Body language is essential to how we communicate and present ourselves to others, and it is also one of our most intuitive communication tools. It means that we often reveal things such as insecurities through body language without even realizing it, as well as pick up those cues from others. Your body language can either build trust and boost your relationships, or it can also do the complete opposite.
While this may sound daunting, having genuine and positive body language isn’t all that difficult; it has all to do with congruity. When your body language is out of alignment with what you’re saying, it sends mixed messages about your genuine feelings and puts you in less than great light.
This misunderstanding is where most, if not all, body language mistakes stem from. No one wants to come off as weak or insincere through their gestures, and by making just a few tweaks, you can easily avoid it. These are 9 body language habits that you must stop, to improve and feel more at ease in your social interactions.
According to a few experts, constantly shifting your weight from foot to foot or otherwise ‘dancing around’ makes you seem anxious to leave. The first step to fixing that problem is realizing you’re doing it in the first place, as it is mostly something we do unconsciously.
When you have this awareness in your mind that this is something that might happen to you, it is easier to catch yourself when engaging in such behavior. If you do, try to take a moment and center yourself, so you’re present in the interaction, as per the advice of Cassandra LeClair, PhD, professor of communication studies at Texas State University. If you are doing it to relieve some physical discomfort, try to adjust your position (take a seat, for example), or simply explain the situation to the other person.
Casting your eyes up and to the left while telling a story is associated with lying. This gesture can make you seem suspicious or dishonest. However, it is something people occasionally do when they are telling the truth, and are actually trying to recall something.
Whenever you’re recounting a story, make sure you maintain sufficient eye contact and try to resist the temptation of rolling your eyes back. “Alternatively, you can take a deep breath, close your eyes as if you’re gaining composure, and then tell the story. This body language indicates the depth and that you’re taking your time to recount the story, not that you’re lying,” body language and relationship expert Nicole Moore told Reader’s Digest.
This body language fixture is rather new - it has only become a part of our lives since phones became an inseparable part of our lives, naturally. Although giving someone our undivided attention has become significantly harder, put in the effort to make it a habit when you talk to someone and resist technological temptation.
Constantly glancing at your phone every time it alerts (even if you’re not actually picking it up and reading it) communicates that you’re not interested in what the other person is saying. For obvious reasons, this can make your conversation partner uncomfortable opening up to you. If having your phone nearby is too distracting, simply put it away in your pocket or in your bag, where you won’t be tempted to look at it.
Related: Body Language: The Complete Guide
When feeling nervous, some people start speaking in a higher-pitched voice. It might just be a habit, or thinking a higher-pitched voice makes them more approachable or ‘cute’. However, the quality of your voice can be a deciding factor in how you are perceived. Speakers with higher-pitched voices are deemed less empathetic, less powerful, and more nervous than speakers with lower-pitched voices, according to body language expert Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.
One easy technique to relax your voice and lower it to its optimal pitch is putting your lips together and saying Um hum, um hum, um hum’. Doing so is especially helpful before an important phone call, where the sound of your voice is critical. For more conversation mistakes and tips check out our previous article These 8 Mistakes Are the Biggest Conversation Killers.
While we’re on the topic of speaking tone, you may be familiar with the term upspeak. Even if you aren’t, you surely heard someone use this vocal technique. Upspeak means ending every sentence by raising the pitch of your voice, making it sound like a question. According to experts like Goman, upspeak is one of the biggest credibility killers. Making every statement sound like a question makes you seem as if you’re constantly seeking approval.
To sound assured and authoritative when making a statement, start speaking on one note, raise the pitch slightly through the sentence, and then drop it back down at the end. For more advice on being assertive check out our previous article 9 Habits All Assertive People Share.
We’re not saying keep your face expressionless, that too is a body language no-no. However, there is such a thing as smiling too much. “Excessive or inappropriate smiling can be confusing and undermines your credibility,” Goman says. If you want to seem encouraging, smiling is great, but make sure you do so at the appropriate time, and not just keep your face stuck in a constant smile.
The fig leaf pose, as you might have guessed, is holding your hands tightly in front of your body, as shown in the picture. “This gesture almost always indicates to other people that we’re afraid, closed off, or angry,” explained Moore. And if you take a closer look at what you’re actually feeling when standing in this position, this might not be far from the truth. Before communicating with anyone, especially someone new which can be intimidating, remind yourself to let the arms hang loosely by your sides.
Playing with your hair, or touching your face, is another nervous habit many people engage in without realizing it. Becoming aware of it is worth your while, as it might make you come off as anxious, ill-prepared, disinterested in the topic of discussion, or even intimidated.
Resist the urge to fiddle with your hair, beard, purse, or anything else. If you don’t know what to do with your hands, just let them hang loose. After a while, it will feel more natural.
Smiling, as we have mentioned, is important. However, if you’re just not feeling it, don’t force a fake smile, it will do more harm than good. When your face is doing the opposite of what you actually feel, people can sense it, no matter how good of an actor you may be. According to Moore, Many people learned in childhood to laugh at discomfort or make a joke when feeling bad as a way to protect themselves, but it is a problematic coping technique.
What is the solution, then? Just being genuine. Practice moving your face in accordance with the emotion you’re actually feeling. It is okay to express discomfort in a truthful and appropriate way.
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