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30 Ways Body Language Will Give You Away

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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.

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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 November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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