Body Language Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Business Meeting

Kumar Gauraw

You may have heard that your body language can shape who you are. But, did you realize that your body language can also make or break a job interview, or even a new business deal with your prospective client?

Body Language Mistes You Must Avoid In A Formal Business Meeting With Prospect And Clients

Catching up with a good friend who is very successful at his business, I was intrigued to see how he pays attention to small hand gestures and body language in general to get clues about the candidate when he interviews to hire people for his organization.

Your Body Language Is More Important Than Your Words

You may have heard this. But do you really pay attention to this when you are going to meet a new client, or going for an interview?

The non-verbal signals you send to the person sitting in front of you, are so strong that sometimes, it doesn’t even matter what you are saying. The decision is already made based on how you were perceived based on your body language.

I have experienced this many times in my career while going for an interview or in a meeting with a new prospect. Somehow, meeting with some, I just know that they are not interested because of their non-verbals and I try to save time by getting away from them as fast as I can while, on other occasions, I know that the other person is really interested even while he/she hasn’t said anything yet.

Keep Body Language To As Neutral As Possible

It’s definitely a great idea to learn about body language. Not just so that you can avoid sending negative signals but also so you can understand the other person better. I am going to suggest a few resources on body language; in case you want to learn more about it towards the end of this post.

However, as a general rule of thumb, it is a great idea to keep your body language to as neutral as possible. Not moving your hands too much, sitting/standing straight with a smile on your face, answering the questions in a confident tone, listening more than talking, keeping decent eye contact etc. are some of the best ways to keep your meeting positive.

The more neutral (less distracting) you keep your non-verbals, the better chances you have that the other person will pay attention to what you have to say.

Refrain From Making These 10 Body Language Mistakes

While trying to stay neutral, avoiding these 10 body language mistakes can go a long way. These are the most commonly made mistakes people make unknowingly and wonder why the meeting wasn’t a success. You definitely want to avoid these:

1. Weak Handshake

In this case, the person gives you their hand like a dead fish. It is basically shows a complete indifference towards the person you are shaking hands with. When you give this handshake, it doesn’t tell me that you are alive.

Offer Intentional Full Handshake - Weak handshake -bad body language

This handshake is a sign of weakness, lack of interest and nervousness and you definitely do not want to give that signal when you are walking into a room to impress somebody, right?

Instead, give a full, confident and gentle handshake with a smile on your face. That does a much better job.

2. Crossed Arms (Closed posture)

This one is so obvious that I don’t even have to tell you. You must avoid this crossed arms posture when you are in an interview or in an important business meeting.

Crossed Hands During A Conversation With Someone Is A Bad Body Language Mistake

Usually, this posture means you don’t like the person in front of you, you are not interested in what he/she has to say, you already know everything and that you are arrogant. None of these are a positive sign and why would you like to send any of these to the person in front of you subconsciously?

3. Lack Of Eye Contact

When you are not making an eye contact with the person in front of you, it is a sign that either you don’t respect that person or you lack self-confidence.

Lack Of Eye Contact Is A Body Language Mistake

Sometimes, lack of eye contact sends a signal that you are not being honest and that is even worse, isn’t it?

Instead, look into the eyes of the other person with a smile on your face and you will make a much better impression.

4. Looking Distracted (Looking elsewhere, iPhone, Watch etc.)

When you are talking to me and I keep checking my iPhone in between, looking at my watch or I look around once in a while at other things (the roof, the paint etc.), it simply means that I am not paying attention to you (even if I might be listening). You will not appreciate that behavior, will you?

Looking At Watch-Appearing Distracted - Body language mistake

Then why would you do that when you are in a meeting with somebody? Why will you not avoid sending these type of signals?

Instead, keep a steady eye contact (without looking like you are staring)  and maintain your posture.

5. Hands Behind Back

Hands behind your back usually indicates that you are super and powerful (or at least you think you are). It also sometimes indicates that you are stiff or frustrated.

Businessman with hands in his back - body language mistake

In any case, it isn’t a good body posture to have when dealing with other people (especially when you are in an interview or a one-on-one meeting with your client).

Instead, give your hands some freedom. Let them stay on your side and use them appropriately to make your point if you must use them.

6. Rubbing Hands

Rubbing your hands says that you are nervous or uncomfortable. Rubbing your hands together may also be an indicator that you believe you have sealed the deal and money is headed your way. Sometimes, this could mean you are cunning or arrogant.

