As we’ve discussed in many of our previous blogs (like here and here), body language is not something to be overlooked, taken lightly, and certainly not ignored. Body language speaks emotion, and therefore it never lies. We are at a distinct advantage if we understand not only this, but also how we can use body language to our benefit. The flip side is when we miss body language cues or make mistakes – these small blunders can often cost us big time. Body language cues, as much as they are universal, can vary cross-culturally, as well as across individuals and generations. Here are some body language mistakes to avoid, no matter where you are!
- Too Much Eye Contact
Eye contact is such an important part of body language; when you hold eye contact with someone, it lets them know you’re listening and you care. However, it is possible to take this too far and hold eye contact for too long, which can come across like you’re gawking or staring.
- Dodgy or No Eye Contact
Just as you can hold eye contact for too long, not having enough good quality eye contact can instantly detract from your executive presence. If you have trouble looking someone in the eye, they may think you’re lying or you’re distracted and thinking of other things that may be more important to you.
- Invading Personal Space
This is certainly one aspect of body language that can vary greatly by culture, so if you’re traveling for business, be sure to look into this before you go. When conducting business in the West, it is important to respect people’s “bubble;” imagine a hula-hooped sized ring around them. That is their space! Try not to enter it.
- Mirroring That is Too Obvious
There are direct effects and benefits of mirroring another person’s body language; mirroring can help you bring someone who’s in a negative body posture to a positive one, for example. However, there is certainly such a thing as mirroring too much, or too aggressively. You don’t want to give yourself away! If and when you mirror, make it as subtle as possible.
- The Bone-Crusher or Wet Fish Handshake
There is so much in a handshake. Often it is the only point of physical contact when conducing business, anywhere in the world. Missing out on a good handshake can mean bad news for your proposal. A firm handshake is a must, regardless of who’s hand your shaking (a petite woman’s, for example); no wet fish! However, this can be taken too far and you can actually cause pain to the other person if you squeeze too hard.
Body language is a science, which means it can often be complicated and beyond our realm of comprehension. There is a ton we can all learn about body language and how it affects us and others; we could spend years studying just that! Of course, that is not possible (nor desirable) for most of us, but we can still take certain small sound bites from the science of body language that are immediately applicable, which could mean the difference between a successful pitch and an unsuccessful one. And remember, knowledge of body language and how it works will go a long way in elevating your EP! For more information on how you can increase your body language skills, check out our body language course.