Chances are that if you’re passionate about following the career path of your dreams, you’re already doing everything you can to shine by breaking bad work habits, crushing every project you’re given and helping your team reach its goals. And while you’ve probably mastered dealing with interrupters, and speaking up in tough situations to appear like the confident boss that you truly are, your body language might be saying otherwise. To get the lowdown on common mistakes and how to avoid making ‘em, we talked with a few HR experts and career coaches. Scroll on for their expert insights.
1. Minimizing Yourself Physically: Pat Kirkland, a leadership coach, tells us that when you stand or sit in a way that takes up the minimum amount of space (like with your arms stuck tight to your body, your legs tightly wound around each other and your shoulders shrunk down), you can send the message that you don’t want to be seen — or aren’t feeling confident about being present in the room.
To fix the issue, Pat suggests sitting or standing in a “relaxed and natural way.” She says you should keep your arms at your sides and legs about shoulder width apart. “This will show a relaxed confidence,” she tells us. “You’ll be seen and perceived as confident and highly engaged — even if you are actually physically smaller than everyone else!”
2. Angling Away from People: Pat tells us that proximity really counts. “If you sit or stand as far as possible away from other people, you run the risk of coming off as an onlooker, not a participant.”
Good news: Correcting this body language mistake is super easy. Pat says, “Simply stand or sit close to the people in power so you’re seen as part of the team and not overlooked.”
3. Tilting Your Head: While talking with Pat, we learned that when we tilt our head, we’re unconsciously showing that we’re vulnerable to another person or that we hold them in higher view. “This is fine if you’re falling in love, or looking at a cute baby,” Pat says. “But in business, it can give off the wrong impression.”
Instead of tilting your head, keep your head straight — literally! “You’ll be perceived as someone who holds both yourself and others in equally high regard,” Pat promises.
4. Skipping a Handshake: We bet that you noticed your FB feed was in a social media frenzy after the Donald and Secretary Clinton skipped the traditional handshake before the start of the last debate. Rightfully so, says Mathilde Pribula, a partner at Frederickson Pribula Li, an HR executive search consulting firm. “The simple gesture of the handshake says A LOT,” she reminds us. “In an interview environment, missing it might be misinterpreted as lazy and arrogant. In the worst case, it might result in rejection from a job you’re actually very qualified for.”
The best professional handshake is firm and comes with eye contact. You might think it feels uncomfortable to make eye contact (especially if you are introverted or nervous), but it’s WAY more awkward not to.
5. Crossing Your Arms: Crossing your arms might feel very comfortable, especially if you’re stuck in a lengthy meeting. Unfortunately, professional coach and trainer Laura MacLeod says it can signal a defiant NO, even if that’s not what you mean.
Instead of suggesting a lack of openness or comfort with yourself, rest your arms at your sides. Laura says you can even use your hands to gesture while speaking. If you’re standing, she says you can rest your hands on your waist for short amounts of time.
6. Accidental Facial Expressions: It’s pretty normal for people to smile, but beware of accidental grins that may come off as inauthentic. Laura says, “Though well-intentioned, this one might come off as fake to others, which risks the trust they’ll put in you.” Other facial expressions you may make without meaning to include frowns and furrowed brows, which lead people to think you’re stressed and upset, even if you’re not.
To perfect your neutral face, Laura suggests spending some time scoping yourself out in the mirror. “Check your smile, find a neutral face, and work on controlling your natural reactions so you can project what you really mean.”
Which positive body language signals do you try to use at work? Tweet us the deets @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)