” “trustworthy” or “devious,” everything else you do will be viewed through that filter.

Confirmation bias highlights the mind’s ability to focus on (or even hallucinate) those aspects of a person or situation that reinforce our preexisting beliefs. No where is this mental agility more prevalent than in the way we evaluate the body language of political candidates. And rarely have our opinions of the candidates been as polarized as in this election.

In general, we look for leaders who exhibit two sets of nonverbal signals: status and warmth. When we see status cues (broad arm movements, physical height, bold stride, decisive gestures, etc.) we feel the leader has confidence and authority. When we see warm body language (smiles, raised eyebrows, head tilts, smooth gestures, etc.) we believe the leader is empathetic and caring.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump display nonverbal behaviors that are considered “good” for a presidential candidate, both have body language challenges, and both have areas where their nonverbal strengths become liabilities. But these generalized strengths and weaknesses pale in comparison to the power of the beliefs and expectations of their respective supporters.

Here is how partisan supporters most likely evaluated the very same nonverbal cues from the first presidential debate:

Trump rolled his eyes, grimaced, and smirked — although less so in the first half of the debate. If you like him, you tend to view these expressions as valid reactions to whatever Clinton said that he disagreed with. If you don’t like him, the same behaviors are processed as irritating, discourteous, and childlike.

Clinton’s used a tight smile to discount many of Trump’s statements. If you are a Clinton supporter, you probably viewed this as a controlled and professional reaction to a bully’s taunts. If you prefer Trump, Clinton’s smile looked supercilious and phony.

Did Trump’s interrupting seem assertive or rude? Was Clinton’s backward head tilt a sign of contemplation or arrogance? And is there any body language signal that we all evaluate the same way regardless of our political preferences?

In fact, there are very few nonverbal signals that aren’t influenced by our biases. Blink rate is an exception — perhaps because it is produced and evaluated almost totally subconsciously. Joseph Tecce, an associate psychology professor at Boston College, says that lower blink rate has predicted presidential winners for eight out of the last nine elections. The candidate who blinks the most during debates has lost every election but one since 1980, the exception being George W. Bush, the year he lost the popular vote. (Here Hilary Clinton should have gained a slight advantage because Trump has an average blink rate of 64 blinks per minute, while Clinton averages 40 blinks per minute. Although in this first debate, I saw a lot of blinking from her.)

Blink rate aside, unless you and I were genuinely undecided about whom we preferred when we viewed Clinton and  Trump in the first presidential debate, it may have been physiologically impossible to stay neutral.

So whose body language won the first debate?

Most likely, whomever we hoped would win.

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker, leadership presence coach, expert on the impact of body language on leadership effectiveness, and author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.” She can be reached by email: or phone: 510-526-1727. 


Executive Briefing 1.7.15 – Kickstart Your Career; Resume Rules 2016; Body Language Tricks to Power Up Your Career

CommPRO-Executive-BriefingIn today’s Executive Briefing we want to help you kickstart your career in 2016.  First we hear from Marie Raperto, The Hiring Hub and take a look at Resume Rules: 2016.  We also hear from Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D about 10 Body Language Tricks to Power Up Your Career in 2016.

As we begin 2016 and start our sixth year of publishing CommPRO, I’d like to take a moment to thank our loyal readers and partners for their continued support. We hope our new readers enjoy CommPRO and welcome your feedback and suggestions so we continue to provide a unique and relevant service. You can reach me at:

Click here to view today’s post.

10 Body Language Tricks to Power Up Your Career in 2016

carol.featuredBy Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Body language can be your greatest career asset. Here are ten simple and powerful tips to help you have a super successful 2016.

1) To make a great first impression, begin before you enter the room.

In business interactions, first impressions are crucial. Once someone mentally labels you as “likeable” or “untrustworthy, ”powerful” or “ineffectual,” everything else you do will be viewed through that filter. If someone likes you, she’ll look for the best in you. If she mistrusts you, she’ll suspect devious motives in all your actions.

A study at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging that discovered 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. That’s why you can’t wait until you’re in the meeting room to “warm up.” You’ve got to walk in, already expressing the emotions you want to project.

2) To dramatically increase your professional impact, make eye contact like Goldilocks.

Too much eye contact is instinctively felt to be rude, hostile and condescending; and in a business context, it may also be perceived as a deliberate intent to dominate, intimidate, belittle, or make the other person feel at a disadvantage.

Too little, on the other hand, can make you appear uneasy, insincere, or uninterested. In its analysis of patients’ complaints, for example, one large county hospital found, that 9-out-of-10 letters included mention of poor doctor-patient eye contact; a failure which was generally interpreted as “lack of caring.” (To improve your “too little” eye contact, make a practice of noticing the eye color of everyone you meet.)

