Effective communication isn’t just about your vocabulary choices, nor even your tone of voice. In fact, communicating effectively is as much about your body language as it is your speech. For leaders, this always presents a prime opportunity for growth: You may never have thought much about things like posture and assertive eye contact, but greater awareness of these things helps you get your point across—using every tool at your disposal.

Effective Communication: It Starts with the Eyes

I mentioned assertive eye contact, so let’s start there.

Your parents probably taught you to look people in the eye when speaking with them. There are a few reasons for this. One, it’s just polite. It shows the person that they have your attention. But two, it projects your confidence.

That makes direct eye contact especially important in certain situations, like when you’re giving directions or conveying information—basically, any time you want to come across authoritatively.

(PS—It’s okay if you have to break eye contact for a few seconds, here and there; you’re not trying to win a staring contest. Just remain engaged—and communicate it through your eyes.)

One more thing: If eye contact shows confidence, what does it convey when you roll your eyes? Frankly, it suggests that you’re untrustworthy. Avoid the eye rolls!

Posture as a Form of Effective Communication

Posture, too, is important for what it communicates—what it allows you to say without actually opening your mouth.

A strong posture is always recommended; stand up straight, and don’t slouch. With that said, you don’t have to look like you’re standing at military attention. In fact, having a relaxed posture, with your shoulders back, makes you look open and trustworthy.

In other words, it makes you look like someone who’s ready to brainstorm, collaborate, and get things accomplished—as part of a team.

As with eye contact, though, there’s an inverse rule: If an open posture helps you come across as approachable, folding your arms accomplishes the opposite. And generally speaking, that’s not what you want!

The Importance of Body Language in the Workplace

Whether you’re aware of it or not, the people you work with will pick up on the things your body language is saying. Make sure you keep these nonverbal communication cues in mind—and work on using them to your full advantage!