Most people read your body language to decide whether you’re likeable, trustworthy, and competent, among other things, within one second of meeting you.
“You may have heard that you only have a few seconds to make a first impression,” says Bernard Marr, an author and global enterprise performance expert, in a recent LinkedIn post. But the truth is, the other person’s brain has made up its mind (so to speak) about a you “within just milliseconds.”
“Until we get to know someone,” Marr says, “our brain relies on snap judgments to try to categorize the person, predict what they will do, and anticipate how we should react.”
One way to hack this split-second judgment is to be aware of your body language, he says. Whether you’re applying for a job, asking for a raise, or meeting with a new client, altering or being mindful of your body language can influence the other person’s perception of you, and may change the outcome of the situation.
Here are seven common body language mistakes you’ll want to avoid at work:
1. Crossing your arms.
This gesture makes you look defensive, especially when you’re answering questions. “Try to keep your arms at your sides,” Marr says.
2. Leaning forward.
It can make you appear aggressive. “Aim for a neutral posture,” he suggests.
3. Breaking eye contact too soon.
It can make you seem untrustworthy or overly nervous. “Hold eye contact a hair longer, especially during a handshake,” says Marr.
4. Standing with hands on hips.
This is an aggressive posture, “like a bird or a dog puffing themselves up to look bigger.”
5. Stepping back when you’re asking for a decision.
This conveys fear or uncertainty. “Stand your ground, or even take a slight step forward with conviction,” Marr suggests.
6. Holding your hands behind your back (or firmly in your pockets).
This gesture can make you look rigid and stiff. “Aim for a natural, hands-at-your-sides posture.”
7. Nodding too much.
This can make you look like a bobble head doll, Marr says. “Even if you agree with what’s being said, nod once and then try to remain still.”
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