Think about the last meeting you attended with new people around the table. What first impressions raced through your thoughts? Did you like someone’s smile or hairstyle? Did someone look more “approachable” than someone else?
Your brain makes up its mind about a person within milliseconds of meeting him/her. Yep. Your brain judges people even before you even get to know him or her. According to a recent article, “Stop making these 15 body language mistakes,” by Bernard Marr, founder and CEO, Advanced Performance Institute, your brain is already fast at work categorizing the person, predicting what he/she will do and anticipating how you should react.
So when you are in your next networking or project kick off meeting, be aware of your body language. Marr shares 15 body language blunders to watch for:
1. Leaning back: You come off as lazy or arrogant.
2. Leaning: This can seem aggressive. Aim for a neutral posture.
3. Breaking eye contact too soon: Doing so can make you seem untrustworthy or overly nervous. Hold eye contact a hair longer—especially during a handshake.
4. Nodding too much: You look like a bobble-head doll. Even if you agree with what’s being said, nod once, and then try to remain still.
5. Chopping or pointing with your hands: This feels aggressive.
6. Crossing your arms: Doing so makes you look defensive, especially when you’re answering questions. Keep your arms at your sides.
7. Fidgeting: Fidgeting instantly telegraphs how nervous you are. Avoid it at all costs.
8. Holding your hands behind your back or firmly in your pockets: Doing so can look rigid and stiff. Aim for a natural, hands-at-your-sides posture.
9. Looking up or around: This is a natural cue that someone is lying or not being him/herself. Try to hold steady eye contact.
10. Staring: Staring can appear aggressive. There’s a fine line between holding someone’s gaze and staring him down.
11. Failing to smile: If you never smile, you can make people uncomfortable and wonder if you really want to be there. Flash a genuine smile, especially when you meet someone for the first time.
12. Stepping back when you ask for a decision: This move conveys fear or uncertainty. Stand your ground, or even take a slight step forward with conviction.
13. Steepling your fingers or holding your palms up: Both of these gestures look like begging positions and convey weakness.
14. Standing with hands on hips: This is an aggressive posture, like an animal puffing itself up to look bigger.
15. Checking your phone or watch: You’re signaling that you want to be somewhere else. Plus, it’s just bad manners.
What if you don’t know you are guilty of a body blunder? Ask your partner, friends or colleagues. I know I swivel in chairs if they are not stationary. I also gesture too much with my hands. My colleagues have full permission to signal to me in meetings. And practice makes perfect.