“Just the right” amount of eye contact – the amount that produces a feeling of mutual likability and trustworthiness – will vary with situations, settings, personality types, gender and cultural differences. As a general rule, though, direct eye contact of about 60% of the time during a conversation – more when you are listening, less when you are speaking – makes you seem attentive, interested and informed.

3) To boost your self-confidence, ditch your cell phone and buy a newspaper.

You may be familiar with research from Harvard and Columbia Business Schools about the effects of expansive physical poses — feet wide apart, body erect, hands on hips (think “Superman” or “Wonder Woman”). Studies show that holding this kind of “power pose” for just two minutes raises testosterone levels (the hormone linked to power and self-confidence) and lowers the level of cortisol, a stress hormone.

But did you know that this hormonal effect is actually reversed when you tuck your chin in, round your shoulders and contract yourself physically? In that posture, you lower your testosterone level – and its corresponding feelings of confidence – while increasing cortisol.

So, instead of hunching over your smart phone, try leaving it in your purse or briefcase while you wait in the lobby for an upcoming meeting. Instead, take out a newspaper, and read it sitting up straight with your feet firmly on the floor, and your arms spread wide to hold the paper open. By putting your body into this expansive posture, you will not only feel more confident and certain when the meeting starts, you will also be perceived that way.

Body Language Tips for 20164) To build instant and lasting rapport, touch someone while saying “the magic word.”

Touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue. In the workplace, physical touch and warmth are established through the handshaking tradition, and this tactile contact makes a lasting and positive impression. A study on handshakes by the Income Center for Trade Shows showed that people are two times more likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. The trade-show researchers also found that people react to those with whom they shake hands by being more open and friendly.

You can, however, go beyond the handshake and create a lasting, positive impact by adding a single word to a brief touch, because touching someone on the arm, hand, or shoulder for as little as 1/40 of a second is enough to create a human bond. Here’s how to do it: When you meet someone and they tell you their name, find a way to repeat that name later in the conversation. And as you do, touch the person lightly on the forearm.

The impact of this combination comes from the fact that you have aroused positive feelings in an individual by remembering and using her name (the magic word for all of us), and as you touch her arm, those positive emotions get linked to your touch. Then at subsequent meetings you can reactivate that initial favorable impression by once again lightly touching your acquaintance’s arm.

5) To reduce resistance, don’t allow people to double-cross you.

People who are defensive, guarded or resistant may protectively fold their arms across their chests. And when you see that gesture coupled with crossed legs (what I call the “double cross”) you can be fairly sure that (a) you aren’t making a very positive impression, and that (b) what you’re saying isn’t being listened to very closely.

In fact, in one study, groups of volunteers were invited to attend a series of lectures. While doing so, the first group was instructed to keep legs and arms uncrossed – and to take a casual, relaxed sitting position. Volunteers in the second group were asked to attend the same lectures, but to keep their arms tightly folded across their chests. The result showed the folded arms group learned and retained 38 percent less than the uncrossed arms group.

To neutralize this physically expressed resistance in a one-on-one encounter, you could extend your hand for a handshake. You could offer the person a cup of tea or coffee, or give them your business card, brochure or product sample. (When I address large audiences, I often ask questions that invite people to raise their hands or rise to their feet.) It doesn’t matter which strategy you choose, just as long as people are obliged to change their postures, to uncross their arms and legs, in order to respond to you. Because body positions influence attitude, the mere act of unwinding a resistant posture will begin to subvert the resistance, itself.

6) To power up your thinking, talk with your hands – but watch what they say.

Brain imaging has shown that a region called Broca’s area, which is important for speech production, is active not only when we’re talking, but also when we wave our hands. Since gesture is integrally linked to speech, gesturing as you talk can actually power up your thinking. Whenever I coach clients to incorporate gestures into their deliveries, I find that their verbal content improves, their speech is less hesitant, and their use of fillers (“ums” and “uhs”) decreases. Experiment with this and you’ll find that the physical act of gesturing helps you form clearer thoughts and speak in tighter sentences with more declarative language.

Remember also to keep your movements relaxed and to use open arm gestures showing the palms of your hands — the ultimate “see, I have nothing to hide” gesture. In addition, if you hold your arms between your waist and shoulders, and gesture within that plane, most audiences will perceive you as assured and credible.

What you want to avoid (or at least minimize) are the nonverbal behaviors that make you look unsure or incompetent. We all do it. When we’re nervous or stressed, we tend to pacify ourselves with some form of self-touching: We rub our foreheads, massage our temples, wring our hands, touch our lips, play with our jewelry, twirl our hair, etc. — and when we do these things, we immediately rob our statements of credibility. If you catch yourself indulging in any pacifying behavior, take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and steady yourself by placing your feet firmly on the floor and your hands palm down in your lap or by your side, or flat on the desk or conference table.

