“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know”- American entrepreneur Jim Rohn
Good leaders can inspire their team members to work towards a common goal and achieve results. However, to be a successful leader, you need to understand your team members and their needs.
One way to do this is by reading the room, which involves observing the body language of team members in meetings. “Are people interested in what you are sharing? Or are you just making noise in front of a group of people who aren’t processing what you are saying? It took me a long time to learn how to read rooms and understand the subtle science of body language!” said a marketing executive from a reputed agency in North East India
We will discuss how you can observe body language in team meetings to win trust and achieve results.
What is Body Language?
Body language is a non-verbal communication method that involves the use of physical behaviors to convey a message. This includes facial expressions, gestures, posture, and eye movements.
If you notice someone vacantly staring into space, you will know they are mentally absent from your presentation. If someone is nodding their head or making eye contact with you, it would be a sure sign of interest.
Body language can often communicate more than words, as it provides insight into a person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions. It is often the fine line between gaining the trust of your team or losing the deal altogether.
Why is Reading the Room Important?
Reading the room is important because it allows you to understand how your team members are feeling and what they are thinking. This information can help you adjust your leadership style and communication approach to meet their needs.
When team members feel understood and valued, they are more likely to trust you as a leader, which can lead to improved performance and results. If leaders continue whatever they are doing while ignoring their team’s body language, people will just get more frustrated.
Imagine a teacher keeps talking even after the bell rings. She continues to talk oblivious to the fact that half the class is resenting her. The same goes for any corporate scenario where leaders are ignorant of how their solutions are received.
“I was once delivering a presentation suggesting changes in the management to incentivize our staff. Halfway through the meeting, I noticed some employees sharing side-eye glances and covering their smirks. I stopped the meeting right there and politely extracted their concerns. It helped us ditch the plan altogether and form a new one that was aligned with their needs,” said a senior HR member from a firm in South India.
Observing Micro Expressions
Microexpressions are fleeting facial expressions that are often difficult to detect, as they occur quickly and unconsciously. However, they can reveal a person’s true emotions, even if they are trying to hide them.
As a leader, it is important to observe micro-expressions to gain insight into how your team members are feeling. Even the smallest and potentially insignificant members of your office could count. Suppose your watchman opens your door with a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. Would you conclude he is satisfied with his job just owing to his superficial smile?
For example, if a team member is smiling but their eyes are downcast, it could indicate that they are not genuinely happy or engaged in the conversation. Alternatively, if a team member’s eyebrows are furrowed and their lips are pressed together, it could indicate that they are feeling frustrated or angry.
Microaggressions are subtle and often unintentional behaviors that can be hurtful or insulting to marginalized individuals. As a leader, it is important to be aware of microaggressions in team meetings to create a safe and inclusive environment for all team members.
For example, if a team member consistently interrupts or talks over another team member, it could be a microaggression that undermines the other person’s contributions. Another example is making assumptions about a team member based on their race, gender, or other identity markers, which can lead to feelings of exclusion and disrespect.
Tips for Observing Body Language
Here are some tips for observing body language in team meetings:
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues: While team members are speaking, observe their facial expressions, gestures, posture, and eye movements to gain insight into their thoughts and feelings.
- Look for inconsistencies: Pay attention to when a team member’s body language does not match their verbal communication, as it could indicate that they are not being genuine.
- Take note of micro expressions: Keep an eye out for quick facial expressions that could reveal a team member’s true emotions.
- Be aware of microaggressions: Take note of any subtle behaviors that could be hurtful or insulting to marginalized team members.
- Follow up: If you notice a team member’s body language that could indicate an issue, follow up with them to check in and see if there is anything you can do to support them.
Reading the room is an essential leadership skill that involves observing the body language of team members in meetings. By paying attention to non-verbal cues and subtle indicators like microaggressions, you can gain insight into how your team members are feeling and adjust your leadership approach to meet their needs.
“At the end of the day, I think what is left unsaid matters more than what is said out loud. When I was an employee at the company I work for, I would just stay silent and nod my head. I knew my words weren’t going to change things, so I chose to just roll my eyes and stay mum. But once I became the CFO of the same firm, I learned to spot people like me. It helped me extract their thoughts and make changes,” said a leading CFO from an agency in India.
This can lead to improved trust, collaboration, and results within the team. Your people will feel more heard and acknowledged rather than just spoken to in general.