Use the New Body Language to Defeat Your Office Nemesis

Are you your own worst enemy?

Posted Apr 20, 2010

At some point, you've probably experienced workplace frustrations with an "office nemesis" whose second job seems to be making yours more difficult. These are the people you dread seeing each and every day. They may second-guess your every move, stubbornly throw out roadblocks, or otherwise stand in your way. There are plenty of body language techniques you can use to help control confrontations with these hard-headed co-workers, but oftentimes your office nemesis is far more insidious—it is yourself. If you're one of tens of millions of Americans suffering from severe shyness, you may feel like your own worst enemy. You could be the one always second-guessing yourself, throwing up unnecessary roadblocks, and standing in your own way. The good news is that you can change your body to change your mind, shake off shyness, and command your life. 

If you're feeling shy, unsure, or anxious, chances are your body language is revealing your lack of self-confidence to your co-workers. But don't despair, there's plenty you can do to turn it around and start dazzling your co-workers with your confidence. 

Short Fat Candle

In my New York Times best-selling book You Say More Than You Think, I talk about two different kinds of stances—the "Short, Fat Candle" and the "Tall, Skinny Candle." Imagine bumping into a table with a tall, skinny, tapered candle on it—that candle's going to topple over. If you bump the same table with a short, fat candle on it, the candle remains steadfast. A "Tall, Skinny Candle" stance, where your feet are fewer than six inches apart, appears to others to be much more precarious and unstable (you'll literally look like a pushover). Instead, stand with a "Short, Fat Candle" stance with your feet six to ten inches apart. You'll appear grounded, confident, and powerful. 

Open Power Zones

It may be comfortable to stand with your hands clasped in front of you or folded across your chest, but be careful of the message you're sending to your co-workers. You have three "power zones" on your body: the neck dimple, bellybutton, and "naughty bits" (groin area). With each one you cover, you give up more of your power. Keep your power zones open and you'll feel and look more confident.

Stand up for Yourself
If you suffer from severe shyness, taking the public speaking plunge can be scarier than sky diving over a volcano. To help ease your anxiety prior to a presentation, get up and stand at the front of the room while your colleagues filter in. Not only will this get you used to being the single focal point for everyone's eyeballs, you'll also be in a position of power relative to your audience. If you're filled with nervous energy, move around the room to engage your co-workers in conversation—they'll be forced to look up to you, reminding them (and yourself) who's in control.

Remember: confidence breeds confidence. If you appear to be confident in yourself others will pick up on it and be confident in your abilities!

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