How your body language may hurt your career

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Often we're focused on the dialogue and what to say next, but sometimes it's our body language that says it all.

Watch yourself before you wreck yourself.

From job interviews to client meetings, from brainstorming sessions to presentations, here are the signs to look out for.

1. Cut out that nervous grin

You know, the one where you're smiling but your eyebrows knit together in an inverted V-shape. Body language expert Christian Chua, who runs a training academy, says it makes you look nervous and unsure. Same goes for twirling your hair and scratching your head.

Instead: Gain control of the situation. Chances are, you're likely to react this way to questions you don't have an immediate answer to. So buy yourself some time. Christian suggests reaffirming with your boss that the question is a good one, then ask for a couple of minutes to compose an answer. If there's a colleague in the room, even better - rope that person into the discussion and ask for an opinion.

2. Constant eye contact

It can make you seem aggressive - as if you're glaring at the person.

Instead: Look away every now and then, especially during one-to-one conversations and small meetings. And do it discreetly, by sipping coffee or taking down notes, says Christian.

3. Folding your arms

Crossing your arms gives the impression that you're defensive, insecure, or closed off.

Instead: "Hang your hands by your sides, or gently place your fingers together around belly-button level," says Teo Ser Lee, founder and director of etiquette and image consultancy Protocol Academy. You're likely to start gesturing as you talk, and that's fine. Also, position yourself at a 90-degree angle from the other person. Looking at them face-on can seem confrontational.

4. Don't get distracted

You're bored at a meeting, so you check your watch, read an e-mail, or look around the room. Don't. Body language that's out of sync with everyone else's shows individualism and a disconnection from the rest, says Ser Lee.

Instead: Take a cue from how others are behaving - observe their postures, gestures, and tone of voice. "If you're speaking to an introvert, be kind and gentle, whereas if you're chatting to an extrovert, laugh loudly," says Christian, adding that people are drawn to those like them.

5. Trying to blend in

Giving a presentation? Don't hide behind the podium. "You're only visible from the chest up. This makes you look like you're hiding behind a safety blanket," says Christian.

Instead: Move around, but not too much. It tells people you own the space. Just don't move more than a couple of steps to your left or right as you're talking. Don't pace - it's distracting.

6. You don't slow down

You think you look fast and focused when you speed-walk. But in fact, you just come off as fumbling and frantic.

Instead: Know when to inject pepe into your step, like former US president Barack Obama, who sometimes does a quick jog up the steps to the stage or podium. It tells people he's healthy, energetic, and capable, says Christian. Try it at your next presentation.

This article was first published in Her World Online