What we say and how we say it is incredibly important for communicating with others. But while most of us think of the more obvious, verbal component of what we say when communicating with others, it's easy to forget the 60 percent to 90 percent of our communication that is nonverbal. This is a mistake. According to researchers, our faces can produce more than 250,000 distinct expressions, and our hands more than 5,000 gestures.

"What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say"--Ralph Waldo Emerson

The good news is that bad body language can be fixed. You simply need to become aware of the messages your body is sending to others, and then practice until you have created better body language habits.

Here are 11 common body language problems and how to fix them. Give them a try to improve the way you communicate and the way others perceive you.

1. Avoiding eye contact

When you avoid eye contact, you are communicating the message that you lack confidence in yourself, are uncomfortable or afraid, or want to escape. You can fix this problem simply by making eye contact with the people you are communicating with.

2. Weak handshake

Shaking someone's hand is often one of the very first impressions we have of another person. If your handshake is weak or flaccid, you are sending the message that you are, too. Be firm in your handshake, but avoid the kind of death grip that actually causes pain.

3. Sagging posture

When you slouch or slump, you are telling others that you have poor self-esteem, which is definitely not the message you want to convey in business. Stand up straight, pull your shoulders back, and keep your head up.

4. Weak voice

While what you say is important, how you say it can have an even greater impact on the other person in a conversation. If your voice is weak, you may appear to be weak, too. Practice speaking in a way that is strong and confident. You don't have to be overly loud, just loud enough to be easily heard and understood.

5. Faked smile

Far worse than not smiling at all is faking a smile, which will label you as being insincere at best, a fraud at worst. Let your smile emerge naturally and don't force it.

6. Standoffishness

When you're leaning away from someone in a conversation, you're sending the message that you either dislike him or her, or that you aren't interested in what the other person has to say. Instead of leaning away from others in your conversations, lean in.

7. Crossed arms or legs

When your arms or legs are tightly crossed, this indicates to others that you are in a defensive frame of mind--either you are afraid of the other person or closed to what that individual has to say.

8. Grimacing/eye rolling

When you grimace or roll your eyes during your conversations, you are loudly telling the other person that you either don't believe what he or she is saying, or that you don't respect him or her. Instead of grimacing or rolling your eyes, practice smiling and nodding your head in agreement.

9. Playing with your smartphone

Nothing says that you'd rather be somewhere else louder than texting or otherwise playing with your smartphone while you're in a conversation with someone else. Make a point of putting away your electronic gadgets and direct your full focus on the other person.

10. Blinking

When you increase your rate of blinking during the course of a conversation, you are saying to others that you are nervous or anxious. Be aware of the blinking of your eyes, and make a conscious effort to slow it down when you communicate with others.

11. Fidgeting/checking your watch or fingernails

When people constantly fidget, tap their feet or fingers, or check their watch, they are sending the signal that they are bored and want to be doing something--anything--else. Be aware of when you start fidgeting or checking your watch or fingernails during your conversations, and put a stop to it as soon as it starts.

Published on: Oct 18, 2014