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30 Ways Body Language Will Give You Away

30 Ways Body Language Will Give You Away
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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.

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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