A limp handshake from a superior.  A forced grin from an employee.  A grimace from a client. These nonverbal cues can ruin relationships before they begin — all before a word is spoken.

Your team members and co-workers hear what you say and read your memos (maybe), but if you sense a lack of respect, direction, or results, it may not be a result of anything you say or the work you’ve done.

Do you assume you carry yourself well and have no need to study body language and nonverbal cues?  Maybe a quick summary of how bad body language can hold you back from success will convince you otherwise.

Bad Body Language Kills Your Confidence

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy found that even faking positive body language can have measurable impacts on your hormone levels. The way we carry ourselves has a large impact on how others view us, but also how we view ourselves.

Cuddy had test subjects simply rest in body positions of power for two minutes. Saliva samples showed a 20 percent increase in testosterone (competition, confidence) coupled with a 25 percent drop in cortisol (stress). As you can guess, the results were the opposite for subjects asked to sit in submissive positions.

“So two minutes lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be either assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress-reactive, and feeling sort of shut down,” Cuddy said in her TED Talk. “And we’ve all had the feeling, right? So it seems that our nonverbals do govern how we think and feel about ourselves, so it’s not just others, but it’s also ourselves. Also, our bodies change our minds.”

When we feel strong and capable it’s easier to project positive energy toward others.

Bad Body Language Cloaks Your Ability

While your positive body language does wonders for your hormones and makes you more confident, it attracts approval from others as well.

The way you stand, sit, smile, and speak makes you more likable and appear more competent. On the flip side, poor nonverbal habits open you up for poor perceptions you may not deserve.

Consider the effects positive, strong body language can have during client meetings, one-on-ones with employees, or even job interviews.

When those you interact with find you both likable and competent, making the sale or landing a job gets that much easier.

Bad Body Language Pushes Others Away

Let’s revisit that limp handshake from your boss. Is that the person you want to discuss your career with? Probably not, because now you perceive him as weak, aloof, and likely incompetent.

Now turn the mirror onto yourself and recall interactions you may have had with members of your team. Like what you see?

Emotional intelligence is greatly increased when you practice positive body language. Others will gravitate toward you and be more honest and trusting when you’re perceived as genuine, caring, and competent.


At Experience to Lead, our Normandy and Waterloo experiences teach leaders how to develop an executive presence to align a team, while our Gettysburg experiences show you how to cultivate trust and cohesion — much of which is aided by positive nonverbals.

Though body language may not be the biggest key to a successful team on the battlefield or conference room, science shows something as small as poor posture or a limp handshake is enough to crack the foundation.