15 body language gaffes for leaders to avoid

Body language is an important component of people's personalities that is often overlooked, most likely because it is not something we often think about or are aware of. However, your body language could be sending people the wrong signals, impeding your ability to influence and lead.

According to Forbes, TalentSmart, a top provider of emotional intelligence tests, training and consulting, found the highest performing employees and leaders are high in emotional intelligence. Individuals with high emotional intelligence actively monitor their body language, preventing them from sending negative unspoken signals.

Leaders of organizations are responsible for interacting and communicating with team members, employees, stakeholders and customers. Body language during these encounters can send negative messages, inadvertently damaging communication. Consider the following 15 body language blunders to avoid, according to Forbes.

1. Slouching. Sitting slouched over conveys disrespect because it signals to whomever you are speaking to that you are bored and have no desire to be there. On the other hand, standing or sitting up straight maximizes the amount of space you fill and projects power. Having good posture commands respect and stimulates engagement from both people in the encounter, according to Forbes.

2. Exaggerated hand gestures. Large gestures could convey you are stretching the truth or lack confidence in what you are saying. Instead, small and controlled gestures — such as showing your palms — indicate confidence and openness.

3. Continuously glancing at the clock. Sometimes you get caught up in a conversation or stuck in a meeting when you wish you could be working on something else, but watching the clock while someone is talking is a sign of disrespect — it sends a message that you think you have better things to do than talk to the person and want to leave them.

4. Being positioned away from someone who is speaking. When your body isn't directly facing the person who is speaking or you are not leaning into your conversation, it tells the person you are unengaged, uninterested or uncomfortable. Leaning in toward the speaker shows you are paying attention and interested in what they are saying.

5. Crossing your arms and legs. Crossing your arms and legs creates physical barriers that communicate to the person speaking that you are closed off from what he or she is saying. According to Forbes, even if you are also smiling and participating in the conversation, the other person may still get a sense you are not fully receptive to his or her remarks.

6. Inconsistency between your words and facial expression. If you say one thing but your facial expression seems to be communicating something else, others may think you are trying to deceive them, even if they are not sure why or how, according to the article.

7. Too much nodding. Nodding along the whole time somebody is speaking shows you are anxious about getting his or her approval. Additionally, exaggerated nodding may come across as an attempt to show you understand or agree with something you really don't.

8. Fidgeting with your hair. Touching your hair more than what is necessary signals anxiety and self-consciousness, or distraction. This may also convey you are overly preoccupied with your physical appearance.

9. Avoiding eye contact. Not looking at someone in the eye may indicate to him or her that you lack confidence or interest, or have something to hide. Furthermore, looking down as you speak signals you are self-conscious about what it is you are saying, which can make your words less effective. Maintaining eye contact throughout a conversation shows confidence, leadership and intelligence, according to Forbes.

10. Overly intense eye contact. While maintaining eye contact is important, eye contact that is too intense may be interpreted as aggressive or dominating. Americans hold eye contact for seven to 10 seconds on average, longer when we are listening than talking, according to Forbes. Breaking eye contact by looking down conveys submission, while glancing to the side shows confidence.

11. Rolling your eyes. Unless you are unmistakably rolling your eyes at yourself in jest, this is a bad habit that clearly communicates a lack of respect.

12. Frowning. Having an unhappy facial expression tells the people around you that you are uncomfortable or upset with them, even if they haven't actually affected your mood. People may also perceive a scowl as a sign you are judging them. In contrast, smiling suggests you are open, trustworthy, confident and friendly, according to Forbes.

13. Flimsy handshake. A weak handshake communicates you lack confidence and authority. However, a finger-crushing handshake could be perceived as an attempt at domination. A handshake should always be firm, but never too weak or strong.

14. Clenched fists. Closing your hands shows you are not open to what other people have to say, similar to crossing your arms and legs. People may also perceive clenched fists as a sign of argumentativeness and defensiveness.

15. Intruding on others' personal space. Standing too close to someone — nearer than one and half feet — communicates you don't understand or respect his or her desire for personal space. This may make people uncomfortable around you.

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