When it comes to dealing with people in person, whether you’re at a job interview, serving a customer at work, or just hanging out with friends, your body language is crucial.
Why? Because your body language gives people big clues about how you feel about yourself, how you feel towards them and even what you’re thinking.
What am I really saying?
Whatever words you say, a tilt of the head or crossing of the arms can make all the difference to the vibe you're putting across. Welcoming or hostile, confident or shy, interested or fed up, your body says it all.
However, unless you’ve got a mirror in front of you every time you talk to someone, you won't always be aware of your body language. The most important thing is to understand and learn to be aware of the signals you could be giving out with your body language.
We’ve put together some classic examples to highlight how the way you choose to stand, sit and hold your hands can reveal a lot about you and how it could affect your chances at work.
But before we get started, take a look at this infographic listing the dos and don'ts of body language, as well as some surprising facts which certainly came as news to us:
Keep it casual
There’s nothing wrong with putting your hands in your pockets when you’re at home or out with friends. But, in a formal work or job interview setting, you might come across as uninterested or lacking in confidence. If you're being interviewed, keep your hands open, on the table and don't be afraid to move them to help express what you are saying.
Either you’ve temporarily lost the use of your neck or that classic chin in hand pose means that you are tired – or well and truly bored. Checking your phone whilst you are talking to someone is a big mistake too. You might be listening, but to the person you're with it looks like you're not.
Next time you catch yourself leaning on your hand or glancing down at your phone, stop, sit up straight and put your shoulders back, this pose shows you are paying attention and will teach you to be more mindful of your body language.
Check your handshake
It’s polite to shake someone’s hand when you meet them, but a simple single shake is all you need, save special handshakes for, er, special occasions.
Is this what you normally see?
Spending a bit too much time staring at people’s shoes? Looking down frequently and avoiding eye contact can be a sign of shyness. It's also something we do when we're feeling a bit guilty. At work, school or in a job interview, try to always look at people when you are in a conversation. Maintaining eye contact is an important part of showing that you are interested, enthusiastic and open.
Crossing your arms can be an act of defiance (you or your parents might have used this gesture when trying to negotiate what time you'll be home...). But it could also be a sign that you are feeling fed up or a bit hostile. Crossed arms are also close friends with the sarcastic eye-roll. Try to avoid using this combo at work at all times.
That’s some fine slouching
Slouching in a chair or against a wall can be mighty comfy, but it can also make you seem grumpy, unapproachable or unmotivated. Keep an eye out for slouching and try to sit or stand up straight next time you do it. It will help you avoid back problems in future too. Double win!
Remember to smile
The simplest way to show warmth, confidence, kindness and openness, is to smile and make eye contact with the person you're with. A simple smile can actually help you feel better and even up the mood of the person you’re with. It's also the best way of indicating that you're OK. Remember, you need to show these things, not just say them.
Positive body language
This guy is demonstrating lots of examples of positive body language. He is sitting up straight, making eye contact, his head is to one side indicating he is interested and his hands are open. Nailed it!
Activity: Ask a friend to observe you for an hour in class or on your lunch break. Get them to look at how you stand and sit, what you do with your hands, and your facial expression. When the hour’s up, get them to report their findings back to you and tell you what they thought you were feeling. Did you do any of things above? You might be surprised!
Observing the right etiquette can really help you in a job interview, a new job, or even in a new circle of friends. That's why we've put together a list of things to do and things to avoid in an interview situation.