The Top Twelve Body Language Mistakes People Make – Part 1


Millions of times daily people commit body language mistakes they don’t even notice. But everyone else does. Don’t let these mistakes cost you credibility, sales, trust, jobs, promotions, and more.

According to the Center for Body Language, people pretty much decide who you are in less than 30 seconds, often without you ever opening your mouth.  Body language accounts for half of the message you communicate. The other half?  Your words at 10% and the delivery of those words at 40%.  And here’s the shocker: body language affects your message whether or not the other person can see you, such as times you are speaking by phone!

Almost everyone is aware of the messages sent by the body language of other people.  However, those same individuals are often unaware of the messages being sent by their own body language. That’s because we all spend 99.99% of our time looking out of our own eyes, and a tiny fraction viewing ourselves through the eyes of others.


Where Your Body Language Messages Help or Hurt You

Whenever you are in public or the workplace, your body language is telling everyone about you and your character. Confident. Lazy. Trustworthy. Impatient. Caring.  Arrogant.  You want a few examples?

  • You meet with a new client who decides that you’re authentic after observing how you have been listening.
  • You slouch while on the phone with your boss, and he gets the impression you’re tired and unmotivated. He cannot see your body language but it’s affecting your message.
  • Your eyes meet a fellow commuter on the train and that one-second glance tells her it’s okay to sit next to you.
  • Your boss decides you’re not ready for the promotion he needs to fill because your body language told him you lack confidence during your last two meetings.


The Top Twelve Body Language Mistakes People Make

We’ll cover the first six in this post and present the next six in a few weeks.

  1. Failure to make positive eye contact. Too much eye contact becomes a Charlie Manson stare and it is creepy.  Too little eye contact suggests someone is not telling you the truth.  Your level of eye contact should mirror the other person and be accompanied by a smile or pleasant expression.  Smile from the eyes as well as the mouth. 
  2. Lack of a genuine smile. Smiles immediately convey warmth and trust.  Some people smile naturally and as a result, attract others.  Smiles should be real, frequent, and never forced.  In smile studies people correctly differentiated fake smiles from the genuine smiles with nearly 100 percent accuracy.  If you are someone with strong or imposing features you may need to smile more often to counterbalance a tendency for people to think you are angry or intimidating.  Lack of enthusiasm is a smile’s close cousin and conveys disinterest. In the left-hand picture at the top of this article, Sandy’s professional appearance is marred by her lack of a warm smile. She seems shifty.
  3. Poor posture. Rounded shoulders, head down, and slouching all are elements of bad posture and suggest low energy, disengagement, disinterest, and even depression.  When you sit, stand, and walk with your head up and your spine straight, it conveys energy and confidence.  Note how Richard (in the right-hand picture at the article’s top) is slouching in his chair.  Coupled with his expression and hands, do you think he’s a fully engaged listener…or just bored out of his skull?
  4. Fidgeting. While some nervousness is to be expected, people who fidget with their hair, clothing, glasses, and or pen, or bounce their legs, squirm, and the like, convey a sense of inadequacy.  Chewing fingers, fingernails, and the inside of one’s cheek or lips are all similar ways people fidget.  Absent-mindedly doodling in a conversation is disrespectful and expresses nervousness.
  5. Poor handshakes. Handshakes are neither a test of strength nor a contest to see who can get closest to simulating a moist and limp dead fish.  A proper professional handshake should involve the whole hand, be firm but not crushing, and be held for a few seconds, while smiling and looking the other person in the eyes long enough to notice their eye color. 
  6. The thousand-yard stare. Just because you are looking at someone who is speaking does not mean you are engaged or listening. If it’s a thousand yard stare as if looking through someone, it’s likely communicating disrespect and disdain for the other person. 

The remaining six body language mistakes will be presented in part two of this series in a few weeks.

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