Your body language can change the way that others hear what you are saying and recently I saw this first hand.

I was talking to a supplier over the phone and was impressed by her breadth of knowledge and clarity of thought. She had an air of authority in her vocal tone that made me feel confident that the job would get done to time and in budget.

We arranged to meet and I was looking forward to dealing with her. The meeting was fine and she left promising to come back to me with a full project plan; however I left wondering if I was actually talking to someone with the authority to deliver what I needed.

It took me a while to work out why this was the case. She had said all the right things yet she seemed to have less credibility face to face than over the phone… and I think it was her overuse of listening cues.

Listening cues include giving eye contact and smiling but the ones she was overusing were:

• nodding as the other talks

• tilting the head to one side

Now don’t get me wrong, these cues are important in conversation but when overused they can make you seem less authoritative and too keen to please. Equally, when underused they can make you appear arrogant and dismissive.

If you are concerned that you don’t have the impact or authority that you want, it is worth considering what cues you use to show the other person you are listening to them and whether you use them too much or not enough. If you’re not sure, then ask a friend or colleague for some honest feedback.

Let me know what you think or if you have any questions or comments then email me on

• Sally Hindmarch is a communication skills specialist and runs Partners With You, a company that helps people improve the way they come across at work