When you were a kid, did your parents constantly tell you to sit up straight and stop slouching or fidgeting? Some of my earliest memories involve just that scenario. I was always a fidgety kid; I never could sit still very long and the more I moved around the further down in the chair I’d go. Sound familiar? Now add in a few uhhhh’s and huh’s and it is a disaster waiting to happen.
What Does Your Body Language Tell Potential Clients?
Most of us realize slouching, fidgeting and stumbling over our words can be from habit. Some habits are good, however these are not and they may be sabotaging your best efforts to make a living. Even as I’m writing this, I catch myself stopping to pore over my words, or rubbing my face when a phrase doesn’t come together just right.
We all do it without thinking about it, but those small insignificant gestures are telling the client you are nervous and you lack confidence. And worse, some clients could jump to the wrong conclusions and you really will be out the door. No one wins when this happens and it can truly leave a mark on your success story.
Sabotaging Your Success
From an employer’s standpoint, there is nothing more irritating than someone that can’t hold still for ten seconds, slouches like they are bored out of their mind and stumbling over enough words to make you think they are not prepared or intoxicated or both. These signals are sabotaging a class act and you probably don’t even realize you are doing it. Stop The Madness! Here are some suggestions to identify and stop the negative body language you are sending out.
Let’s take a look at slouching.
Most of us don’t realize we are doing it until someone points it out, then we immediately sit up straighter. Many taller people tend to slouch to make themselves appear smaller and less intimidating. For some though, this can signal boredom and even disrespect, whether it is done intentionally or not.
A client can key in to your body language and feel your immediate lack of interest or may feel you are not overly motivated by their project. Your behavior could very well lose you a golden opportunity.
Slouching is curable though.
Stand up straight when you walk or sit. Pay attention to your own body language at all times. When you notice you are slouching, immediately correct your posture. Not only do you reap the benefits of looking better and conveying a sense of professionalism, later in life this habit can reduce back pain. And if you happen to be like me already over thirty, it is never too late to start. Square your shoulders up a little and throw a little pride in your stance. Your clients will notice and so will your checkbook.
Fidgeting goes hand in hand with slouching on many occasions.
When I was a kid, the more bored I got with my surroundings, the more I would tap pencils, shuffle my feet, rattle papers, swing my foot and any number of other aggravating little distractions and not even realize I was doing it. Today, these little annoyances are contributed to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.
But when I was a kid they didn’t know that and there was no magic pill to cure it, so we learned to focus it and channel it, and we made it work for us not against us. If you suffer from the fidgets whether due to nerves or a chemical imbalance like I have, it can be focused and made to work for you, but you have to pay attention to your body and train it. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Try this simple exercise and practice daily.
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes, and sit down in a straight back chair.
Do not have the TV going or stereo blasting, it will distract you. Close your eyes, and slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Be aware of your body and the calming effect your breathing is having. Focus on how still your body is and how great it feels.
I started out doing this very simple exercise for 2 or 3 minutes at a time because that’s all I could sit still for. If you start to fidget, stop and try again. After practicing for a few days, increase your time, add a minute or two. Use an egg timer to time yourself. Work your way up to an hour. Learning to focus your inner power can allow you to achieve goals you thought you would never see. Once you have conquered this exercise, when you get into stressful situations or just before going in to give that presentation, close your eyes and breathe for just a few moments. It will help to calm your nerves and let you focus.
Have you ever heard yourself give a presentation?
I mean actually tape it and play it back so you know what you said. The first time I did it was in a college communications class and the instructor did it. Wow! What an eye opener. I stumbled over my words, inserted and um and like about every third word, coughed, belched and mercifully finished after two minutes. That’s right, two minutes. What do you think is going to happen during a thirty minute presentation? Be aware of yourself and correct imperfections before you ever walk in to a client’s presentation.
Body Language Is Key
You want to instill trust and a sense of professionalism at all times to your client. This is done in the way we dress, the way we stand and the manner in which we enunciate our words. When you arrive for a meeting and immediately slouch in a chair swing your leg over one arm of it and proceed to make a fool of yourself, you are sabotaging your own success. When you walk in with your head held high, confidant and ready to go to work, it will pay off. Your body language guarantees it!
What do you think? :)
About the author: Lois Knight has been a freelance writer and graphic designer for the last two years. She designs predominantly for small start up companies and non profits in need of design services that could not afford them otherwise. She has a background as an entrepreneur for over twenty years and has dedicated herself to educating people interested in graphics as a career. She also write on All Graphic Design.