Businessman rubbing hands while talking - body language mistake

Instead of rubbing your hands, let your hands naturally rest at your sides or on your lap, depending on if you are sitting or standing. Just relax and give your hands an opportunity to relax.

7. Slouching

Slouching simply sends the message of shyness, indifference or boredom. People who slouch are usually considered unfriendly and lazy sometimes.

Slouching Looking Bored In A Meeting - Body Language Mistake

Now, you definitely do not want to come across lazy or unfriendly or boring in an interview room, do you? And you definitely do not want your client to mistake you as unfriendly or indifferent, right?

Stand or sit straight. Keep a smile on your face, and never slouch during any meeting. It goes a long way!

8. Pointing

This shows arrogance and a no-no for sure. No matter how involved you are in the discussion, never use your first finger to point to anybody (and as much as possible, anything).

Pointing Fingers in a meeting - body language mistake

Pointing your finger (even by mistake) is vary invasive body posture and person in front of you may feel threatened. You don’t want that to happen even by mistake.

9. Nail Biting

People usually bite their nails when they feel anxious. Because feelings of anxiety are usually associated with feelings of loss of control. In an important meeting or a job interview, it is very normal to have those feelings.

Woman Checking Smartphone while biting nail - body language mistake

But you don’t want to make those feelings become obvious and give power to circumstances, do you?  Then don’t bite your nails. In fact, don’t take your hands anywhere near your face. If you can do that, you can avoid all the chances of being mistaken for anything.

10. Hands On Chin (Or Chin Stroking)

Hands on chin usually indicated an evaluating gesture. Stroking your chin indicates you are having decision making thoughts. But, when your index finger points vertically up the cheek and the thumb supports the chin, it appears you ‘re having some negative or critical thoughts about the other person.

Hands On Chin - Body language Mistake

This can get a bit tricky and while you may be thinking about the subject positively, this gesture can send a negative signal to the person in front of you and get them to become defensive. So, avoid making this posture during any discussion and stay in neutral posture.

Books On Body Language

Body language is a fascinating study and you will be amazed how much you can learn about people from their non-verbal communications when you spend some time in understanding them.

I would like to refer these two books to you for further study on body language. I am sure these can help you expand your understanding on this subject to improve your own body language while helping you understand others:

Over To You – Share Your Thoughts

How intentional are you about your own body language when you are meeting with a new person? How does the other person’s body language affect your mindset when you are talking to someone and how do you take clues from those non-verbals?

Please share your thoughts in your comments and add value. I look forward to know your thoughts. Thank you kindly!

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Kumar Gauraw

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Kumar Gauraw is a Personal Branding & Social Media strategist helping entrepreneurs and skilled professionals achieve personal and professional success by developing leadership and leveraging the power of the Internet, Blogging and Social Media.

39 Awesome Thoughts So Far, Add Yours Now...

  1. Twitter:
    The gestures suggested by you are not only be of a use for people going in for the transactions but will be of a great help for all those going in for any kind of interviews. One can also add the gesture where people shake their legs while sitting or tictoc of the ball pen which shows the nervousness and these can have an adverse impact while going in for a deal or for an interview.
    Gaurav Recently Posted: Kool Stock to Invest in 2014 & ProsperMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      Hello Gaurav,

      Believe me, these tips Kumar has shared here would go a long way to ensure a very favorable impression is passed on. When I first shook my father in-law’s hand, he asked me if I had ever served in the military! My negative response made him imagine I must be a very serious and damn confident person (which I am by the way)

      Needless to say, I am happily married to his daughter now! So, Kumar’s tips can work their charm both in formal and informal situations!


  2. Hi, Kumar ;)!

    Great post πŸ™‚ Simple and easy to understand 10 most common mistakes. I believe this info will help me a lot πŸ™‚ I started to study body language some time ago, not very intensive, so my knowledge is not very good yet and your post is a very good reminder of the things I already was supposed to know:)


  3. Twitter:
    Hi Kumar,
    The study of body language is called kinesics. Since the greater percentage of our communication in relations is non-verbal, it’s very important to understand how you are seen and come across to others, especially in business,
    positions of management and leadership.

    There are literally hundreds of things to observe in person… shallow breathing and perspiration may indicate nervousness, especially if you notice their voice is different than when they normally speak. But vocal intonation, called paralinguistics, is generally considered outside the study of body language. Proxemics takes into account
    how our body moves within the space between us and others. How someone moves and focuses their eyes is a key observation is police interrogations.

