5 Body Language Mistakes Lawyers Make

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 15, 2016 12:15 PM

Even the smartest, most well-prepared lawyers can be betrayed by their body language. A shaky hand can undermine the most confident speech and a slouching posture can make the hardest working attorney look lazy. That's because your body language can often say as much about you as your words, whether you realize it or not.

So don't let body language sabotage you. Here are five body language mistakes to avoid.

1. Getting Too Close or Ignoring Personal Space

One of the best ways to make someone feel uncomfortable is by invading their personal space. So if The Police wrote "Don't Stand So Close to Me" about you, it's time to start working on giving others a bit more breathing room. And while the proper amount of personal space varies across cultures, relationships, and even genders, the rule of thumb is to give someone else about three feet of personal space or more.

2. Gesturing a Bit Too Enthusiastically

When you're relating a story or making a point, hand gestures are an important, subtle way to add emphasis and inflection. But the key is being subtle. Controlled gestures can help convey leadership and confidence, but exaggerated ones can make you look like you're overcompensating, exaggerating, or, worse, not being honest.

3. Slouching

This is a no brainer. Slouching makes you look bored, uninterested, and lazy. It can make you look disengaged when you're talking to someone or slothful when you're sitting at your desk -- even if you've been working 12-hour days. So sit up straight instead.

4. Nodding Too Much

You're engaged. You empathize. You agree. And you want to let people know through your body language. Great! Nod away. But don't nod too much. It's the body language version of saying "Oh yeah!" and "You're so right!" after every sentence and if you over-nod you could end up looking like you're desperate for approval.

5. Sitting Directly Across From Clients

Here's an interesting tip we picked up form Law Firm Suites. Don't sit directly across from clients. When you line up head to head, with your shoulders squared off to clients or whoever is sitting across from you, you're adopting a confrontational posture. Simply angling your chair a bit can avoid this, giving you a more open, collaborative air.

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