Interviewing for a job and networking scenarios can test even the most polished professional. Such situations can stir up nervousness and anxiety that can be difficult to ward off, sometimes sending the wrong sign. It’s important to note that communications experts agree that the vast majority of face-to-face communication is presented by our tone of voice and body language, with only 7% being attributed to the spoken word. While the person you are speaking to pays close attention to your verbal answers, is the delivery of your message lacking due to non-verbal cues you are sending? Being aware of the messages you are conveying through unspoken communication can be critical to your career success!
Here are 6 common body language mistakes to avoid:
1. Eye Contact – Looking someone directly in the eye conveys confidence and trustworthiness. But too much eye contact can be unpleasant to the other party. Strike a good balance in making a personal connection by looking the other person in the eye when they are speaking to you and when you are responding. Avoid staring at them by taking slight breaks to look away.
2. Mismatched Expressions – If your tone does not match your facial expression, the total message you are delivering will most likely not translate well. A genuine smile shows that you are enthusiastic and engaged in the conversation, while pursed lips send a message of disapproval or distrust. Paying close attention to align your facial expressions with your verbal message ensures that the other party grasps your intended meaning.
3. Posture – No matter how comfortable the chair is, sinking in will give a bad impression. If offered a choice in seating, opt for the chair with a straight back. Sit and stand upright with your shoulders held back, as if you have a string connecting your head to the ceiling. When seated, lean very slightly forward to convey your interest and engagement in the conversation.
4. Handshake – A wonderful first impression starts with a great handshake. Practice shaking hands with other professionals, asking them for honest feedback on your style. Aim for a handshake that is not bone-crushing, nor a limp fish, but just firm enough. And be mindful that every handshake should be accompanied with good eye contact and a genuine smile.
5. Fidgeting – Displaying nervous energy, such as playing with a pen or picking at a hangnail, while speaking with someone is distracting and considered impolite. Help the interviewer stay focused on what you have to say by suppressing restless habits.
6. Crossing your Arms – Nothing signals defensiveness and resistance like crossing your arms. You appear more approachable and confident when your arms are open at your sides or your hands are folded in your lap.
You can help chase away the jitters of face-to-face interactions by practicing positive body language, taking time to prepare for the interaction by doing research and practicing your elevator pitch, and incorporating practical relaxation techniques.
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