    I think with today’s technology, in sending text messages and voicemail, we lose much in the way of being able to read someone in an instant.

    Kind Regards,
    William Butler Recently Posted: Decisions! Decisions! 10 Ways To Make Right DecisionsMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      That’s true Bill. SMS and technology has made a difference for sure. But then, this also increases our chances of being judged even more critically because we are not used to meeting in person very much very often these days.

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us on this topic.


  4. Twitter:
    I am guilty of #4 – I don’t check my phone, but checking my watch is a habit of mine (not necessarily because I am not interested…I just want to keep track of my time). Of course, in a general situation, the other person might assume that I am not interested in the conversation (To be honest: I have also used this to escape from some conversations I want to avoid…telling them I am not interested without actually telling them).

    I still wonder why hand pointing is considered as offensive (How did it become offensive to our ancestors..could it be associated with an offensive ritual?).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing these tips, Kumar πŸ™‚
    Jeevan Jacob John Recently Posted: No free time? Just change when you think!My Profile

    • Twitter:
      Hi Jeevan,

      I don’t wear watch usually and when I do, since I am not used to wearing it regularly, it never draws attention πŸ™‚

      But then, it is definitely a great tool when you want to exit an uncomfortable conversation. Good point!

      Pointing fingers is bad because generally speaking it is an aggressive gesture and somebody who does it very often, you will notice, they are usually considered aggressive or arrogant. It’s just the way we instinctively judge as part of our human sense!

      That is why you don’t want to point fingers when you are there to impress somebody πŸ™‚

  5. Twitter:
    These are great tips Kumar. I remember entering the business world in the late 70s and as a woman, I was initially very timid to shake hands. Actually, back then, some men wouldn’t even initiate a handshake with a woman. Thankfully, I realized the importance of a strong handshake and eventually reached the point where some men would comment how strong my handshake was. πŸ™‚

    Really good tips! I’m off to share.
    Sherryl Perry Recently Posted: What is Your Favorite WordPress Plugin? #FridayFindsMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      Wow! That is awesome testimonial of being intentional about improvements and how much we can master the art if we just practice enough.

      I had a habit of weak handshakes myself until I was challenged by a new client manager who became a good friend later. He taught me how to handshake and I don’t forget his face when I am giving a good full handshake πŸ™‚ which is almost every time now.

      Thank you for sharing Sherryl. Appreciate you sharing!

  6. Twitter:
    Awesome Post! Today, I have shared this post with my client Dr. Mittal, much appreciations from him! He shared his own story when he was in UK, met his investor, got rejected, then prepared with proper understanding of #bodyLanguages and make the final shot. Now he is playing a key role in business and got a million dollar investment

    They Way we show, The Way we act- we never realized even that when we become so.

    Thank you for this awesome post Mr. Kumar!

    • Twitter:
      Awesome Rishabh. Thank you for sharing that πŸ™‚ Glad to know Mr. Mittal enjoyed the article!

      Have a good day my friend!

  7. A segment in a conference I recently was “What Your Face Is (or Isn’t) Saying:. They spoke about color and your facial expressions. Color is that which makes the voice interesting to listen to but color is not just limited to the vocal variety of your voice. It is also seen in your facial expression and body language.

    Rachel Lavern Recently Posted: How to Crush ProcrastinationMy Profile

  8. Twitter:
    Again a great post @Gaurav

    Proper body language is really important to show your self a confident resource.
    Yogita Recently Posted: How To Remove Temp Files From Windows 8 PCMy Profile

  9. Hey Kumar,

    Wow, this is some amazing information. This reminds of this show I use to watch called “Lie To Me” about a psychologist that worked out of Washington D.C. that use to get hired to see who’s lying after a crime is committed. I use to watch this show during my lunch breaks at work and I learned a couple of things that helped me later on.

    I’m definitely guilty of slouching sometimes and rubbing my chin. Slouching is definitely a bad habit, but rubbing my chin I believe isn’t so bad since I usually reply with a question to go deeper into the conversation and that I can get a better understanding.

    You always recommend some great books and I’ll definitely check out Barbara Peace’s book! Thanks for the share!

    Sherman Smith Recently Posted: How You Can Develop Trust And Great Author Rank Online Through GoogleMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      Awesome Sherman! Thank you for the appreciation. I take it as a compliment πŸ™‚

      Regarding rubbing the chin, as you said, it is a posture that is supposed to mean something and used in context, it is a great tool. But, used aimlessly, used without the need, makes the other person feel uncomfortable. I guess it’s about being aware of your posture than anything else πŸ™‚

      Have a great weekend my friend!


