I entered the cabin.
Me: “Sir! You gave me a low rating on my evaluation, but I did the most important job…and I did well.”
Boss: “Yeah! I did give you a low rating.”
Me: “So what happened? Why did you rate me low?”
Boss: “Irfan! It’s all about your negative facial expressions. Remember, I called you into my office when another manager was sitting right next to me. It was late and I’d asked you to attend to some emergency work at the site. At that time, your face shown totally negative expressions and I felt embarrassed in front of my colleague. No matter, you ultimately accepted the job.”
As I left the cabin, his words were shaking my brain like balls on the snooker table that move upon a stroke. Fortunately, for me, he was straightforward in telling me the reason, which most bosses don’t ever tell you.
If there is one thing that every boss hates, it’s negative facial expressions. They show you aren’t actually willing. They show that even if you end up accepting the job, you won’t do it right. They show you aren’t mentally and physically prepared to take up the challenge.
Negative expressions reveal an entire flurry of your inner thoughts…
Especially when you show negativity in critical situations — e.g., a hike in workload, the wrong product reaches the customers, senior management pops in for a surprise visit, project deadlines exceeded. In such situations, your boss will not take at all kindly to your negative facial expressions. If he feels offended, he can even ruin your career.
From my own perspective, I can’t stand those juniors who display a negative attitude. Think about this for a moment! Do you also feel like this? Sometimes, when we visualize the same situation in a different context, we can better understand it. [This is called framing in psychology, specifically in neuro-linguistic programming(NLP).]
However, those who readily accept the new challenges with positivity on their faces win the situations. They are like those ministers who know when to seize the power. Bosses feel comfortable assigning them jobs and rely on them in difficult situations. On top of that, they enjoy discussing ideas and strategies with them.
One of my seniors had exactly this quality. Though he was worst in terms of his actual work performance, he was best at taking on challenges and pushing his juniors to achieve the objectives of the task. As soon as a new task was assigned, he would run to the boss’s office to show his enthusiasm for the job. He would throw ideas into the arena and start planning how he’d approach it. He would pass on instructions to his juniors in front of his boss and would show he was fully on board with the task in hand. When he was not in his boss’s office, you would find him eating salad and taking tea.
He knew when and where he had to apply his energy. He often used to fascinate me with his power of communication.
I don’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t focus on the quality of work. But recognizing the value of positive body language is my point.
In professional culture, a straight “No” is usually not possible. Most of the jobs assigned fall within the remit of the job holder. The way employees refuse the job is using negative expressions, avoiding contact with their bosses, taking leave, or showing they are too busy.
In such situations, bosses simply end up seeking out those who adopt an all-around positive approach.
. . .
Clear signs of negative body language
We can all immediately spot a negative expression on someone’s face, but in fact, it also signifies a wholly negative body language behind it too.
Negative body language has many outward signs:
Not making eye contact and looking away during the course of a conversation
- Looking impatiently to the watch on hand or clock on the wall (as you want to go home…)
- Keeping your arms crossed throughout the entire meeting and trying to force a smile
- Having a slumped posture and frowning when your boss is giving a long lecture
- Biting or pursing your lips upon hearing some harsh remarks
- Covering your face with your hand or some other object — as though trying to hide yourself
LeAnne Lagasse has written an authoritative story titled, “3 Body Language Mistakes Leaders Make”. In addition to revealing her thoughts about disoriented body language and negative/stressed facial expressions, she has declared physical space is also responsible for nonverbal mistakes.
. . .
Body language clicks before you speak
One quote I found highly thought-provoking is this:
“Your body language, your eyes, your energy will come through to your audience before you even start speaking”. — Peter Guber, an American Entrepreneur
How often do you speak in your office?
Most of the time, our body language speaks for us. When we enter our boss’s office or when he approaches us, our body language tells him everything. This mostly transmits as an automatic response to the brain of others (Fast thinking — a term used by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow).
In religious scriptures, it is mentioned, that at the end of the world, your hands and other body parts will speak instead of your tongue. Isn’t it interesting…
. . .
So how can you correct it?
To correct negative body language, you must first convince your mind you’re ready to face challenges. If necessary, you can stay office till late, you can rise early morning, you can take on more work in exceptional circumstances, and you can conduct yourself calmly even in the trickiest of situations.
But it’s a fact that our body language falls apart when we have to do things we don’t want to do. So how come we can display bad body language when working on things we’re interested in?
Our body language gets worse when we face undesirable situations. When we put our body or mind in a state of discomfort. When other employees are idle and you’re the only one left working. When you can’t go home while others have already left. When you have to stand under the heat of the sun or in cold supervising your staff.
When we convince and train our minds for the worse situation, we start getting hold of our body language. We start learning how to stay normal and even how to show passion.
Mahatma Gandhi rightly said,
“ A man is product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”
Practice will make it perfect.
Convincing the mind won’t be enough, however. Body language is a habit, and improving body language requires practice.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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