5 Common Body Language Fails

We all know how to prepare for an important meeting; we do our research, practice our pitch and polish our shoes, but we could be letting ourselves down before we even speak.

You may have been told the basics & the glaringly obvious; don’t fidget, bite your nails or cross your arms or smile inanely, to name a few, but there are some less obvious that can help or hinder your communication and ultimately improve the outcome of the meeting, securing the deal or engaging with stakeholders:

  • Before entering a meeting don’t check your phone

This can be interpreted as an unwillingness to communicate with people in the same room. It now seems the norm that if people have a spare second or two they check their phones. Instead, read a magazine or newspaper or look around the room at others waiting and strike up a conversation with someone who is not immersed in the digital world – you may end up talking to a potential client or read an interesting article that could act as an ice breaker.

  • When meeting someone for the first time make sure not to invade their personal space

Leaning forward can make someone think that you want something from them or be perceived as invading their personal space. To make sure you don’t lean in and seem overly keen try putting your weight on your back foot: this will stop the leaning and give you a slightly more confident/relaxed posture. Different cultures have different comfort zones when it comes to personal space, some preferring greater distances than others.

  • Head tilting

Tilting your head sideways when making a statement can undermine the point you are trying to make. In many ways head tilting can be positive, a reassurance at times, as it can convey empathy, thought and understanding. But be aware when you are using it. In certain situations it can be appropriate. Different head tilts can indicate the undertones of a question; for example tilting your head down while asking a question communicates disapproval compared with someone tilting their head to the side, which communicates interest.

  • Don’t maintain constant eye contact

Looking wide-eyed at the person you are meeting for the whole duration for the conversation may be interpreted as being intimidating or aggressive. In natural conversations you usually break eye contact within 7-10 seconds, but in a pressured situation you may forget this and end up staring. Looking away briefly to blink and relax might also help you pick up on their body language that could help you to interpret the thoughts and feelings underlying their words.

  • Over-gesturing

Over-gesturing can communicate nervousness. Gesturing can be helpful when trying to convey an important point but waving your arms around too much may distract from what you’re saying. Practice active listening by nodding to show that you are paying attention or agree with what someone is saying but be careful not to do this much as it may be misread as obsequious, or lacking personal autonomy.

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