Catching up with a good friend who is very successful at his business, I was intrigued to see how he pays attention to small hand gestures and body language in general to get clues about the candidate when he interviews to hire people for his organization.
Your Body Language Is More Important Than Your Words
You may have heard this. But do you really pay attention to this when you are going to meet a new client, or going for an interview?
The non-verbal signals you send to the person sitting in front of you, are so strong that sometimes, it doesn’t even matter what you are saying. The decision is already made based on how you were perceived based on your body language.
I have experienced this many times in my career while going for an interview or in a meeting with a new prospect. Somehow, meeting with some, I just know that they are not interested because of their non-verbals and I try to save time by getting away from them as fast as I can while, on other occasions, I know that the other person is really interested even while he/she hasn’t said anything yet.
Keep Body Language To As Neutral As Possible
It’s definitely a great idea to learn about body language. Not just so that you can avoid sending negative signals but also so you can understand the other person better. I am going to suggest a few resources on body language; in case you want to learn more about it towards the end of this post.
However, as a general rule of thumb, it is a great idea to keep your body language to as neutral as possible. Not moving your hands too much, sitting/standing straight with a smile on your face, answering the questions in a confident tone, listening more than talking, keeping decent eye contact etc. are some of the best ways to keep your meeting positive.
The more neutral (less distracting) you keep your non-verbals, the better chances you have that the other person will pay attention to what you have to say.
Refrain From Making These 10 Body Language Mistakes
While trying to stay neutral, avoiding these 10 body language mistakes can go a long way. These are the most commonly made mistakes people make unknowingly and wonder why the meeting wasn’t a success. You definitely want to avoid these:
1. Weak Handshake
In this case, the person gives you their hand like a dead fish. It is basically shows a complete indifference towards the person you are shaking hands with. When you give this handshake, it doesn’t tell me that you are alive.
This handshake is a sign of weakness, lack of interest and nervousness and you definitely do not want to give that signal when you are walking into a room to impress somebody, right?
Instead, give a full, confident and gentle handshake with a smile on your face. That does a much better job.
2. Crossed Arms (Closed posture)
This one is so obvious that I don’t even have to tell you. You must avoid this crossed arms posture when you are in an interview or in an important business meeting.
Usually, this posture means you don’t like the person in front of you, you are not interested in what he/she has to say, you already know everything and that you are arrogant. None of these are a positive sign and why would you like to send any of these to the person in front of you subconsciously?
3. Lack Of Eye Contact
When you are not making an eye contact with the person in front of you, it is a sign that either you don’t respect that person or you lack self-confidence.
Sometimes, lack of eye contact sends a signal that you are not being honest and that is even worse, isn’t it?
Instead, look into the eyes of the other person with a smile on your face and you will make a much better impression.
4. Looking Distracted (Looking elsewhere, iPhone, Watch etc.)
When you are talking to me and I keep checking my iPhone in between, looking at my watch or I look around once in a while at other things (the roof, the paint etc.), it simply means that I am not paying attention to you (even if I might be listening). You will not appreciate that behavior, will you?
Then why would you do that when you are in a meeting with somebody? Why will you not avoid sending these type of signals?
Instead, keep a steady eye contact (without looking like you are staring) and maintain your posture.
5. Hands Behind Back
Hands behind your back usually indicates that you are super and powerful (or at least you think you are). It also sometimes indicates that you are stiff or frustrated.
In any case, it isn’t a good body posture to have when dealing with other people (especially when you are in an interview or a one-on-one meeting with your client).
Instead, give your hands some freedom. Let them stay on your side and use them appropriately to make your point if you must use them.
6. Rubbing Hands
Rubbing your hands says that you are nervous or uncomfortable. Rubbing your hands together may also be an indicator that you believe you have sealed the deal and money is headed your way. Sometimes, this could mean you are cunning or arrogant.
Instead of rubbing your hands, let your hands naturally rest at your sides or on your lap, depending on if you are sitting or standing. Just relax and give your hands an opportunity to relax.
Slouching simply sends the message of shyness, indifference or boredom. People who slouch are usually considered unfriendly and lazy sometimes.
Now, you definitely do not want to come across lazy or unfriendly or boring in an interview room, do you? And you definitely do not want your client to mistake you as unfriendly or indifferent, right?
Stand or sit straight. Keep a smile on your face, and never slouch during any meeting. It goes a long way!
This shows arrogance and a no-no for sure. No matter how involved you are in the discussion, never use your first finger to point to anybody (and as much as possible, anything).
Pointing your finger (even by mistake) is vary invasive body posture and person in front of you may feel threatened. You don’t want that to happen even by mistake.
9. Nail Biting
People usually bite their nails when they feel anxious. Because feelings of anxiety are usually associated with feelings of loss of control. In an important meeting or a job interview, it is very normal to have those feelings.
But you don’t want to make those feelings become obvious and give power to circumstances, do you? Then don’t bite your nails. In fact, don’t take your hands anywhere near your face. If you can do that, you can avoid all the chances of being mistaken for anything.
10. Hands On Chin (Or Chin Stroking)
Hands on chin usually indicated an evaluating gesture. Stroking your chin indicates you are having decision making thoughts. But, when your index finger points vertically up the cheek and the thumb supports the chin, it appears you ‘re having some negative or critical thoughts about the other person.
This can get a bit tricky and while you may be thinking about the subject positively, this gesture can send a negative signal to the person in front of you and get them to become defensive. So, avoid making this posture during any discussion and stay in neutral posture.
Books On Body Language
Body language is a fascinating study and you will be amazed how much you can learn about people from their non-verbal communications when you spend some time in understanding them.
I would like to refer these two books to you for further study on body language. I am sure these can help you expand your understanding on this subject to improve your own body language while helping you understand others:
- The Definitive Book Of Body Language by Barbara Pease
- What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People by Joe Navarro