Poor body language gives a bad impression to others and can easily lead to misunderstandings in the workplace, especially if you’re a leader. To encourage a better work environment and happier employees, pay attention to your body language.
In particular, pay attention to these five worst body language mistakes you can make at work and how you can fix them.
Keeping Your Cell Phone in Sight
A common body language mistake people unknowingly make is keeping their cell phones in sight during meetings. Even just leaving it on the table in front of you or solely using it to check the time sends the wrong message to the people around you.
Keeping your phone in sight subconsciously makes them think they’re not important to you and that you’re more interested in your cell phone. They will think that if it buzzes or rings or gives some other notification, you will check it rather than focusing on the meeting at hand. Even if you don’t, it’s hard for people to see that and not think that you will. It makes it harder for people to focus and believe that what they’re doing is important to you.
Therefore, you should always keep your cell phone out of sight during meetings. If you need something to keep track of time, wear a watch.
People feel far more at ease when you’re smiling during communication. This isn’t to say you have to smile the entire time. In fact, smiling the whole time would most likely make someone feel extremely uncomfortable.
Instead, just allow yourself to smile if the other person smiles, or smile at another appropriate time, such as when the person makes a joke. You don’t have to give big, toothy grins either. A slightly upward curve of the lips is fine as long as it looks genuine.
When you’re talking on the phone with someone, don’t forget to smile, too! Even though they can’t see you, your body language transfers to your voice. If you never smile during a phone conversation, it’s likely the other person will feel that as it usually causes your voice to be more monotone.
Contradicting Your Words with Inappropriate Body Language
Your body language should match your words. For example, if you’re praising someone for doing a good job, don’t sound monotone about it or have a scowl on your face. Your body language should indicate that you’re happy with their work, so keep your arms uncrossed, smile, and let your voice be more enthusiastic.
“Crossing your arms, which many of us do out of habit, can indicate defensiveness and self-protection. Instead, try to adopt an open stance with your arms by your side, slightly out from your body. This shows openness and confidence. Try holding something such as a notebook during important face-to-face conversations to keep your hands occupied.” – Vault
People usually believe your body language over your words because body language tends to be more subconscious while words are easy to fake. So, even if you’re not intending to send the wrong message, others might subconsciously receive it that way.
Failing to Mirror the Person You’re Talking To
Another important body language mistake people make is failing to mirror the person they’re talking to. Throughout the conversation, you should match the other person’s body language so that they feel like you understand them.
Aspects of the other person to notice and mirror are tone of voice, posture, tempo, and movements. For example, if someone is talking excitedly about a new project, match that excitement with a higher tone of voice, faster speech, and more movements depending on how the individual is expressing their excitement. You certainly don’t want to remain monotone and calm or else it makes it look like you don’t care. Is that really a message you want to spread, even unintentionally?
Lack of Facial Expressions
The fifth body language mistake to avoid is a lack of facial expressions. If your face is blank all the time, people will think that you’re not interested in what they’re saying.
Some body language tips for showing interest including raising your eyebrows, leaning forward, and nodding your head. It’s also important to make eye contact during conversation. When you need to glance away, look either left or right. Never look down because it signifies a lack of confidence.
Changing your body language can make a positive difference in the workplace. A small smile at the right moment and a nod of the head sometimes makes the difference in making someone feel like you’re interested in what they’re saying. Avoiding the above body language mistakes at work will make you and your employees happier and more productive.
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.