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8 Body Language Mistakes Successful People Never Make

8 Body Language Mistakes Successful People Never Make

Body language is a breeze to figure out. Right? If someone is crossing their arms, they are probably closed off to the conversation and have no interest in continuing to talk. If someone is leaning in close to you while sitting beside you, they probably have romantic interest in you. While how to understand body language has been a topic of interest for eons, you may still be making assumptions when it comes to reading people. And those mistakes could be standing in the way of your success.

Successful People Know How Body Language Can Affect Their Success So They Never Make These 8 Mistakes

Depending on the study, non-verbal communication (i.e. body language) counts between 75% and 90% of our communication. That’s a huge percentage. So even if you think you know the basics, you could be making non-verbal mistakes on a daily basis that are detrimental to your career success.[1]

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1. Close-talking/space-evading

When you have a professional conversation with a coworker or boss, how close are you to them, physically? If you put your hand out in front of you, would you touch them? If so, you’re standing too close. That would mean you’re probably about .0 to 18 inches apart, and that should only be used for an intimate relationship in which it would be normal to embrace, touch and even whisper. So when speaking to a coworker, keep 4 to 12 feet in between you.[2]

2. Inappropriate Eye Contact

Eye contact is so important, but getting it right can be challenging. In the US, the appropriate amount of eye contact comes in at about 60%. So, if you’re listening to someone talk, you’re looking into their eyes 60% of the time and looking away (at your notes or a presentation) the rest of the time. Anything more than that is intimidating, so unless you’re in law enforcement, stick to 60%.

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But where you look matters. If you’re boring holes into the other person’s pupils, that can be a bit much. Proper eye contact at work is made in the upside down triangular area on someone’s face (eyebrow to eyebrow to the nose and back to the eyebrows).

3. Handshakes without the upper hand

While I am a strong believer in a firm handshake, there are still right and wrong ways to do it. Have you ever been introduced to someone, either personally or professionally, who shook hands with you by sandwiching your hand between both of theirs? It’s awkward, and they literally have the upper hand. So if you do this, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re sending a message to that person that you have the upper hand.

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4. Too-obvious mirroring

We have always been drawn to people who resemble us, either in physically appearance or lifestyle. If you’re hoping to gain acceptance from someone like a potential boss, you can mirror their body language, posture or tone of voice to subtly create rapport. But like eye contact, this trick requires some knowledge. If you are too obvious about what you’re doing, it comes off phony and pretty bizarre. A good rule of thumb is to create about a three second delay before you start mirroring the other person.

5. Leaning back/Slouching

I used to work with someone who constantly slouched back in their chair and occasionally seemed ready to melt into the floor below them. It was an interesting choice, since it basically announced to the world, “I don’t care about what I’m doing here. I have no interest in my work!” While it’s also pretty awful for your spine, leaning back in your chair, especially when speaking to someone, comes off as dismissive and distracted.

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Slouching is just as bad. You look weak and tired/lazy. Sit with your back and shoulders straight. You’ll look better and more capable, and you’ll also feel better! [3]

6. Exaggerated Gestures

I talk with my hands. What about you? Being an animated talker is part of what keeps people interested in what I have to say, but there’s a fine line between being animated and being over-the-top. When you gesture dramatically and get carried away, you come off obnoxious and semi-arrogant. If you aren’t sure if you’re coming off as passionate or annoying, tell your friend to record you the next time you meet for coffee. If watching it makes you cringe, you should probably work on toning it down.

7. Arm Crossing

Even though this is one of the most commonly discussed body language actions, it’s important to stay aware of it. Sometimes I cross my arms because I start thinking about the top I’m wearing and if I look bad. Other times, I do it because the office is absolutely freezing and I’m trying to keep warm. While we don’t always cross our arms because we are defensive or closed off, that’s still how it comes across. Practice letting your arms stay by your sides, or even stick one of your hands in your back pocket while listening to someone. The more opened your shoulders are, the more interested and inviting you seem.[4]

8. Fidgeting

Fidgeting (playing with your hair, tapping your foot or pens, adjusting and readjusting your clothes) is irritating to those around you, but it also makes you look unprepared and anxious. I get really distracted really easily, so when I’m in meetings, I take copious notes or even doodle subtly while I listen. It helps me feel like I’m not just sitting there being still while still focusing my attention properly.

