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30 Ways Body Language Will Give You Away

30 Ways Body Language Will Give You Away

Have you ever given someone the wrong idea or the wrong impression? You might hear someone say with surprise, “Oh, I thought you were mad,” or, “You didn’t seem interested to me at all.” It could be the result of bad body language. Unknowingly we project with our body language subtle and not-so-subtle cues that other people pick up on readily. If you have some bad habits, people can even unconsciously perceive you as someone with a personality dominated by anxiety, anger, timidity, insecurity, and disinterest. People can become defensive or may become turned off to you altogether just because of a few bad cues. Here are 30 recommendations about body language that could be undermining you by either giving the wrong impression or giving away true negative feelings or thoughts you’d rather keep to yourself.

1. Don’t Scratch Your Nose

By touching your nose too much, someone might think you are lying. Yes, it is allergy season, or you just had a run in with your Aunt Mildred’s very friendly feline and you’re allergic to cats. You know that. But the more you touch your nose, the more you are signaling unwittingly to someone that doesn’t know you that you’re anxious about something. The clinical reason for scratching your nose is this: when your blood pressure goes up, blood flow to the nose increases, causing tissues and mast cells to dilate. The mast cells may then begin to release histamine. If it is a real itch, people generally rub their nose vigorously once. If someone just touches their nose lightly but repeatedly, someone might be trying to be deceptive, or they have something to hide, according to some body language specialists.

2. Don’t Blink So Much

Rapid fire blinking could be making you look nervous, deceitful, or dismissive. You can blame the increase in blood pressure and release of histamine again. Excessive eye blinking can be picked up by others as you try to blink away in disbelief what was just said. But it can also be interpreted by some that you are attracted to the person you are interacting with. What a dilemma! Are you being deceitful, have social anxiety, or are you secretly attracted to someone? Or maybe it was just that darn cat again!

3. Stop Smiling So Much

We know what nervous laughter is usually about and how awkward it can become. But smiling with just your mouth for five seconds or longer makes you look crazy or seem silly. It can also come across as just dishonest like you are wearing a mask. If you are smiling with your whole face in appropriate situations, all is well. But if you are using a smile to cover up what you are really feeling, then you might want to get real and stop the clowning around.

4. Don’t Look Up

When you look up, people might think you are accessing your imagination and engaging in fibbing, especially if they get your left and right mixed up with their left and right. Looking up and to your left indicates you are accessing visual imagery in the left hemisphere of your brain. Looking up and to the right shows that you are accessing your imagination in the right hemisphere. It is recommended just to drop this habit altogether.

5. Don’t Fidget

You’re showing your nerves again, or so it seems. Yes, you have a bad back. a pinched nerve, your chair is uncomfortable, or you’ve just been waiting around for a long time and need to move a bit. Maybe you have to go to the bathroom. Whatever the reason, move around too much and people might think you are fidgeting for the wrong reason.

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6. Don’t Hold or Pull On Your Earlobe

When I came across this recommendation, it made me laugh, because I thought of Carol Burnett, a comedian that would pull on her earlobe to send the secret message “I love you” to her mom while on television. But other sources, like Psychologia, say rubbing or pulling on an earlobe shows that you are feeling vulnerable, trying to self-sooth, or are flat out lying. For me, it probably means I wore a cheap but fun pair of earrings, disregarding my mild allergy to them. They always leave my earlobes a little itchy the day after.

7. Uncross Your Arms and Legs

You might think you are just making yourself comfortable, but others are reading your body language differently. Crossing arms and legs can be interpreted as closing yourself off defensively to those around you.

8. Don’t Pick at Your Nails and Cuticles

Nerves again! Picking at your nails is another activity or gesture that could be seen as you siphoning off stress or indicating that you’re nervous. If this is a habit of yours, it usually will manifest without you knowing, so the solution is to proactively, in a situation that would make you anxious, to occupy or control your hands in another way.

9. Stop Aiming for the Door

Are you positioning yourself to bolt? Do you have a better place to be? Or are you supposed to be giving your full attention to someone? If you are continually frustrating someone with this one, sorry, it is just universal: to show you are paying attention or interested, you have to face the person. So you might want to slow down and adjust your focus, even for a few seconds. In meetings, you might do it subconsciously, or accidentally. Aim your body where your attention should be.

10. Don’t Even Think About Rolling Your Eyes

If at all possible, don’t roll your eyes. Rolling your eyes is more disrespectful than if you said directly and emphatically, “I can’t believe you.” It actually might be worse, because if you are not using your words to communicate effectively, you run the risk of being considered rude and childish, as this body language is closely associated with rebellious adolescent behavior.

11. Get Hour Hands Off Your Hips

In some situations, particularly tense ones, you don’t want to put your hands on your hips as this gesture is perceived as intimidating. We move our hands to our hips with our elbows out to make ourselves look bigger and to defensively clear out our personal space. Unless that is your intention, keeping your hands down and palms open. This is a better way to keep the situation calm and the conversation flowing.

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12. Don’t Bite Your Lips or Nails

Of course not, you think, but then subconsciously, your brain starts sending the signals to chew on something to release tension. And then there you are, nibbling like a mouse on that little bit of skin or hang nail. Ugh! Gross! Especially if you make yourself bleed. So just pop a mint, chew some gum, steeple your fingers (in a non-menacing way) and relax.

