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Businesswomen: Mind Your (Body) Language!

It is known that there are two body language cues that followers look for in leaders: warmth (empathy, likeability, caring) and authority (power, credibility, status).

Whilst these characteristics are needed for male or female leaders, gender differences in body language are apparent. Generally, women 'win' in warmth and empathy, but lose out when it comes to power and authority.

Body language is a critical part of the way in which you communicate, so if a businesswoman wants to send powerful, credible, and confident leadership message, she needs to be aware of her non-verbal signals too.

Here are nine mistakes women leaders can make without even realising it:

  1. Too many head tilts: head tilting is a signal that someone is listening and involved, and is a particularly feminine gesture. Head tilts are empathetic, but also subconsciously submissive. Women who want to project power and authority should keep their heads in a more neutral position and tilt it occasionally
  2. The have less physical presence: most women and less-confident men tend to pull in their bodies and minimize their size, whilst high status males expand and take up more room. So, when you're preparing for a meeting, spread out your belongings, sit or stand tall, and take a strong position
  3. Excessive smiling: Smiling is best used occasionally in business. Excessive or inappropriate smiling can confuse and reduce credibility
  4. Too much nodding: Nod only in agreement to endorse opinions. Avoid nodding when listening to, empathizing with, or encouraging a speaker to continue as this can give an unwitting endorsement
  5. Too much voice intonation: A woman’s voice often rises at the end of a sentence as if she’s asking a question or seeking for approval. When stating an opinion, use the authoritative tone where your voice starts on one note, rises in pitch through the sentence and drops back down at the end
  6. Passivity in negotiations: When getting to the business end of a discussion, men will try to take over, and are happy to interrupt to make their opinion count. Often agreement is made before a politer businesswoman has a chance to share an opinion. Interrupt, be heard, don't wait until it's too late
  7. Too much emotion: animated movements and voice variations can add passion, but only when used selectively. Choose your moments, otherwise keep calm and contained to retain greater credibility and impact
  8. Weak handshakes: a weak handshake puts you at an immediate disadvantage. Make sure your “professional shake” is firm and confident. Keep your body square to the other person and face him or her fully. Ensure palm-to-palm touch accompanies eye contact. Use this time to also repeat the persons' name to memorise it
  9. They flirt with others: you may gain attention, but not the right kind. The risk is that you become marginalised. A recent Berkeley sales study showed that flirts are offered, on average, 20 percent less

So, the next time you find yourself in a business environment, try to spot if you're making any of these mistakes. Apply our suggestions to let your body language to give you the edge when it comes to meetings, negotations and your future career.

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