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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Add an open a body language at your project


I don’t claim to be an expert on body language, although I do remember being given a course on it a number of years ago. However, I have been in enough meetings and spoken to enough different types of people to have an idea what someone is unconsciously telling me when we are face to face.

Body language which is negative or difficult to interpret can cause a lot of problems in your projects and it is something which you might not even be aware of. The following are a few of the best tips I have come across to help you turn this issue to your advantage instead of it being a problem.

Be Open and Welcoming

If you think about it you probably already know perfectly well when you are giving out an open, welcoming vibe and when you appear negative and hostile to others. This is particularly important in meetings and workshops but it is also a big factor to bear in mind when it comes to any sort of face to face dealings you might have with your stakeholders, your bosses, the business experts and your project team. The classic hostile look of crossed arms and defensive body position is something which you will definitely want to avoid, although it is a pose we can easily slip into without even realizing that we are doing it. There are a number of ways of opening up your body language in a welcoming way which will let others relax and see that you are open about bringing them into the piece of work. If you go online and check for body language tips you will find plenty of step by step guides and photos to help you achieve this quickly and simply.

Show Your Honest Intentions

Another danger with the body language you display on your projects is that you might appear to be attempting to hide the truth. Any body language expert will tell you about some of the nervous hand and eye movements which give away the fact that someone who is telling an untruth. However, if you are simply nervous about running the meeting or about some aspect of the work then you might make this kind of gesture without even being aware of it. While you are looking for details of how to appear to more open and welcoming to the people you deal with you should look at this aspect of body language as well. If you are being completely honest with the people you are dealing with then you won’t want some sort of misunderstanding to make think otherwise. Maintaining good eye contact is a find start here and while this can be difficult for some people to master consistently it is definitely something you need to be able to do at your meetings if you are going to come across as being as honest as you are.

Deal with Cultural Differences

One of the most fascinating parts of modern project work is the fact that it can put us in contact with colleagues and customers from all over the planet. This makes the job even more interesting than it would otherwise be but there is also a potential drawback. This is the fact that body language and hand signals are interpreted differently all over the world, so you could misunderstand people from other cultures and they could misunderstand you as well. The first example I can think of was when I had to talk to an Indian colleague to ask him to do me a favor. As I set about explaining what I needed done he began to shake his head in what I took to be a “no” gesture, which seemed really rude as I hadn’t even asked him to do anything yet.  I almost gave up on him at this point but I kept going and he agreed to do what I asked with no problems at all. It was only later that I discovered that Indians tend to shake their head from side to side when they are listening intently, which doesn’t mean to say that they are giving you a negative answer. When it comes to your own body language, you could easily be misinterpreted by people from other cultures if you do something as simple as make an “ok” sign or hold up a certain number of fingers. If you are going to be dealing with foreigners on your project then it makes sense to do a bit of research on the body language they use in their country.

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