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Important Attributes Of Body Language Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 3294 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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An ideal manager avoids adaptors that convey negative meaning e.g. fidgeting or playing with objects to indicate nervousness. Also, an ideal manager effectively utilizes various gestures, which are referred to as kinesics by researchers, to give clues that he / she is actively listening to a conversation or to communicate his / her agreement or disagreement over an argument.

Facial expression and eye contact: Facial expressions convey various human emotions and an ideal manager uses facial management techniques to convey right expression at right time. Managers can exhibit confidence and earn credibility by making and maintaining constant eye contact with their audience.

Personal space: Although not a direct part of nonverbal communication giving appropriate personal space to a person depending upon his / her preference, liking, gender and age is a key consideration for an ideal manager while trying to project a good image.

Touch: At workplace an ideal manager can use touch to communicate nonverbally either in a social context or business context. The professional touch is businesslike and impersonal.

The external factors that affect the body language of a manager at work place are:

Regional effects: An ideal manager should be aware of the regional interpretations of various body language signals e.g. nodding of head might signal a “yes” in some regions whereas same gesture may be interpreted as a “no” in others.

Gender effects: The gender of a manager affects the message communicated by his / her body language.

Status effects: Body language signals given and interpreted by individuals depend upon the status that the person holds in society or at workplace. Managers at various levels in hierarchy in an organization need to adopt different style of nonverbal communication.

Culture effects: The degree and rules of expression of some aspects of nonverbal communication differ across cultures. With increasing globalization a manager should be cognizant of the cultural context of the audience to be able to effectively utilize nonverbal communication.




Turabian / Chicago style of formatting has been followed while creating this report.

Business and managerial communication may be defined as the use of language or graphics in business. While the two important parts of managerial communication viz. written and oral communications take center stage, managers tend to overlook nonverbal communication which forms an equally important aspect of their communication. Nonverbal communication may constitute two-thirds or more of total communication. Since nonverbal signals can be very helpful in responding to others and making stronger connections with clients and colleagues they can be used by managers to create an impression about themselves.

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Body language plays a very important role in our day-to-day business activities. Since a role of manager demands that he / she achieves the goals with or through other people the need for good interpersonal skills becomes increasingly important. Nonverbal communication forms a very important part of interpersonal communication along with verbal and written communication. Mastering nonverbal communication helps manager decode the silent signals of others and align their body language with the attitude they want to project thus gaining a competitive advantage in business.

Excelling in nonverbal communication can help manager excel in following areas:

Leadership: To be able to influential as a leader it is important for managers to understand the message that employee’s want to communicate both verbally and nonverbally and to be able to effectively communicate congruently by aligning spoken words with their body language.

Negotiation: Acquiring understanding of body language helps manager correctly read between the lines of what people are saying. This can act as an effective tool along with ability to establish credibility using good body language in process of negotiation.

Sales: Ability to convey nonverbal cues effectively helps manager sell their ideas and products.

Customer service: Understanding customer’s needs by their nonverbal signals can go a long way in delivering customer delight.

Given the importance that nonverbal communication holds in professional life of a manager it is very important to understand various attributes that are associated with body language of an ideal manager and factors that affect the same. This research has been undertaken to analyze these attributes and their impact on communicating nonverbal cues effectively by a manager. This report outlines the analysis of these attributes and factors and draws some conclusions that will be helpful for managers to understand how they can effectively incorporate nonverbal communication at workplace.


The purpose of this research is to identify and analyze:

What are the attributes that affect the body language of a manager?

How can a manager effectively incorporate nonverbal cues to align body language with verbal communication?

What are the external factors that affect nonverbal communication?

The scope of this research is limited to:

Nonverbal communication at workplace

Nonverbal communication for managers



In the workplace, people can convey a great deal of information without even speaking; this is called nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication can convey more than written and verbal communication, and human beings read and react to these nonverbal signals in the workplace. As per the cited study by Prof. Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, words, tone of voice and body language account for 7%, 38% and 55% of personal communication. Body language is kind of nonverbal communication that involves body movement and gestures, which communications researchers call kinesics. There are numbers of possible signs that can be communicated through body movements and gestures. In addition to body movements and gestures, the nonverbal cues can be expressed through facial expressions and eye contact, personal space, and touch, influence individual interactions in the workplace. In present dynamic business scenario, the quality of a good Manager seeks to communicate effectively through Non Verbal cues i.e. body movements and gestures, facial expression etc.

Body movement and gestures:

Movement and gestures are key components of body language. Gestures or movements of the head, hands, arms, and legs can be used to convey specific messages that have important linguistic translations.Here are some helping tips to use gestures and movement effectively:

How to stand: One should stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees relaxed. Body weight should be evenly distributed on both feet. Nervous pacing or shifting of one foot to other needs to be avoided. Stand up straight. One’s shoulders should be back and his/her head held high so he/she can make eye contact. This particular posture shows confidence and helps one breathe more fully.

