Did you know that looking a person directly in the eye is intimidating? Or that if you are introverted you could be sending the wrong message to your boss about your confidence and capabilities? According to body language expert Dr. Lillian Glass, how you carry yourself can drastically impact a first impression at work.
“Introvert and extroverts need to be mindful of their body language to make a good impression,” says Dr. Glass. “You have to convey that you’re confident, that you’re an open person and that you’re the type of person that someone wants to work with or do business with.”
Facial expressions, body language, and linguistics can be bigger indicators of your abilities as an employee than your work product. In other words, no matter how great your results or final project may be, the cues you are giving through your body language and disposition can undermine your success, and influence your chances for promotion, a raise, and even career growth.
We caught up with Dr. Glass to help us identify seven body language mistakes we may be making that are giving off a horrible first (or second or third) impression. Don’t slouch or cower — take this advice like a champ.
Mistake #1: Tilting head to the side or dropping the head
Whether you’re playing coy or shyness is your natural disposition, looking down or not making eye contact is a sign of a lack of confidence. “When someone is trying to make a good first impression they need to keep in mind their posture: head up, nose up and chin up,” advises Dr. Glass. “Pretend there is a string holding the crown of their head up so that they don’t let their head fall down.”
Mistake #2: Hunching over
Like your grandmother used to say, “Stand up straight.” Good posture and a strong stance projects openness and a willingness to work. Even if your office environment is casual and full of hipsters, good posture is a must. “It won’t come off as overly cocky or confident because good posture is important to be taken seriously by another person.”
Mistake #3: Flimsy handshake
While the power grip isn’t a must-have for everyone, we can all agree that the limp, fishy handshake is the worst. Limp or lame handshakes make a horrible first impression and can make business contacts doubt your abilities. A good rule of thumb is to take situational cues by mirroring the handshake you are given. “Body language is about what is acceptable and what is not. Good posture and a firm handshake are acceptable and apply to everyone.”
Mistake #4: Leaning out
While Sheryl Sandberg revolutionized the world with her book Lean In based upon the importance of women needing to ‘lean’ closer to the conference room table and ‘lean in’ to their careers, Dr. Glass says employees must be mindful not to lean out or lean away. If you lean away from the person you’re speaking with, it sends the message that you are not interested or not engaged with the other person,” she says.
Mistake #5: Direct eye contact
“Looking someone directly in the eyes is one of the old fashioned communication rules from the ‘60s but that’s not how you are supposed to communicate,” insists Dr. Glass. “You are not supposed to look someone directly in the eye, you’re supposed to look them directly in the face. You have to look in their face for a second or two, then look at their eyes for a second or two, then look at their nose for a second or two, then repeat the loop. You don’t need to focus on the eyes—it can be perceived as very intimidating and very disconcerting.”
Mistake #6: Intense seriousness
Sure, the office is a place of business, but that doesn’t mean you should walk the halls with a stern face. “If you are not smiling, it sends the message that you are not happy or engaged,” says Dr. Glass. “You have to smile.”
Mistake #7: Tapping your feet or wringing your hands
We’ve all seen that person in the office who just cannot stop bouncing their knee or tapping a pencil. It doesn’t only convey nervousness, this behavior can also signal a larger problem. Dr. Glass contends that “body language that shows a lack of confidence includes fidgetiness, playing with hands or feet, shuffling or tapping feet.” Instead, try chewing gum or just nixing this bad habit altogether.
In the end, body language paired with a strong work performance will convey your truth value as an employee. “You have to stand and up straight. You have to smile, look at the persons face,” Dr. Glass reminds us. But more importantly, she says, “You have to be interested not interesting. Be concerned about what you’re doing and about what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. That’s where people really get in trouble, especially millennials, being too self-absorbed in the workplace can harm your chances for success. Millennials are more self-focused than any other generation; it’s about me, me, me. You cannot talk about you, you have to talk about them. You have to talk about what you provide and contribute to the company and your body language reinforces that.”