You're sitting in a meeting at work--things have been going well, the team adopted a number of your ideas, the boss nodded your way and said, "Good work!" But then, when it was time to put the team together to present the project to the client, guess who was left out of the mix? You! Again. You don't get it--obviously your work is valued, and yet repeatedly, you're the one left behind in the office while the others get to go and have all the fun with the client. "You're so good behind the scenes," is the only response you get to your "Why not me?" and since you don't want to be a whiner, you let it go.

Meanwhile, you drive home in a rotten mood, and do your best to lose that before you walk in the door. Your daughter asks you if you can take her to the mall Saturday to hang with her friends. "I don't know, honey," you say, "I'll have to check my day timer." "Well you don't have to be mad about it!" your daughter exclaims. You're shocked: "I'm not mad" quite sure you answered her pleasantly enough and not feeling angry with her at all. "Oh no?" she retorts, "Look at you - you're standing there, your arms crossed over your chest, tapping your foot and scowling at me." Sure enough, you are standing arms crossed, foot tapping and - yes, that feels like a scowl. You apologize, but as you walk away, you can't help but wonder "Is that how I come across at work? Is that why I'm not being included in the more public activities?"

It could very well be. Only part of what we have to say comes through our mouths, a major portion of it comes through our bodies. And when your body language is in contradiction to your words, your body is what we believe first.

So yes, if you find yourself sitting slumped over at the conference table, head down, doodling as others talk, then you may not be perceived as the most appropriate company representative in front of the client, regardless of how brilliant your work is. If you have a habit of walking around stoop-shouldered, tend not to look people in the eye when you speak, and have a habit of scratching behind your ears at odd moments, then your boss may not think of you first when considering who to present that important project to the client.

And it's no wonder that your daughter thought you were angry at her, despite the dulcet tones of your voice: arms crossed over chest, foot tapping and scowling are all interpreted as signs of anger or frustration, coloring whatever you say.

Don't drag your body around like some unwanted fifth wheel. Your body is you, physically expressed, and it contributes in dynamic ways to your communication--if you let it. Pay attention to what your body is saying: do you stand straight, square-shouldered, making good eye contact with the people you speak to --a body posture which implies confidence, energy and honesty? Do you sit beside your daughter for important conversations, putting yourself at equal level with her, keeping your body still and making good eye contact? All of these and many more are ways your body can support your communication, and make whatever you have to say be heard the way you intend it to be.

Appreciate the value that your body brings to the table, to your life--not just as something with which to attract the opposite sex, or a clothes' horse, or a beast of burden, but as a wonderfully complex, beautiful part of your self-expression.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a respected psychologist, consultant, speaker and author. Her most recent book is "The Power of Appreciation in Business (MindLab Publishing, 2005). For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives--at work, at home and in relationships. Dr. Noelle welcomes your comments via email ( You can visit Dr. Noelle anytime at