What to do with your hands: Hands always need to place in the “neutral position,” hanging loosely at both sides, so they will be available for natural gestures. Both arms folded across the chest is a universal gesture that signifies defensiveness or negativity. It signals an attempt to ‘hide’ from an unfavourable situation. It can also signify disagreement, discontentment or discomfort. An ideal Manager should always be aware of these facts. Hands in pockets to be avoided since it can lead to a sloppier posture. Hands should be empty. Hand gesture can be used in conveying many important messages. If one must hold something (notes or the PowerPoint remote), he must be aware of what he is doing. One must not point at the audience.

How to Use Gestures: Gestures can help in communicating one’s ideas and a little goes a long way. Use of a variety of smooth, deliberate and natural gestures supports and visually illustrates a Manager’s message very effectively to audiences. A relaxed posture while walking or during a meeting always needs to be maintained. Relaxed posture indicates one is comfortable in his/her surroundings and not under stress. Even if in a stressful work atmosphere, one Manager’s calmness and relaxed posture help others around to feel more comfortable and to have more faith in his abilities to lead and delegate responsibilities. In workplace, it is often common that we offer handshake when we are introduced to a new individual. Handshake is a gesture of welcome: The interlocking of palms signifies openness and the touching signifies solidarity. The styles of handshakes are generally governed by the attitudes of a person, namely a) Dominance b) Submission c) Equality. For a manager, it is important generally in a workplace, he goes with the equality attitude. Researchers also categorize certain nonverbal behaviours called adaptors, which are typically unconscious behaviours and are used when a person is tense or anxious. Examples of adaptors are adjusting one’s clothes, biting one’s nails, cracking of knuckles, or fidgeting and toying with an object. These indicate to others that a person is upset or nervous, and such kind of behaviour during a meeting with a co-worker may be interpreted very negatively. A Manager engaged in such behaviour may be seen as preoccupied or anxious. Gestures and movement provide the visuals that accompany your words. Learning to use them effectively helps to convey one’s message with confidence and the audience will see the message instead of just hearing it. But use any gesture that is irrelevant to the message is strictly not recommended.

Facial expressions and eye contact:

Facial expressions and eye contacts are types of nonverbal communication that go very closely with body language and can have an noticeable effect on business relations. Researchers have found that people can identify with great accuracy seven separate human emotions, even after seeing only facial and eye expressions: sadness, happiness, anger, fear, surprise, contempt, and interest. Therefore, without speaking a word, a facial expression can convey a great deal of information to others. The face is the primary source of emotions. Similarly, eye contact or lack of eye contact can also indicate a person’s attitudes and emotions. “There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.” A simple smile can make others feel more at ease where a frown can make people see that one is aggressive or unsure of something. We use facial expressions to get our points across in the right context. For example, your message would suffer if you were saying how angry you are with a huge smile. Similarly use of positive facial expression with a genteel smile becomes very effective while a Manager tries to convince one of his clients. Eye movement is a key part of facial behaviour because the eyes are invariably involved in facial displays.When someone talks to you, do they look directly at you or look away? Maintaining eye contact when talking (or listening) to someone gives an impression that one is confident and honest. Making little eye contact gives a different kind of impression, like one is nervous or shy. The direct stare of the speaker can show candour or openness. Downward glances are generally associated with modesty; eyes rolled upwards are conveyed as a sign of fatigue.

Personal space:

Researchers use the term proxemic to describe the way that a person uses space in communication. Each individual has a personal space, which is like an invisible bubble surrounding them. This bubble becomes larger or smaller, depending on the person with whom we interact. We are comfortable standing or sitting closer to someone we like and standing or sitting at a distance with someone we dislike or don’t know well. However, the amount of personal space that a person desires depends on many characteristics, including culture, situation, closeness of relationship, gender and age. One can use physical space to communicate many different nonverbal messages, including signals of intimacy, aggression, dominance, or affection. The most important observation one can make about a room full of people is the personal space each person commands. Human nature dictates that people considered more powerful are typically awarded greater personal space by the other people in the room. Research data shows that, while interacting with friends, relatives, or conducting casual business, most people prefer a distance of one and a half to four feet. When conducting formal or impersonal business, most individuals prefer a personal space of 4 to 8 feet. Therefore, a person is likely to be more comfortable standing closely to a trusted co-worker than to a new customer. A good Manager must be aware of these kinds of behaviours to effectively convey his/her position and authority.