  10. Twitter:
    Hi Kumar,

    Love these items on body language. All of them can help us communicate more effectively with others. In particular though I wanted to add that #5 could also be seen as reclusive. Hands behind the back and mean the person with withdrawing as they are not fully engaged with the other person. There’s something they’re not feeling comfortable with as well. Just an added thought.

    Great job and great post. Loved reading about it.

    Barbara Charles Recently Posted: How To Grow Your Business When Things Go WrongMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      That’s a great vale addition, Barbara! Than you for sharing that additional perspective on hands behind back.

      Have a wonderful weekend πŸ™‚

  11. Twitter:
    Excellent post Kumar,

    This post made me think of the different gestures that can mean something else in another country, which I had written a post about few months ago, but the gestures you’re mentioning here are all no-no for an interview, for sure.

    I never understood people who have a “dead fish” handshake as you said. I knew a young woman back in France who had the worst handshake you’d ever felt, but yet she turned out to be a very successful person, so there may be some misleading here at times.

    The other day, I observed a very strange gesture from an anti-social guy I know. We were in the same room and he was basically facing the wall in order not to face me. I know he wasn’t doing it totally “consciously” but his somewhat weird mind made him do this. Amazing what the body language can tell us.

    One that I’d lack to add as a no-no during an interview is touching your hair all the time. This shows nervousness.

    Thanks for this great information.
    Sylviane Nuccio Recently Posted: Why French People May Be Rude To You And How To Avoid ItMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      Hi Sylviane,

      Thank you for sharing a few interesting perspective on some of the postures. The guy facing wall instead of you, must be weird πŸ™‚

      Regarding the “dead-fish handshake” lady, she may be successful for many other qualities which compensate for her that behavior and who knows how many possible business contracts she might have lost without even knowing why she lost…

      Being successful doesn’t justify a bad habit πŸ™‚ This is how I think when I see people who are extremely successful in their professions and yet have some of the traits which aren’t very much appreciated. For example, think of Steve Jobs. How many behavioral issues he had? But the man changed the world. He did make a dent! Didn’t he ? πŸ™‚

      Anyways, this is very interesting topic. Thank you for bringing it up.


  12. Twitter:
    Hello Kumar,

    This article has a lot of insight as to why many people fail to make a very powerful first impression and I must say most of the insights I get about a person on a first impression largely come from the handshake.

    A very firm and powerful handshake goes a long way to prove that the person you are shaking is damn serious, passionate about meeting you and generally able. While these may not be true all the time, most often, it is a hundred percent accurate!

    Sadly, this is the area most people often fail flat on a first meeting with me…which is your ‘gray area?’


    • Twitter:
      That’s right Terungwa! None of these are 100% indicative of the a person’s traits. But it is how we are perceived and while we do have the opportunity to make a great first impression, it’s a good idea to not make these mistakes and keep our body language as neutral as possible.

      Thank you for dropping by and sharing an excellent insight into this subject.

      Have a great weekend!

      Kumar Gauraw Recently Posted: Why Living With Integrity Is So Important For True LeadershipMy Profile

  13. Twitter:
    Hi Kumar,

    Body language is something people need to be aware of, especially when meeting new people and of course doing business.

    Shut the cell phone off! Be aware of that handshake…although I’m a small woman, I always give a firm handshake because there is nothing worse that that “dead fish” I don’t care about you handshake. It says so much!

    I have a habit of arm crossing, so I need to be aware of that because I know it closes off others. That is one habit of mine that I always had, but when I meet someone new, I catch myself all the time lol.

    I just love all the tips you have made and it is important to be aware of. We send more signals out with our body language than we do with our words.

    donna merrill Recently Posted: Spread Your Wings And Challenge Yourself!My Profile

    • Twitter:
      Hi Donna,
      You are right about that dead-fish handshake. It really gives a bad feeling when someone offers a handshake with a non-verbal that says “I don’t really care but anyways, nice to meet you!” πŸ™‚

      Glad to know you enjoyed the post and thank you for all the shares!


  14. Interesting list, here, Kumar.

    I probably do far too many of these things, but at different times.

    I was wondering what leg-crossing indicates. I do that a lot, and I try to stop because I feel it is too casual and people think I’m not taking them seriously, or that I’m not planning to do business with them when I do that.