13. Don’t Look at Your Feet

Or their feet, or someone else’s feet, or the ants on the floor, or the piece of trash by the door. Make good eye contact without staring. Looking down and away can mean you are shy, but it can seem that you aren’t interested in what is being said or the people you are speaking with.

14. Stop Picking Altogether

If you pick at things, you are signaling disapproval. It may be a nervous habit, but many won’t read it as nerves, but rather that you are mentally picking them or what they are saying apart. So even if it was that pesky cat of Aunt Mildred’s and she has left her fur all over your sleeves, leave off the picking till you can step away from a conversation or meeting.

15. Head Up

Lowering your head is signaling timidity and submission. It may even signal shame. So unless you want to look sorry, keep your chin up and make good eye contact.

16. Look a Person in the Eye

Bad eye contact came up repeatedly on searches about body language, so it must me one of the most important parts of making a good impression. Good eye contact is considered to be steady eye contact for several seconds at a time. It is recommended that if you have trouble with this, to always hold eye contact for one beat or one breath longer than you feel you want to.

17. Don’t Look Around the Room

Are you looking for an escape, or are you really trying to avoid the person in front of you? Looking here, there, and everywhere is not showing interest.

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18. Don’t Cross Your Ankles

This indicates apprehension. I thought it was just a person getting comfortable, but I guess everything means something else.

19. Don’t Nod Too Much

Another sign of being submissive. Nodding some means agreement. Do it too much, and you are indicating something else all together. Being agreeable can be good, but being seen as a weakling could be very bad.

20. Quit Rubbing Your Eyes

What? You don’t believe me? Because the more you rub your eyes, the more I think you are trying to wipe away what I just said because you don’t believe me. Or that is what some body language experts interpret it to mean.

21. Uncover Your Mouth

According to some body language experts, covering your mouth, not to be confused with holding your chin, indicates lying. This is only during a conversation, not when the person is just resting their head. It can also be a gesture that is part of someone’s normal behavior. But in conjunction with other cues that indicate lying, covering one’s mouth doesn’t come across as being thoughtful or surprised but is an indicator that deceit is afoot.

22. Open Up Your Gestures

If your gestures are close to your body, then you appear to be minimizing yourself, which is defensiveness. Opening up your gestures more than a few inches, like when you speak with your hands, palms open, is open and confident. Quick, little gestures are seen as mouse-like and very timid.

23. Be Expressive With Your Whole Face

When you smile, you should be smiling even with your eyes and cheeks, not just your lips, and it shouldn’t be done in a small way. If you are minimizing your facial expressions, you are signaling defensiveness or that you are closing yourself off.

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24. Take Notes, But Never Doodle

Are you disengaged? Because that is what doodling signals. This causes the person making a presentation or trying to communicate with you to think they are wasting their time with you. It can be an absentminded habit or a coping mechanism, but it is better just to stop doing it.

25. Don’t Slouch or Slump

Slouching and slumping indicate defensiveness, timidity, and disengagement. Posture is important in the social world, so having good posture is essential to success, according to the experts. It might be something we take for granted, but there are even exercises that will help improve your posture. Many of the exercises concentrate on your core strength. That can only be good for confidence.

26. Quit Playing With Your Hair

Playing with your hair could be flirting, but it also can be interpreted as nervousness. This is cited as something people do unconsciously, like chewing their tongue, or picking, but which has a negative impact on how a person is perceived. People that twirl and chew their hair are often seen as not only anxious, but just immature. So this is a habit that shouldn’t go unchecked.

27. Don’t Scratch or Rub Your Neck

Scratching and rubbing your neck indicates lying. In combination with other nervous habits or tics, your personal stock starts to fall in the eyes of your audience. They doubt you and whatever you have to say, finding it easier to dismiss you.

28. Don’t Pinch Your Nose and Close Your Eyes

Just like with picking at lint, pinching and closing your eyes is a signal that you are negatively evaluating something. A person with a headache or painful sinuses is likely to do this unwittingly, and the problem is, even if the person seeing it knows you have a headache, they still subconsciously can think you are evaluating them negatively.

29. Don’t Clasp Your Hands Behind Your Back

Are you angry or in battle mode? Are you about to pounce? Unless you are strolling leisurely in a 1940’s film, hands clasped behind the back indicates anger and disapproval.

30. Just Take It Easy…

I know, taking it easy in tense situations like meetings, interviews, and first dates is easier said than done. But by just relaxing, opening up, and breathing deeply, your posture and presentation will change positively.

If negative body language is done excessively or in combination with other gestures, then it is interpreted by experts as more meaningful, true, and reliable. Articles on how to spot a liar were particularly keen on this point. However, some body language specialists warned that even subtle cues, like pinching one’s nose while closing one’s eyes, can be absorbed by people subconsciously, leaving them with negative, poor impressions that aren’t meaningful and true. Even when what we are saying contradicts their perception, people are likely to walk away with the negative impression. So whether you are meeting with the boss or having to make nice with the in-laws, it is good to know how some bad body language can prevent you from making the best impressions.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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