In the workplace, people may use touch to communicate nonverbally. The functional-professional touch is business-like and impersonal. The social-polite touch, such as a handshake, is much more common. This type of touch is used to recognize other individuals. It is an expected touch in many business settings. Finally, the friendship-warmth touch shows how one treats another as a person. A pat on the back or a hug is a friendship-warmth touch. In most workplaces, the social-polite touch is the only necessary touch, and most Managers are encouraged to avoid the friendship-warmth touch in the workplace. Many people see a hand on a shoulder or a pat on the back as a useful touch to convey encouragement or concern for another’s well-being. Finally, personal space and touch are used differently in different nations. Americans tend to prefer larger amounts of personal space than do some Indians, Latin Americans, Italians, and Middle-Easterners. Germans, Chinese, and Japanese prefer larger amounts of personal space, similar to what Americans prefer. Thus, when conducting business with people from other cultures, it is important to understand and respect their personal space needs.


Regional effects:  People across the world recognize a set of common gestures. For an ideal manager, this is a great boon as there is no huge task of ensuring that his/her non-verbal cues are not misinterpreted. It is however important that the ideal manager is aware of the differences of meaning. For example, research shows that the shoulder shrug is a universal gesture. It means that the person who makes the gesture does not know whatever was asked for him. Gestures like clapping would mean calling somebody or could mean just plain applause. Although greetings change cross different countries, there are number of features which are common: Close Proximity, direct orientation, eyebrow flash, smiling, mutual gaze, body contact, presenting the pal,- either visibly or for shaking. Similarly, gestures that denote emotions are very similar across cultures.

Gender effects: The gender also decides the interpretation of gestures. For a male manager if he is in doing a presentation, with his hands in his pockets, it will be seen as gesture which shows his nervousness or insecurity. However the same gesture when a woman does, it is interpreted as aggression.

Status effects: Research studies have shown that high-ranking officials resort to fewer gestures than their subordinates. The less educated rely more on gestures than on communication based on words.

Culture effects: Different cultures have different interpretations of nonverbal cues. Moreover, an acceptable gesture in one culture might be considered as an offensive one in another culture. Hence, it becomes very important to take into consideration the cultural context of the audience while trying to use nonverbal communication. An ideal manager, equipped with knowledge of culture effects on body language, can effectively use nonverbal cues to communicate with target audience.


Body language constitutes 55% of the person communication of a manager. The image projected of an ideal manager is the sum total of various attributes of his non verbal communication; body movement, eye contact, touch and personal space. There are variations in the body language of a manager, depending on the set environment and sex. In spite of these extraneous influences, it is possible to identify some typical behavioral patterns that define his/her personality in positive and negative way. Many researches and observation have provided some standards for the observable attributes of the body language of an ideal manager.

Body language of a manager is an integral part of communication across businesses and regional settings. There are some expected/favored attributes that can be developed to project an ideal image of a manager. Though these non-verbal communications are in a way natural reflection of overall social and educational upbringing of a being, these can be developed as well. The study of body language is a developed science and provides sufficient aids to a keen learner. There are some regional, status and gender influences on the body language and these distinctions are imperative to be known to managers communicating with wide range of people across geographies and culture.



Sketch of personality of the manager as defined by his / her body language:

Nonverbal Message/Body Language

Typical Interpretation

Making Direct Eye Contact

Self-Confident, Assertive, Friendly, Sincere

Avoiding Eye Contact

Nervous, Evasive, Indifferent, Passive

Erect posture (head up, shoulders back)

Self-confident, Assertive


Contended, Understanding, Encouraging

Clenching hands

Nervous, Anxious, Fearful

Shaking Head

Disagreeing, Shocked, Disbelieving

Biting the lip

Worried, Anxious

Raising eyebrows

Disbelieving, Surprising

Folding arms

Defensive, Disagreeing

Open arms


Leaning forward

Attentive, Interested

Patting on the back

Encouraging, Congratulatory, Consoling


Impatient, Nervous

Chin Stroking

Making a decision

Slouching in seat

Bored, Uninterested

Eye roll

Dismissive gesture that indicates superiority

Tilted to one side

Showing interest

Scratching the head



Kurien, Daisy. 2010. Body Language: Silent Communicator at the Workplace. The IUP Journal of Soft Skills, Vol. IV, Nos. 1 and 2: 29-36

Zhou, Hui and Zhang, Tingqin. 2010. Body Language in Business Negotiation. International Journal of Business and Management, Vol. 3, No. 2, http://www.ccsenet.org/journal

/index.php/ijbm/article/viewFile/1680/1588 (accessed 18 August 2010): 90-96

Dumbrava, Gabriela and Koronka, Adriana. 2009. Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Body Language in Business Communication. Annals of the University of PetroÅŸani, Economics, 9(3): 249-254


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