January 10, 2018

8 Common Professional Body Language Mistakes To Avoid

Woman sleeping at meeting.
Avoid These 8 Common Professional Body Language Mistakes in Meetings

It’s not always what you say that makes the biggest impression. Before you even open your mouth, nonverbal habits you’re not even aware of could jeopardize your ability to make a good impression, close a deal, get promoted, or earn a new customer. Professional body language is critical to any business exchange, and it’s just as important to be aware of the things you’re not saying as it is to be aware of what you are. In other words, through your posture, body language, habits, and tone, you may be speaking volumes without even uttering a word.

Before you even open your mouth, nonverbal habits could jeopardize your ability to make a good impression Click To Tweet

The following eight professional body language mistakes might be making you look bad even when you’re saying all the right things:

  1. Slouch. Didn’t your mother always tell you to sit up straight? Mom was on to something. Not only does slouching make you seem detached and uninterested, but it’s also high school behavior. You’ll feel and look better if you sit up.
  2. Drum your fingers. This is one of those unconscious habits that is immediately obvious to everyone except the perpetrator. It says that you can’t wait for the meeting to end. Don’t be the finger drummer in the room.
  3. Avoid making eye contact. If you’re hoping to forge a connection or further a relationship, you need to make eye contact. Not doing so implies that you have something to hide or that you are not open or trustworthy. People hear with their ears, but they remember with their eyes.
  4. Make too much eye contact. On the other hand, maintaining prolonged or constant eye contact can be perceived as threatening, uncomfortable, or just plain creepy. No one likes to feel like they are under a microscope. Communication is a give-and-take experience, and if the conversation, presentation, or interaction is authentic, the appropriate amount of eye contact will take place in a natural way.
  5. Check the time incessantly. Nothing takes the focus out of the moment like a glance at the clock or your wristwatch. This essentially says, “I am not engaged in what you are talking about. I am instead thinking about what I’ll be doing as soon as this meeting is over.” Resist the urge to check the time and focus on the conversation instead.
  6. Check your phone or email. Rude as it may be, we’ve all done it at least once. Get caught, and you telegraph disinterest, lack of focus, and disengagement. Avoid the temptation to go down the smartphone rabbit hole during a meeting. While checking email is bad form, responding to an email is a more egregious infraction, to be sure.
  7. Act invisible. Want to stand a ghost of a chance of getting ahead? Don’t attempt to fly under the radar. That just makes you look unsure of yourself. Stay engaged and establish a physical presence as well. Taking up space in the room shows power and confidence. Lean forward while seated. Widen your arms and place them on the table. When standing, widen your stance. Legs too close together can make you look unsure, hesitant, or wobbly. Widening your stance can help you look stable, grounded, and confident.
  8. Fidget. Don’t bounce your knees, twirl your hair, click your pen, touch your face, or rub your hands together. While these habits might calm your nerves, they also paint you as uncertain, uncomfortable, and not credible.


Body language in meetings and exchanges can make a world of difference in your business conversations. Everything we do communicates something, so why not communicate as clearly as possible. Avoid these eight body language mistakes during your next meeting, and when you do have the opportunity to speak, your words will have the impact you’re hoping for.


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