It’s Monday morning and you’re slouched in the corner of the team meeting, still slightly stuck in weekend mode. You may think that your grogginess doesn’t really matter, and that your contributions will speak for themselves. However, the way you carry yourself is often just as important as what you say and do.
Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., a body language expert and the author of “The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work,” says things like posture, angling, and eye contact can all have unintended consequences in a meeting setting.
“It’s all in the eye of the beholder, so it’s not what you mean when you do something,” Goman says. “It’s how others are going to perceive it.”
Since body language influences both likability and success, here are five common mistakes you’d be wise to avoid:
1. Crossing your arms
In many settings, there’s nothing wrong with crossing your arms — you may be cold, or it may just be a comfortable resting position.
In a meeting, though, you should always avoid sitting with your arms crossed, Goman says. Most people are going to interpret that gesture as you being resistant or closed off.
2. Slouching in your seat
Good posture is important wherever you are, but especially so in meetings where you’re sitting for an extended period of time. Slouching can translate to a lack of respect for the speaker and communicates an apathetic attitude.
“Sitting in a condensed posture, where you’re slouching or hunched over, rather than in an expanded or open posture is a big mistake,” Goman says. “It makes you look submissive and like you don’t have much to offer, and that’s not a good look for anybody — particularly if you’re trying to have leadership presence in your organization.”
3. Texting or emailing on your phone
Anything that takes your attention away from the speaker is a big no-no in a meeting, Goman explains. High on the list of diversions: texting or checking email on your smartphone.
“It’s just such a huge sign of disrespect. People justify it with, ‘Oh, but I can still hear! I’m still listening!’” Goman says. “But that has nothing to do with it. You’re still taking attention away from the speaker.”
4. Losing eye contact with the speaker
Goman says that failing to keep your eyes on the speaker during a meeting is just as bad as checking your phone.
“This is one of the biggest mistakes I see,” Goman says. “It sends a message to the person speaking: I’m not interested in what you have to say.”
5. Not speaking up early enough
In any meeting, sitting silently for too long can be perceived as disinterest in the discussion. Speaking up in a room full of people can be difficult if you’re shy, but it’s important to contribute early on.
“Say something early, just get your voice out there, even if it’s something that’s not crucial to the conversation,” Goman says. “You need to be vocal and jump in, because it’s often more difficult to interject as the meeting goes on.”