Are you having trouble being taken seriously in sales meetings, when negotiating with prospects or when you’re giving a presentation? The problem could be in your body language.
Women business owners are still at somewhat of a disadvantage when interacting with men. To overcome this, you need to make sure your body language is projecting confidence, strength and authority. But when women use the body language that we use in social situations during business situations, we can send signals that make us look weak or flirtatious. Here are seven common body language mistakes you might be making and what to do instead.
- Tilting your head. Tilting your head to one side (like a dog) is a gesture of empathy and shows that you’re listening. However, it also puts you in a submissive position to the other person by literally exposing your neck. In a business situation, avoid this posture unless you are trying to disarm someone by getting them to “let their hair down” and reveal something to you.
- Stroking your hair, touching your face or playing with your jewelry are all common gestures we make when we’re nervous. Is that the image you want to convey? Worse, stroking or flipping your hair often comes off as flirtatious, which can cause problems in interactions with male clients or employees. Staying still projects calm and confidence.
- Shrinking into your space. Sitting in a ladylike fashion with legs crossed and hands folded, you don’t take up much space. However, notice men in a business setting, and you’ll see they express their dominance by physically taking up space. Standing tall, spreading your belongings out on a meeting table (instead of gathering them up to make room for someone else) and leaning back expansively in your chair are all ways of claiming your “territory.”
- Smiling too much or smiling inappropriately. As women, we’re trained to please and often, that means smiling. While a pleasant smile is always appropriate when meeting someone, smiling continuously or at inappropriate times can make you seem meek and submissive. Remind yourself to smile when it’s genuine—not just to put others at ease.
- Crossing your arms over your chest. This body posture looks defensive on everyone, but especially so when used by women. It makes you look like you’re unapproachable, rejecting what the other person is saying or angry. Find another equally comfortable posture such as resting your hands on the arms of your chair, loosely in your lap or on the table in front of you.
- Holding books or papers to your chest. It seems natural to hug books, papers or clipboards close to your chest, but think again. You never see men doing this—but you do see little schoolgirls doing it. Unless you want to be treated like you’re 8 years old, hold these items under your arm or in one hand.
- Not making eye contact. Making firm, but not overly intense, eye contact while speaking, negotiating or meeting someone new signals you are friendly and confident. If speaking to a group, make eye contact with various members of the group in turn. Looking up, down or off to the side while you speak comes off shy and hesitant.
Give it some practice, and soon these more confident body language moves will become second nature.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.