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8 Body Language Mistakes Successful People Never Make

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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.

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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

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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