Use your head – literally! 4 head gestures every leader needs

When it comes to body language, there are two qualities people look for in a leader: warm (qualities like liability, caring and empathy) and authority (characteristics like power, status and credibility). 

After all, it’s not only how you say it that matters – it’s how you look when you said it. And when you’re sitting down with a client or your team, one of the first things people are going to look at are your head gestures. So for the perfect mix of nonverbal signs, use more than your brain – use your head! Here’s how to do it most effectively.

Keep head tilts to a minimum

We’ve all been told that head tilting shows you’re listening and interested. But beware: Too many tilts can come across as submissive. When you really want to project a sense of power and authority, keep your head in a neutral position.

If you feel like you need to tilt to show you’re listening, keep it under three per hour. And instead of thinking of it as a tilt, try to cock your head instead.

Cocking is a turning your head slightly, while tilting makes your ear parallel with your shoulder. It’ll minimize the negative undertone, but show you’re digesting what the person is saying.

No need for numerous nods

Much like head tilting, there’s a recipe for success for nodding.  Often, when men nod, it gives the impression that he’s agreeing. But when a woman nods, it shows she’s listening, encouraging the person to continue talking or empathizing. While these aren’t necessarily bad, they don’t put you in control of the conversation.

Best bet: Keep your head nods short and infrequent. Add a few agreeing words, such as “Yes, and …” and “I agree …” to show exactly what your head nodding means.

Hands to yourself

Did you know the FBI and police officers can tell someone is lying if he or she scratches the back-side of his or her head and neck?

You may not realize it, but resting your head in your hands or covering your mouth (middle finger resting on your chin, pointer ring above your top lip) can send the wrong message. Touching the face is viewed as a common sign of anxiety.

Even the seemingly-innocent action of stroking your chin can come across the wrong way. Since people usually do this when they’re making a decision, it can appear judgmental if you’re looking at someone while doing it.

If you want to show a person you’re thinking or making decisions, touch the side of your nose. It’ll give you a few seconds of silence to think about what you want to say before you say it.

Let your eyes lead your head

Picture this: You’re looking down, jotting notes but the top of your head is facing the person speaking. While you’re simply trying to multitask (who isn’t nowadays?), this can rub the person speaking the wrong way. It’ll look like you’re only paying half-attention.

As a safe rule, make sure your head follows wherever your eyes go. If you’re looking at someone speaking, turn your head toward the person, too. In fact, your torso and feet should face the person, too. This way, you’ll show you are completely committed to what the person is saying.

Whether you need to pack a punch with your message or simply want to perk everyone’s ears up, the right body language will give you the best results. Use your head to send nonverbal signs and your message will come across clearly and correctly.