7) To communicate effectively, stop talking.

Stillness sends a message that you’re calm and confident. When you are giving a presentation, don’t be concerned with filling every moment with words. Every so often, try pausing. It might feel like you are waiting for an eternity, but it won’t seem long to your listeners. Try it. It’s unexpected, it’s attention getting, it’s effective . . . very effective.

8) To raise your salary, lower your voice.

An acoustic scientist at UCLA studied the characteristics of charismatic voices and found that lower-pitched male CEOs made up to $187,000 a year more than higher-pitched peers.

In the workplace, the quality of your voice can be a deciding factor in how you are perceived. Speakers with higher-pitched voices are judged to be less empathic, less powerful and more nervous than speakers with lower pitched voices. One easy technique I learned from a speech therapist was to put your lips together and say “Um hum, um hum, um hum.” Doing so relaxes your voice into its optimal pitch. This is especially helpful before you get on an important phone call – where the sound of your voice is so critical.

And watch that your voice doesn’t rise at the ends of sentences, which makes you sound as if you are asking a question or seeking approval. Instead, when stating your opinion, 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.

9) To power up your body language savvy, start with your feet.

When most people think about improving their body language, they focus primarily on facial expressions, posture, and hand gestures. Because feet go “unrehearsed,” they often tell more than you realize.

For example, if we were sitting and talking and your legs were stretched forward with your feet pointing at me – or If the toe of the leg that you crossed on top was pointing at me — I’d be pretty sure that we were relating well. But if you pulled your feet away in a tight ankle lock or wrapped them around the legs of your chair, I’d suspect that you were upset or uncomfortable.

And do you know that you often bounce your feet when you’re happy or excited? Bouncing or tapping feet are what professional poker players refer to as “happy feet” — a high-confidence tell signaling that a player’s hand is strong. You may be sending the same signal in a business negotiation when you feel you’re getting a good deal. But if your bouncing feet suddenly go still, it could be a sign that you’re unsure or waiting to see what will happen next – the equivalent of holding your breath.

It’s also fascinating to watch how people’s feet turn away from situations they want to avoid, and point in the direction they’d prefer to be. So, if you are speaking with a co-worker when you would rather be somewhere else, your upper body may be angled toward him, but your feet will most probably be turned toward the door.

Feet also have a lot to say about your self-confidence. When you feel insecure or anxious you may stand with your feet close together or with your legs crossed — or you might shift your weight from foot to foot. But when you widen your stance, and evenly distribute your weight on both feet, you look more “solid” and sure of yourself.

10)  To keep your New Year’s resolutions, get a grip.

Research at the National University of Singapore and the University of Chicago found that participants who tightened their muscles – gripping their hands, fingers, calves or biceps – were able to increase their self-control. It was, however, also found that muscle tightening only helped with willpower when the choices the participants faced aligned with their stated goals. So make sure you know what you really want – then get a grip  to help achieve it!

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is the author of The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.” The impact of body language on leadership effectiveness is a topic she addresses in keynote speeches and seminars on “The Power of Collaborative Leadership.” She can be reached at


How the Best Salespeople Read Body Language

Carol Kinsey Gorman on How the Best Salespeople Read Body LanguageBy Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Being aware of what customers and clients are really feeling, and knowing how to react effectively, can transform a good salesperson into a great one.

The best salespeople are experts at reading body language.

Here’s why this is a crucial sales skill: When you are interacting with a prospective client, you are both communicating on two levels – one verbal, one nonverbal. And while the verbal interchange is obviously important, it may not be the most important when negotiations get tricky or subtle personality complications arise.

During any kind of sales presentation, the most informative body language signals to monitor are your prospect’s engagement and disengagement behaviors. The former indicate interest, receptivity, or agreement with what you are saying. The latter show resistance, defensiveness, disagreement, and even hostility. All of these signals are revealed in a combination of eye activities, facial expressions, head movements, hand and arm gestures, torso positions, and leg and feet movement.

While it may sound like an impossible task to spot these nonverbal signals while keeping track of a complicated verbal negotiation with someone you may never have met before, remember that you’ve been reading and reacting unconsciously to body language cues all your life. What’s different now is that you’ll be taking conscious note of these signals, using them to gauge how things are going, and then making appropriate adjustment to ensure the best possible outcome.

So to begin with:

  1. Watch the eyes 

Having presented your prospect with two written options, you observe that his gaze lingers longer on one than on the other. If, in addition, you see his eyes open wide or his pupils dilate, you know for certain that he has a much greater interest in this option.

In general, people tend to look longer and with more frequency at people or objects they are drawn to. A person may be trying to appear uninterested, but his eyes will keep returning to the object that attracts him most.

