You should execute a handshake with confidence and break away at a natural point, says Body Language Expert Inbaal Honigman. 

You should execute a handshake with confidence and break away at a natural point, says Body Language Expert Inbaal Honigman.

First impressions are key when it comes to climbing the career ladder or running a business, and body language – or how you present yourself – plays a key part in this. Be it a job interview or meeting a potential new client, what your body is saying can be just as important as the words coming out of your mouth. Careers from sales and marketing to trades require confident, trustworthy body language, but are there some things we’re getting all wrong?  

Is standing tall actually a smart choice? What’s the best etiquette when it comes to that first handshake? To find out, Yell has enlisted the help of body language expert Inbaal Honigman, to reveal the most common misconceptions when it comes to business body language. 

Misconception 1: You should stand taller than others 

We are often told that standing taller projects an air of confidence and authority, but the truth is that doing so may not be having the intended effect. Inbaal explains: “Though we are told to stand tall, being at the same eye level as another person lets them know that you are human and creates a connection this way. People buy from people and hire from people they like, so try placing yourself at a similar level to them by sitting down if they are and mirroring their positioning. If people have to look up at you, they will immediately see you as condescending, rather than their superior.” 

Misconception 2: You shouldn’t show any emotion 

Being ‘emotional’ is often a term that is used in a negative context, particularly when it comes to doing deals in business. We’re frequently taught that keeping a lid on things and avoiding emotions spilling over is more professional, but Inbaal argues that showing a bit of your personality is more important: “It’s good to be focused and prepared when heading into a meeting, but it’s also good to keep your personality. Likeability is always helpful when it comes to sales, and being genuine is an easy way to make yourself more likeable to the person you’re doing business with. If you’re naturally smiley, don’t hide it!” 

Misconception 3: You must stay stiff and avoid fidgeting 

While excessive fidgeting, such as tapping or playing with your hair, can be distracting, it’s natural to be nervous or move around while talking. Restricting your movement altogether will only make you look awkward or false and feel worse internally. Try to keep yourself calm but allow yourself to move naturally - Inbaal suggests using positive statements such as ‘I can do this’ or ‘Everyone here is doing their best’ to help reframe your mindset. “This will help to control any nervous thoughts you may be having. Without nervous thoughts, there will be no tense body language and things will flow more naturally.”  

Misconception 4: Always avoid breaking off a handshake 

Having a good handshake is an art in itself, and something that many people practice ahead of big meetings, or before entering the professional world for the first time. It’s often said that you should try to avoid being the first person to break a handshake, but Inbaal says that: “A couple of hearty, natural shakes, paired with a greeting or a smile, are enough to show cordial respect towards the other person”. So, don’t overthink it, just shake with confidence and pull away at a natural point.  

Misconception 5: Look disinterested and you’ll win a negotiation 

One of the biggest misconceptions of all is that looking disinterested or bored is a good way to win negotiations. Pretending to not need the business is not a good look, even if it’s true, and may feel disrespectful to whoever you’re meeting. According to Inbaal, looking engaged is definitely the best approach: “Let your face show your true emotions and don’t pretend to not need the meeting - dishonesty in the boardroom will soon be revealed. Together with the client or interviewer, arrive at an outcome that suits you both, so sit or stand side by side as equals. Be honest and genuine by looking into the pitch or the offer and express that honesty through your facial expressions.”  

Ultimately, the aim for any business meeting or negotiation should be to remain calm but confident, while allowing your personality to shine through so that you can develop a strong rapport with the person you are meeting.  

Sarah O’Rafferty at Yell agrees, commenting: “Body language is something that we may be coached on at the start of our professional careers, or before giving a big presentation.  However, it’s not just these larger settings where body language is important - it can make a difference in every single interaction we have, in any type of business. Anyone running their own business, working directly with customers, or prepping for that all important job interview will be trying to win one or more people over, so should try to come across as well as they can, in the limited time they have available to make an impression.” 

“Although we may think that online calls are more informal, the same remains true in these situations too – fidgeting too much or coming across as too stiff can still have an adverse effect on your pitch. Tips such as mirroring the other person’s body language, nodding and smiling to acknowledge what they’re saying and maintaining eye contact are simple ways to show you’re engaged, and can be done both with or without a screen. The aim should always be to try to be a kind, friendly, authentic person - adopting a ‘fake’ persona for the sake of business will only catch you out in the long run.”  

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