Playing with your hair.
Checking your phone.
Let’s face it. We’ve all been in meetings where these things have happened….and we all know what they mean. Crossed arms signal defensiveness. Fidgeting signals discomfort. Checking your phone signals disinterest. Oftentimes, these non-verbal cues speak louder than words. As managers, it’s crucial we are hyper aware of our non-verbal communication and what it does to our team.
Below are 5 non-verbal cues you may not know you’re doing, but that drive direct reports and peers further away from you.
1. Negative facial expressions.
When someone approaches you, what does your initial facial reaction look like? Is it of stress/confusion, or is there a smile on your face or wide eyes and raised eyebrows, showing interest? Are you approachable? When someone is talking to you, does your expression scream bored or interested?
2. Intonation and speed of speech.
Are you speeding through feedback? Are people nervous to “bother” you because you always seem to rush, or come off as having limited time? Is the tone of your voice frantic, or is it calm and at ease?
When someone is asking you a question, are your fingers still on your keyboard? Do you completely stop what you’re doing and stop and turn towards them? Do you look them directly in the eyes until they are done speaking?
4. Body language.
Do your shoulders shrink when someone approaches you? Do your “hackles” raise when you are bracing for a fight? Are you slouching or standing up tall? Giving a barely audible sigh? This makes your team think you’re annoyed, or worse, annoyed with them. It comes off as stressed, and they may avoid approaching with any questions, which can slow down any process.
5. Alert and responsiveness.
Are you slow to give someone attention? Do you hold up your finger signaling them to wait? Are you always doing this? Are you in tune with their emotions? Do you watch their facial expressions and gauge how they respond, or are you watching what’s happening around you? Are you picking up on their non-verbal cues? Are you being attentive?
While these can be difficult to self-evaluate, ask your peers, your manager and the team that reports in to you. Get their candid feedback on your non-verbal communication and how that impacts their communication with you. It may be tough to hear initially, but it will make you a stronger people leader in the long term.