Human beings are hardwired to make split-second judgments based on body language. Until you get to know someone, your brain relies on snap judgments to determine if someone is a friend or foe, predict what he or she will do and anticipate how you should react. You may have heard that you only have a few seconds to make a first impression, but the truth is our brains already made a decision within milliseconds of meeting another person. Here are some examples of body “language” to consciously avoid and what to do instead.
- Watch for scowling and smirking. Instead, deliberately smile or shift to a neutral expression. Otherwise, others may feel you are judging them or the situation.
- Be aware of looking distracted vs. attentive. One way to do this is to keep your eyes on the other person without breaking eye contact too quickly. Hold your eye contact a little bit longer, especially during a handshake. But be careful not to stare because this can seem threatening.
- Avoid looking down at your phone or on your computer screen. It may seem to others that you are preoccupied. Instead, keep your focus looking straight ahead at the other person or the area around you.
- Watch for slouching or holding your head with your hand, elbow on the table. It may come across as seeming bored or disinterested.
- Be careful not to physically turn away when someone walks up to you or a group you are with. You can appear unwelcoming. Instead, make eye contact, smile and make room for the person to join your group.
- Watch out for fidgeting, which includes touching your face, playing with your hair or biting your nails. These gestures can make you appear nervous or lack confidence.
- Be careful not to check your phone or watch, which says you want to be somewhere else. It’s also poor manners.
Making conscious shifts or just being mindful of your body language can influence another person’s perception of you and may make a difference in the outcome of the situation.