Business magazine Forbes.com has posted a video on the four body language errors make in business meetings. (You can see it here.)
Some might well dispute that common female behaviour in business meetings constitutes an error but the Forbes.com video argues that women who want to have status and authority at work should avoid these behaviours. (I guess a lot of women would rather have fun and interest in what they’re doing but there are no doubt women who go for the whole status and authority thing at work…)
The first error listed is head tilting. When people tilt their heads it signals that they’re receptive and listening. But apparently women are too prone to tilt their heads in business meetings, and at work generally, and when it’s done too often it’s unconsciously received by others as signalling submission.
The second error is taking up too little space. If you’ve ever sat in a meeting with a very large female colleague you will of course snort with laughter and say “No-one could ever accuse of Marie-Anne/Billie-Jean/Anna-Lise of taking up too little space.” The point, however, is that often, relative to their more assertive male colleagues, women tend to keep their elbows by their sides and keep their papers and/or laptop neatly in front of them. Males with high status in the business are apparently more likely to spread out, splosh their papers around them and take up all the space they want.
The third error is ‘acting girly’. The presenter of the video says that business women are too prone to giggle, twirl their hair and fiddle with jewellery in business meetings. All of which will signal that they’re not to be taken too seriously and that they’re – well – girly.
The fourth and final error is smiling too much. Submission again. Smiling is great and often helps meetings go well – people may relax, co-operate, exchange information freely and come up with good ideas in a nice smiley environment. But the video indicates that if women smile too much they’re seen as unserious and unassertive. Their status and authority go out of the window.
So if you’re a woman and status and authority at work is one of your goals in life (please – rethink!) the video may make you reassess your business meeting behaviour.
At the next meeting of the International Sales Department or Systems Development Strategy Team you’d better march in with your head held straight. Plonk your laptop, papers, folder, cell phone, coffee and sandwich down on the table to left and right. Don’t worry if you spill a bit of coffee. It all helps to take up space. Sit back in your chair and fold your arms behind your head, spreading your elbows out wide. Put your feet up on the desk. Smoke a cigar so no-one can accuse you of acting girly. Don’t wear any jewellery. And have your hair cropped before you go in.
Once you start talking,scowl.
One of two things will happen.
Either everyone will sit up in shock and take notice and you’ll get a promotion to that insanely pressured job you don’t want. Or everyone will gawp at you and say “What the hell happened to Tracy? Looks like she’s had a nervous breakdown.”