Reference

More by this author

Heather Poole

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Last Updated on September 30, 2019

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

Minutes are a written record of a board, company, or organizational meeting. Meeting minutes are considered a legal document, so when writing them, strive for clarity and consistency of tone.

Because minutes are a permanent record of the meeting, be sure to proofread them well before sending. It is a good idea to run them by a supervisor or seasoned attendee to make sure statements and information are accurately captured.

The best meeting minutes takers are careful listeners, quick typists, and are adequately familiar with the meeting topics and attendees. The note taker must have a firm enough grasp of the subject matter to be able to separate the important points from the noise in what can be long, drawn-out discussions. And, importantly, the note taker should not simultaneously lead and take notes. (If you’re ever asked to do so, decline.)

Following, are some step-by-step hints to effectively write meeting minutes:

1. Develop an Agenda

Work with the Chairperson or Board President to develop a detailed agenda.

Meetings occur for a reason, and the issues to be addressed and decided upon need to be listed to alert attendees. Work with the convener to draft an agenda that assigns times to each topic to keep the meeting moving and to make sure the group has enough time to consider all items.

The agenda will serve as your outline for the meeting minutes. Keep the minutes’ headings consistent with the agenda topics for continuity.

2. Follow a Template from Former Minutes Taken

If you are new to a Board or organization, and are writing minutes for the first time, ask to see the past meeting minutes so that you can maintain the same format.

Generally, the organization name or the name of the group that is meeting goes at the top: “Meeting of the Board of Directors of XYZ,” with the date on the next line. After the date, include both the time the meeting came to order and the time the meeting ended.

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Most groups who meet do so regularly, with set agenda items at each meeting. Some groups include a Next Steps heading at the end of the minutes that lists projects to follow up on and assigns responsibility.

A template from a former meeting will also help determine whether or not the group records if a quorum was met, and other items specific to the organization’s meeting minutes.

3. Record Attendance

On most boards, the Board Secretary is the person responsible for taking the meeting minutes. In organizational meetings, the minutes taker may be a project coordinator or assistant to a manager or CEO. She or he should arrive a few minutes before the meeting begins and pass around an attendance sheet with all members’ names and contact information.

Meeting attendees will need to check off their names and make edits to any changes in their information. This will help as both a back-up document of attendees and ensure that information goes out to the most up-to-date email addresses.

All attendees’ names should be listed directly below the meeting name and date, under a subheading that says “Present.” List first and last names of all attendees, along with title or affiliation, separated by a comma or semi-colon.

If a member of the Board could not attend the meeting, cite his or her name after the phrase: “Copied To:” There may be other designations in the participants’ list. For example, if several of the meeting attendees are members of the staff while everyone else is a volunteer, you may want to write (Staff) after each staff member.

As a general rule, attendees are listed alphabetically by their last names. However, in some organizations, it’s a best practice to list the leadership of the Board first. In that case, the President or Co-Presidents would be listed first, followed by the Vice President, followed by the Secretary, and then by the Treasurer. Then all other names of attendees would be alphabetized by last name.

It is also common practice to note if a participant joined the meeting via conference call. This can be indicated by writing: “By Phone” and listing the participants who called in.

4. Naming Convention

Generally, the first time someone speaks in the meeting will include his or her name and often the title.

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For example, “President of the XYZ Board, Roger McGowan, called the meeting to order.” The next time Roger McGowan speaks, though, you can simply refer to him as “Roger.” If there are two Rogers in the meeting, use an initial for their last names to separate the two. “Roger M. called for a vote. Roger T. abstained.”

5. What, and What Not, to Include

Depending on the nature of the meeting, it could last from one to several hours. The attendees will be asked to review and then approve the meeting minutes. Therefore, you don’t want the minutes to extend into a lengthy document.

