Body talk: Six common body language mistakes to avoid in the workplace - Blog

Body talk: Six common body language mistakes to avoid in the workplace

Body talk: Six common body language mistakes to avoid in the workplace

If there’s one thing that shouldn’t be underestimated in the business world, it’s the power of body language. Your facial expressions and physical gestures can tell a lot about what you’re thinking, as well as what kind of person you are and how you feel in certain situations.

It’s important to be aware of the messages your body language sends to others as it’s this form of non-verbal communication that people will use to perceive who you are. Your physical cues have a significant impact on your success and can often make or break your various business relationships, so we’ve complied this list of common body language mistakes to avoid in the workplace. The next time you’re sitting in a meeting or presenting an idea, remember what not to do.


Weak handshake


What’s in a handshake? Well, a lot, actually. When you meet someone for the first time it’s more than likely your handshake on which they will form their first impression of you, and the last thing you’ll want to do is send the wrong message. The perfect handshake is one that is firm yet not overbearing – this will convey a sense of confidence to the person on the receiving end. The trick is to commit when shaking someone’s hand and you can only do this if it’s a palm-to-palm shake that is filled with purpose and self-assurance. A weak handshake can lead to people perceiving you as being nervous, timid and lacking in confidence.


No eye contact


This is a vital part of any interaction. Maintaining eye contact during a conversation or presentation is key in establishing you as a trustworthy and confident person. It also shows that you are focussing on the other person and that you are engaged and respectful of them. Good eye contact plays an important role in your ability to persuade others as it can help draw people in and allow you to really engage with them. If you keep averting your eyes form the other person’s or looking down, you can be seen to be nervous, untrustworthy or distracted.


Poor posture


There’s good reason why your mother always told you to stand up straight – she wasn’t only looking out for your health, but also for how you would ultimately be perceived by those around you. How we feel about ourselves is often reflected through how we hold ourselves: when you stand tall, with your shoulders back and your head held high, chances are that you will give off an air of confidence. It’s when you slump that you may seem to have a lack of self-esteem and even disregard for others and the situation. Your posture can speak volumes about how you view yourself.


Too much fidgeting


When people become nervous, anxious or bored, they may begin to fidget. This can be perceived as them having a lack of focus and confidence, as well as being a dead giveaway of their nervousness. Powerful, authoritative people are the ones who tend to use smaller, subtler hand gestures when speaking and are rarely seen to make nervous gestures. Stillness conveys a sense of calm and quiet self-assurance, so be aware of the movements you make at all times to be sure that you’re not being seen to be disinterested, distracted or bored.


Lack of physical feedback or facial expressions


It’s no secret that our actions can speak louder than words, so it’s important for us to be in tune with our physical reactions. Holding back too much when it comes to facial expressions or physical feedback can give off the wrong impression: you can be seen to be aloof, removed, disinterested or even bored. Not responding in your face can lead people to believe that you are unable to be empathetic or make them feel as if you are not really acknowledging and internalising what is being said to you. You want to try and respond in small, physical ways to the person – this includes: smiling, nodding, making vocal utterances and raising your eyebrows. Facial expression restraint can make you appear inaccessible, cold or removed – things that will not help you cement long-lasting work relationships. A simple smile can put the other person at ease and help you come across as an open, warm and approachable person.


Constantly crossing the arms


Nothing screams “unimpressed” or “closed off” quite like crossed arms. They tend to act like a barrier between you and other people, cutting you off and making you appear unreceptive. You want to be viewed as an honest, credible and open person, but crossing your arms too much can send the opposite message. Some people also cross their arms when they are nervous as a sort of protective measure, but ultimately, this is most likely to be perceived in a negative way, so try and stop yourself when this happens.


Your body language can belie how you feel about certain situations and people, something that can have both positive and negative outcomes in your professional life. The key is to be aware of how you may come across as much as possible and to work on presenting people with the best version of yourself at all times. It’s no easy feat, but once you master the art of perfecting the ideal body language, you’re likely to feel satisfied with how others perceive you.   


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