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Using Body Language to Avoid Office Confrontations

By: Libby Pelham BA - Updated: 13 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Body Language Confrontations Co-workers

Even the most easy-going person may find him or herself in an office confrontation with a co-worker at some point. This may be a one-time thing or a continual office nemesis who repeatedly tries to undermine you at work.

But, it is possible that body language can help you avoid confrontations at work. Knowing the right moves – and wrong moves – to avoid can help you keep that office nemesis and an office confrontation at bay.

Understanding the Problem

Whether your personalities just clash, you have clashes over work, or the office nemesis is just a bully, help to avoid confrontations is available. The one key thing that may people – even office bullies – can subliminally on pick up is a lack of self-confidence.

Body language that says you lack self confidence opens you up to attacks. Think of powerful, self confident people and about the body language they exhibit. It’s doubtful that anyone would pick on Donald Trump because he carries himself with an air of confidence that says “Don’t mess with me or you will lose.”

Appearing More Powerful and In Control

Stand up straight and tall around the office. Don’t overdo it as that can be seen as a sign of aggression, but people with hunched shoulders are often seen as those that have a low self esteem and are more likely to be the subject of attacks because of this. By improving your self confidence through body language, people may think twice before confronting you at the work place.

When speaking, many people tend to clasp their hands in front of them or cover their neck, but try to avoid this when speaking with co-workers. There are three power zones to the body: the neck dimple, the bellybutton, and the groin area. Crossing one or more of these areas is a body language sign that you are feeling insecure and giving up your power. Avoid stances like standing with your hands folded over your belly button to help give the appearance that you still have all your power.

If you have to speak in front of co-workers, try to ease anxiety by standing as people come into the office or auditorium. This shows them that you are in command and may prevent troublemakers from trying to undermine your authority. If you feel nervous, walk around, talk to co-workers and try to make eye contact with as many people as possible. This exudes confidence and power.

Changing Your Body Language

Another thing to consider is that if you are clashing with a co-worker it may be because you are subliminally giving off negative body language that causes him or her to confront you. Hostile body language can definitely turn others off, so pay close attention to the body language you use when around your office nemesis. Avoid negative body language such as leaning away when someone is talking, crossing your chest with your arms, and hands clasped behind back. Positive body language includes standing with your palms open, leaning in closer when talking, a relaxed posture, and nodding in agreement. Try a few of these positive stances and see if the relationship with this co-worker doesn’t improve.

Carrying yourself with an air of confidence may cause the co-worker to second think starting trouble with you. In this case, the best defence (against office confrontations) is an offence (a body language that exudes self confidence).

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