The column I wrote last week about how sometimes women unknowingly sabotage themselves at work by using the wrong body language, generated a lot of interest. In it, I described how using weak or submissive gestures at work can undermine your power and professionalism.
Whereas that column focused on mistakes more generally attributed to women, today I want to cover some body language mistakes I’ve noticed that apply to both genders.
Voice – Have you ever had a great impression when you first see a person and then when you hear them speak, their voice – either too high, too low, too hesitant, too loud or whatever- makes you question your good impression? We all have. So it’s important that when you speak, your voice is consistent with the image you want to project and confirms that good impression. Not sure how you sound? Record yourself on your phone, listen, and make changes if needed. Speaking too fast, using slang, or ending every sentence as if it were a question (“up talking?”) can all make you sound less credible.
Facial expression – Do you scowl when you are trying to understand something? I do. I unconsciously wrinkle my forehead when I’m puzzled or interested in something. I only learned it from looking at my own reflection on my laptop screen. I’d be feeling curious, interested or puzzled while doing Google searches or reading an answer, and I’d notice I looked angry. Imagine how that might be a problem during an interview? Make sure your resting/listening facial expression is neutral (I’m working on it) and that it’s consistent with your message and interaction. Just like your voice.
Symbolic barriers – We may not realize it but if our laptop is always open in front of us during meetings, or if we surround ourselves with notepads, water bottles and electronic gadgets, we can seem like we’re putting up barriers, like we are less accessible. A similar thing also happens when we hang on to our cell phones like a safety blanket, making us look weak. Putting the phone away makes you instantly look more accessible.
Readers, do you have other body language mistakes or faux pas to avoid?