    Not sure I agree with the hand on the chin posture, though. I’ve used that a lot in real estate negotiations, and while I agree it is a decision making gesture, I think it elicits improved offers. For instance, a seller might tell me his price, but at the last moment… because he thinks I’m about to make a decision… he might suddenly make concessions for fear that my decision will be to walk away from the deal.

    Lots of food for thought, here!
    David Merrill 101 Recently Posted: What Traffic and Conversion Strategies Do You Use?My Profile

  15. Twitter:
    Hi Kumar

    Ah great topic. I have been learning about this for many years now. First when I was in financial planning and Allan Pease did a lot of training with that industry. He was the forefather of the topic here in Australia. It is only in more recent years Barbara started working with him. They live quite close to us now πŸ™‚

    Since the Allan days I have worked with a series of people who taught NLP and learned a lot about it.

    I think being aware of it is great but we do not want to become paranoid. I know if I am in a room where the air-conditioning is very cold I often cross my arms and then immediately think it will be taken that I am bored or skeptical. So I think there are cases where people do things for different reasons. Mind you I have also been up the front presenting on occasions where someone in the front row has their arms crossed and it is discerning.

    A great post Kumar and a topic I love.

    Sue Price Recently Posted: Good Books to Read : Part 1My Profile

  16. Kumar…thank you so much for this! I have to admit…I slouch, and I sometimes get distracted and look elsewhere. That’s the introvert tendency in me, and I really have to work on it very diligently. These tips are so important for business owners because we are constantly in front of people who we don’t know. I will most certainly take your advice to heart!

    Great article, friend!
    Christi Johnson Recently Posted: How To Keep Blogging For Passive Income When In The Startup Phase Of Your BlogMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      Hi Christi,

      You are very welcome and I am so glad to know you found these tips practical and helpful.

      Yes, we are constantly in front of people and it’s very important that we watch our own body posture carefully and intentionally.

      Thank you for dropping by and sharing your thoughts!


  17. Twitter:
    Hey Kumar!

    Great post, I am sooooo guilty of doing the crossed arms! I’m not sure why since I know it sends out a very closed off perception, and I’m a VERY open minded person! Sometimes I think it takes more work to be neutral than to actually use poor body language!

    Great post,

    Zach Recently Posted: Why Go Vegan | Why I Went VeganMy Profile

  18. Twitter:
    Hi Kumar,
    I love this article. It has so much information that I and use. I just have such a hard time with understanding body language. I actually own the book What Every Body is Saying – I just have to read it now. πŸ™‚ Regards, Lisa
    Lisa Magoulas Recently Posted: Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage Brown ButterMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      Thank you Lisa. Glad to know you found the post informative! Have a great Thursday.


  19. I loved this post. These are common things we do everyday but jotting them down in a single post is really a great idea. I had a bad habit of standing with closed arms but when I entered into professional career that habit gradually gone. Enjoyed this post.
    Atish Ranjan Recently Posted: How to Make Money by Reviewing Products?My Profile

    • Twitter:

      Hi Atish,

      Good to hear from you again. Yes, crossed armes is a posture which I have been guilty of using many many times in my own career as well. I guess it is a continuous improvement program that we need to participate in πŸ™‚

      Thanks for coming by again! Have a good week.


      Kumar Gauraw Recently Posted: Essential Tools, Resources And Services From My ToolboxMy Profile

  20. Twitter:
    That’s a good and resourceful post. I am always nervous when I going for any business meeting or other industrial work. I going to try personally and keep you updated. Thank Kumar πŸ™‚

  21. Another great Article Mr.Kumar,
    In this competitive world and recently smashed economy requires lot more from candidate. Every employer wants best out of all so right body language will definitely put you ahead.
    Overall it was very informative.To put hands on chin or slouching was really new things for me to Be careful!.
    Atit Recently Posted: The Play-Ground of LifeMy Profile

  22. Twitter:
    Thanks so much for this Kumar, as a team effectiveness advisor,i can attest to the importance of these non-verbal cues. I wanted to also recommend a great new resource four your readers. Power Cues by @drNickMorgan was published this month by Harvard Business. It’s really insightful and valuable on these topics.

  23. Twitter:
    Kumar I’m 100% agree with you and its very true. Last month I give an interview in a multinational office but I disqualified. And I know later the only reason is my body language which is very important than words. Love your reading Kumar and which is very helpful for my next interview as well. Thanks Kumar and I will come again for better reading.
    Matt Recently Posted: Pickatale: Learning through Multilingual Story-telling AppMy Profile

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