The Importance of Good Body Language

Four key body-language indicators that tell others you are present and in control of your meeting.

Snacks, beverages, writing utensils — none of these meeting components will have a big impact if attendees aren’t mentally present at the meeting. Lack of interest can be shown through checking a phone constantly or sleeping during a meeting (gasp!) or even through simple body language. Whether you’re leading the meeting or participating, you can help set the tone by employing mindfulness.

“Being able to step back and examine what you’re feeling is critical because … it will be displayed in your body language whether you mean to or not,” Andrew Filev, the founder and CEO of Wrike, told Forbes. “Through mindfulness, we can control our appearance and our temperament, and focus on making meaningful and deliberate contributions.”

So what signals are you sending with your body language? Here are a few key areas to think about:

Mouth: Even the slightest grimace can indicate that you’re fearful or, worse, lying. Grimaces can also affect how other areas of your face, such as your forehead or your eyes, react, further communicating discomfort.

Posture: Sagging shoulders can help create a more approachable appearance for sympathetic conversations, but constant poor posture may indicate that you feel unsure about yourself. To convey confidence, sit up straight, but not so stiff that you look uncomfortable.

Hands: Your hands can be very demonstrative — which can be both good and bad. To appear more in control, keep your hands gently folded in your lap; if you’re standing, develop an equally neutral position.

Legs: Jittery legs or tightly closed legs send the message that you’re uncomfortable or closed-minded. But don’t splay your legs out, either, which makes you seem like you don’t have it together. Simply cross your legs at your ankles.

You don’t want to come across as cold or unattached, but by being in control of your body and your emotions, you can convey a well-prepared, attentive presence that makes others want to engage with you and have meaningful, productive conversations.