By Chris Christoff, co-founder of MonsterInsights

There are plenty of ways that we communicate in our day-to-day lives. Out of all of the different ways to express our thoughts and attitudes, our body language might just be the most important factor in determining how we appear to others.

It’s no surprise that people have tried to master the way they come across to others through body language. But sometimes, without even realizing it, you can make some serious mistakes in the way you approach people or hold conversations. Let’s take a look at four of the most troublesome body language mistakes and how to fix them.

Avoiding Eye Contact

This first mistake is probably the most common. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered in the business world who just cannot initiate or hold eye contact. You’ll notice that many people who don’t know how to make eye contact will look at the ground, the clock or even the other side of the room.

Why does this pose a problem? The truth is, if you’re not making eye contact, people will view you as less trustworthy, unsure of yourself and overall distant and disconnected from the conversation. When you’re talking to someone about a multimillion-dollar deal and they refuse to look you in the eyes, are you going to go through with the deal? I didn’t think so.

The best way to fix this problem is through practice. Whether you’re at work, at home with your family or out with friends, practice making eye contact while you’re talking. It doesn’t have to be long, awkward eye contact -- just enough to appear invested in the person and the conversation you’re having. Show that you care.

Crossing Your Arms

Arm crossing is another body language habit you should learn to break as soon as possible. If you’re having a conversation with someone with your arms crossed, you can appear standoffish or like you’re separating yourself from the conversation.

If you’re talking to a business peer, appear more professional by uncrossing your arms and keeping them casually at your sides. If you’re the kind of person who uses their hands when they talk, feel free to do that, too. 

On the other hand, if you’re giving a business presentation, you have to learn to talk with your hands. Reach out and tap the whiteboard or paper to emphasize a point. Learn to be expressive and show that you’re interested and invested. Don’t forget the first mistake about eye contact -- this is a great opportunity to scan the room and make eye contact with the people you’re talking to.

Poor Posture

Think about your current position while you’re reading this article. What would someone think if they walked in the room and looked at your body stance right now? Are you slouched over, eye level with the computer? If so, it’s time to make a change.

This tip is the hardest one to learn because it takes a serious amount of practice. You have to learn to sit or stand with your back straight. When your back is straight, you appear confident, invested and healthy. You want people to get that professional image of you, so if you’re a sloucher, it’s time to start making changes.

You could also get a back brace to straighten your back out. There is a slew of comfortable ones that fit underneath your clothes to help you retain a healthy, professional posture.

Weak Handshakes

Your handshake is crucial in the world of professionalism. Having a solid handshake transmits confidence, trust and a good first impression. A strong handshake involves a firm, dry, right-hand shake.

You can incorporate other tips into this one, such as making eye contact and having a friendly smile when you shake a peer’s hand. It’s vital that you start the meeting strong so you can continue throughout with confidence, build trust and come to an agreement, whether it’s a financial deal or partnership.

As you start to identify what kind of body language mistakes people make, you can learn how to fix your own trouble areas. There is no doubt that the way we physically present ourselves to others impacts our interactions tremendously. Make sure you’re always working on improving your posture, eye contact and handshakes.

Chris Christoff is the co-founder of MonsterInsights, the leading WordPress plugin for Google Analytics.

Published on: Dec 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.