The same holds for eye contact. Research suggests that maintaining eye contact between 60-70 percent of the time is ideal for creating rapport. And in a negotiation setting, when people like or agree with you, they automatically increase the length of time they look into your eyes.

Disengagement, contrarily, triggers less than normal eye contact. People tend to look away from things and people they don’t like. A prospect who is bored with you or feels restless may avoid eye contact entirely by gazing past you, defocusing, or glancing around the room. And, instead of opening wide, eyes that are signaling disengagement will narrow slightly. Eye narrowing may also be observed when people read various parts of a contract or proposal. When this occurs, it is almost always a sign of their having seen something troubling, or problematic.

Researchers have known for years that eye pupil size is a major clue in determining a person’s emotional responses. The pupils are a part of our body we have practically no control over. Therefore, pupil dilation can be a very effective way to gauge someone’s interest. Pupils dilate for various reasons, including memory load and cognitive difficulty, but pupils also dilate to express positive feelings about the person we’re talking to or the object we’re looking at. When someone is less than receptive, however, his or her pupils will automatically constrict.

  1. Notice facial expressions

Typically, someone who is in agreement with you will smile and nod as you speak. Disagreement shows up in compressed or pursed lips, lowered eyebrows, a tense mouth, clenched jaw muscles, or a head turned slightly away, causing an awkward sidelong eye contact.

  1. Learn what gestures are saying

In general, the more open the position of your customer’s arms, the more receptive he or she will be to the sales process. Watch for expansive, welcoming gestures that seem to flow naturally. When someone reaches toward you or uses a lot of open-hand gestures, it is usually a positive signal of interest and receptivity. By contrast, people who are defensive or angry may protectively fold their arms across their chests, clench their fists or tightly grip their arm or wrist.

As the negotiation progresses, hand and arm movements are one of the best indicators of changes in emotions. For example, when you start the conversation your prospect’s hands may be resting openly on the table. If they pull away or withdraw to under the table, it’s probably a signal that something unsettling or unwanted just happened. In contrast, if someone is about to make a sincere disclosure, they will usually show their hands — placing both hands on the table or gesturing as they speak.

  1. Notice shoulders and torso

The shoulders and torso play an important role in nonverbal communication. The more your customers/clients like and agree with you, the more they will lean toward you, or the more closely they will stand before or beside you. On the other hand, when you say or do things they disagree with or are uncertain about, the more they will tend to lean back and create additional space between the two of you.

When you see people turn their shoulders and torso away from you, you’ve probably lost their interest. In fact, orienting away from someone in this manner almost always conveys detachment or disengagement, regardless of the words spoken. When people are engaged, they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their torso. However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they will turn away – literally giving you “the cold shoulder.” And if someone is feeling defensive, you may see an attempt to shield the torso with a purse, briefcase, laptop, etc.

People who are in agreement tend to mirror one another’s behavior. One will lead and the other will follow. If you notice your prospect has assumed the same basic body orientation as yours, move slightly and see if he follows suit. If he does, you know you’ve made a positive connection.

  1. Read feet signals

Feet and legs are not only our primary means of locomotion, they are also the main indicators of our “ “fight, flight, or freeze” survival strategies. And they are programmed to respond faster than the speed of thought. Before we’ve had time to form any conscious plan, our limbic brain has already made sure that, depending on the situation, our feet and legs are primed to freeze in place, run away, or kick out in defense.

If someone is sitting with ankles crossed and legs stretched forward, they are probably feeling positively toward you. But when you see feet pulled away from you or wrapped in a tight ankle lock or pointed at the exit or wrapped around the legs of a chair, you would be wise to suspect withdrawal and disengagement.

Other signals from feet include:

  • High-energy heel bouncing almost always indicates that the party involved has “happy feet” – and is feeling pretty good about his bargaining position. And if your seated opponent rocks back on his heels and raises his toes – he probably thinks he has the upper hand.
  • In the opposite case, bouncing legs that suddenly go still is probably a sign of heightened anticipation – the equivalent of holding your breath.
  • Crossed legs send their own set of cues. If the foot on the leg that is crossed on top is pointing towards you, the person is most likely engaged. If the opposite leg is crossed so the top foot is pointing away, the person may be withdrawing.

In conclusion

Be observant without making it obvious, Trust your instinctive reactions but improve your accuracy by consciously analyzing the nonverbal signals being sent. And remember, you are already much better doing this than you may know. Successfully reading body language has helped the human race survive for the last several million years. The best salespeople have simply turned a survival skill into a savvy technique for success.

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is a global speaker, leadership presence coach, and media expert on body language in the workplace. She’s a leadership contributor for Forbes and author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.” Reach Carol by email:, telephone: 510-526-1727, or through her website: