11 Ways to Use Body Language to Get What You Want

By Jayson DeMers | Small Business

Master the art of these nonverbal cues to secure the raise or promotion you deserve.

Asking for a raise makes most people anxious. You love the prospect of making more money and and hate the fear of rejection.

The most important element of negotiating a raise is the logic you use to illustrate why you deserve a raise in the first place. Employees who demonstrate how they have increased their contributions to the company are far more likely to get a raise than employees who request one for increases of cost of living.

Once you finalize your argument for why you deserve a raise, you might think you're ready for your formal request. But there are several nonverbal factors that can influence a person's impression of you, as well as the direction and outcome of the meeting. Take note of these 11 important nonverbal cues which, if used correctly, could lead you to a higher raise.


1. Eye contact

Eye contact can make or break your presence in a meeting, since it simultaneously conveys confidence, attention, and trust. Looking away from a person's eyes might convey hesitation or lack of confidence, which could weaken your chances of getting the raise you want. Likewise, too much eye contact can make you seem desperate or intimidating. Instead, maintain eye contact with your supervisor for a few seconds at a time. This will be enough to convey your most confident self, but not so much that it compromises your image.


2. Appropriate attire

The common advice is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and for raise negotiations, this is absolutely true. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to ensure your attire is appropriate for your position. It's better to be overdressed than underdressed, so if you're on the fence with a choice of tie or style of hair, go with the more formal option. Your interviewer or supervisor may not consciously recognize your style of dress, but as a nonverbal cue, your attire could leave them with a subconscious impression. Dress for the part!


3. A firm, friendly handshake

As with most meetings in corporate America, your raise negotiation will likely begin and end with a handshake. Don't let yourself overanalyze the politics of a handshake, but do pay attention to the fundamentals. Grip your colleague's hand firmly, but not too tightly, and shake twice while smiling and maintaining eye contact for the duration of the handshake. Starting things off with an overly limp handshake, or one with a monstrous death grip, could lead to a bad first impression and set a poor tone for the rest of the meeting.


4. Gesticulation

Gesturing with your hands can be a source of power and expression. Rather than sitting still and relying on your words to do all the heavy lifting, illustrate your points by using physical movements. For example, punctuate your strong points with a pointed finger or a tap on an object. Ask questions with an upturned, inviting hand. These gestures can magnify your points and illustrate you as a more commanding speaker. However, keep these movements under control. Anxious gestures, such as hair playing or hand wringing, could be an indication of a lack of confidence.


5. Confident, authoritative presence

It's also important to position yourself as an authority nonverbally. Creating an authoritative presence is difficult work for the unfamiliar, but it can be very powerful when speaking with a superior, such as during a raise negotiation. Take up as much space as possible by keeping your shoulders wide and your stance open. It has also been suggested by social psychologists like Amy Cuddy that practicing this wide stance in front of a mirror can naturally make you more confident--so try it out during your pre-meeting psyche-up.


6. Good posture

Good posture demonstrates an air of confidence and allows you to engage more fully with your supervisor. Sit straight in your chair (if seated), with your back against the back of the chair, your shoulders back and facing forward, and your feet flat on the floor. You can also lean forward slightly in order to nonverbally signal your involvement in the conversation. Unless occasionally emphasizing a point in your speech, keep your hands neatly folded in your lap or at your sides during the conversation.


7. Sympathetic facial expressions

Facial expressions are a key component of nonverbal communication, and can effectively demonstrate your involvement in the conversation. Keeping a stoic, unmoving face will make you seem impersonal and robotic, so remain as tuned-in to the conversation as possible without making yourself appear cartoonish. Smile as often as the conversation allows, raise your eyebrows to illustrate interest, and express your seriousness when the time calls for it. You can also read the facial expressions of your interviewer in order to get a read of his/her thoughts during the course of the conversation.


8. A direct, natural tone

Your tone of voice can carry signals that transcend the intention of your words. Keep this in mind as you speak. Ending your sentences with an upward inflection can demonstrate hesitation, while speaking entirely in a monotone can make you seem robotic and unfriendly. Find a way to carry a confident tone throughout your conversation, adding emphases and inflections only where appropriate, to assert yourself as a confident, communicative individual. Many intonations are unintentional, so it's best to practice this beforehand to master the art.


9. Full attention

This one might go without saying, but give the negotiation your full attention. Don't look around the room or glance at your phone or your notes. Your full attention needs to be on your interviewer and the discussion at hand. The easiest way to do this is to keep your face turned toward whoever is speaking to you, and avoiding the urge to look at anything else in the room for more than a second. If you seem distracted, you could make a negative impression.


10. Body language mimicry

Your body language says a lot about you, but it's also important to pay attention to the body language of others in the room. Mimic their body language where you can--as long as you can avoid looking like you're mocking them. For example, if they place their hands on the table and lean forward, you can lean forward in response. If they lean back in their chair and comfortably cross their legs, feel free to do the same. It's an easy way to match the energy of the room and make yourself seem more relatable on a subconscious level.


11. Direction

Taking the initiative is a major nonverbal cue of confidence and leadership. Be the first to offer a handshake, and be the first to bring up conversation topics (if the dynamic allows). Taking charge this way makes you seem bolder, more charismatic, and of course, more worthy of the raise you want.

These nonverbal cues have been used for decades by businesspeople and politicians alike because of their simplicity and significance to human interaction. Master the art of using them naturally, and you'll project more confidence and authority, leading you to higher raises, and more respect in the workplace.

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