Yes, really. A furrowed brow, speedy walk, and constant eye contact can all work against you and give your boss a negative impression. But the good news is, you can change it.
Take a cue from Mr Obama – the man’s got the use of hand gestures and purposeful movements down to an art.
Cut out that nervous grin
You know, the one where you’re smiling but your eyebrows knit together in an inverted V-shape. Body language expert Christian Chua, who runs a training academy, says it makes you look nervous and unsure. Same goes for twirling your hair and scratching your head.
Instead: Gain control of the situation. Chances are, you’re likely to react this way to questions you don’t have an immediate answer to. So buy yourself some time. Christian suggests reaffirming with your boss that the question is a good one, then ask for a couple of minutes to compose an answer. If there’s a colleague in the room, even better – rope that person into the discussion, and ask for an opinion.
Quit the constant eye contact
It can make you seem aggressive – as if you’re glaring at the person.
Instead: Look away every now and then, especially during one-to-one conversations and small meetings. And do it discreetly, by sipping coffee or taking down notes, says Christian.
Stop folding your arms
Crossing your arms gives the impression that you’re defensive, insecure, or closed off.
Instead: “Hang your hands by your sides, or gently place your fingers together around bellybutton level,” says Teo Ser Lee, founder and director of etiquette and image consultancy Protocol Academy. You’re likely to start gesturing as you talk, and that’s fine. Also, position yourself at a 90-degree angle from the other person. Looking at them face-on can seem confrontational.
Don’t get distracted
You’re bored at a meeting, so you check your watch, read an e-mail, or look around the room. Don’t. Body language that’s out of sync with everyone else’s shows individualism and a disconnection from the rest, says Ser Lee.
Instead: Take a cue from how others are behaving – observe their postures, gestures, and tone of voice. “If you’re speaking to an introvert, be kind and gentle, whereas if you’re chatting to an extrovert, laugh loudly,” says Christian, adding that people are drawn to those like them.
Stop trying to blend in
Giving a presentation? Don’t hide behind the podium. “You’re only visible from the chest up. This makes you look like you’re hiding behind a safety blanket,” says Christian.
Instead: Move around, but not too much. It tells people you own the space. Just don’t move more than a couple of steps to your left or right as you’re talking. Don’t pace – it’s distracting.
You think you look fast and focused when you speed-walk. But in fact, you just come off as fumbling and frantic.
Instead: Know when to inject pep into your step, like former US president Barack Obama, who sometimes does a quick jog up the steps to the stage or podium. It tells people he’s healthy, energetic, and capable, says Christian. Try it at your next presentation.
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