In the business world and in social situations, women need ways to show their confidence. Body language is a great way to assert control and communicate strength and power, but it can also tell the opposite story. What should and shouldn’t women do with their body language?
Here are some do’s and don’ts for women who want to use their body language to appear more powerful:
Don’t bobblehead: A common body language mistake women make is to over-nod. This happens during conversations when a woman wants to show agreement or congeniality and nods as the other person speaks. From afar, this looks a bit like a bobblehead doll. While it can show friendliness, it is also the sign of a pushover. Nod only when you really agree with someone, not by default.
Don’t fake-smile: Women have been taught from a young age to ‘smile and nod’ while in conversation in order to be likable. The problem is, fake smiling is not only a sign of weakness, but it is also disingenuous. Instead of plastering a smile on your face, save your pearly whites for when you first meet someone and when you actually find something agreeable. This will make people appreciate your grin.
Don’t peer over your glasses: A signature move of some judges is to look over her glasses disdainfully at the people in her courtroom. Nonverbally, this is a cue of superiority and scorn. If you wear glasses, try not to peer over them at people. It makes you look distant and snobby.
Don’t self-touch: When women are nervous they tend to tuck their hair behind their ears or fiddle with their jewelry. These are low-confidence gestures. Women also flip their hair over their shoulder or lightly touch their neck and face area as this highlights the curvature and roundness of the face. You do not want to do this in a business situation — it is the opposite of showing professional power.
Don’t point: Be careful not to point at people or up in the air while making points. It often triggers people’s memories of a school marm or nagging mom. If you want to gesture while you speak, use an open palm or the A-OK thumb-to-index finger gesture. These are both positive nonverbal cues and help you look more approachable and confident.
Do claim your territory: When women want to assert power, they can stand with feet spread a bit further apart than their shoulder width. This ‘claiming of territory’ is a cue to others that you are feeling strong and confident. When women are nervous, they tend to take up as little space as possible — crossing their legs and tucking their arms into the chair or folding them over their chest, but this looks weak. When you walk into a room, be confident in your movements — don’t tuck in your legs, cross your arms or turtle your shoulders. A strong posture makes you look powerful.
Do steeple: Steepling is when someone brings their hands up in front of their chest and presses the tips of their fingers together. This is a gesture of confidence and self-assuredness. It can easily be done to inspire confidence in yourself and others before or during a meeting or event.