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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 March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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