Capturing everything that people say verbatim is not only unnecessary, but annoying to reviewers.

For each agenda item, you ultimately want to summarize only the relevant points of the discussion along with any decisions made. After the meeting, cull through your notes, making sure to edit out any circular or repetitive arguments and only leave in the relevant points made.

6. Maintain a Neutral Tone

Minutes are a legal document. They are used to establish an organization’s historical record of activity. It is essential to maintain an even, professional tone. Never put inflammatory language in the minutes, even if the language of the meeting becomes heated.

You want to record the gist of the discussion objectively, which means mentioning the key points covered without assigning blame. For example, “The staff addressed board members’ questions regarding the vendor’s professionalism.”

Picture a lawyer ten years down the road reading the minutes to find evidence of potential wrongdoing. You wouldn’t want an embellishment in the form of a colorful adverb or a quip to cloud any account of what took place. Here’s a list of neutral sounding words to get started with.

7. Record Votes

The primary purpose of minutes is to record any votes a board or organization takes. Solid record-keeping requires mentioning which participant makes a motion — and what the motion states verbatim — and which participant seconds the motion.

For example, “Vice President Cindy Jacobsen made a motion to dedicate 50 percent, or $50,000, of the proceeds from the ZZZ Foundation gift to the CCC scholarship fund. President Roger McGowan seconded the motion.”

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This vote tabulation should be expressed in neutral language as well. “The Board voted unanimously to amend the charter in the following way,” or “The decision to provide $1,000 to the tree-planting effort passed 4 to 1, with Board President McGowan opposing.”

Most Boards try to get a vote passed unanimously. Sometimes in order to help the Board attain a more cohesive outcome, a Board member may abstain from voting. “The motion passed 17 to 1 with one absension.”

8. Pare down Notes Post-Meeting

Following the meeting, read through your notes while all the discussions remain fresh in your mind, and make any needed revisions. Then, pare the meeting minutes down to their essentials, providing a brief account of the discussion that summarizes arguments made for and against a decision.

People often speak colloquially or in idioms, as in: “This isn’t even in the ballpark” or “You’re beginning to sound like a broken record.” While you may be tempted to keep the exact language in the minutes to add color, resist.

Additionally, if any presentations are part of the meeting, do not include information from the Powerpoint in the minutes. However, you will want to record the key points from the post-presentation discussion.

9. Proofread with Care

Make sure that you spelled all names correctly, inserted the correct date of the meeting, and that your minutes read clearly.

Spell out acronyms the first time they’re used. Remember that the notes may be reviewed by others for whom the acronyms are unfamiliar. Stay consistent in headings, punctuation, and formatting. The minutes should be polished and professional.

10. Distribute Broadly

Once approved, email minutes to the full board — not just the attendees — for review. Your minutes will help keep those who were absent apprised of important actions and decisions.

At the start of the next meeting, call for the approval of the minutes. Note any revisions. Try to work out the agreed-upon changes in the meeting, so that you don’t spend a huge amount of time on revisions.

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Ask for a motion to approve the minutes with the agreed-upon changes. Once an attendee offers a motion, ask for another person in the meeting to “second” the motion. They say, “All approved.” Always ask if there is anyone who does not approve. Assuming not, then say: “The minutes from our last meeting are approved once the agreed-upon changes have been made.”

11. File Meticulously

Since minutes are a legal document, take care when filing them. Make sure the file name of the document is consistent with the file names of previously filed minutes.

Occasionally, members of the organization may want to review past minutes. Know where the minutes are filed!

One Caveat

In this day and age of high technology, you may ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be simpler to record the meeting? This depends on the protocols of the organization, but probably not.

Be sure to ask what the rules are at the organization where you are taking minutes. Remember that the minutes are a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said at the meeting.

The minutes reflect decisions not discussions. In spite of their name, “minutes,” the minutes are not a minute-by-minute transcript.

Bottom Line

Becoming an expert minutes-taker requires a keen ear, a willingness to learn, and some practice, but by following these tips you will soon become proficient.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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