The Top Twelve Body Language Mistakes People Make – Part 2


Fair or not, people have already made up their minds who you are within a few seconds of meeting you, all because of what your body language is telling them.

Note: this is the second of a two-part series – view Part 1 here

Last time we covered the first six body language mistakes which people often make without even realizing the message they are sending.  To recap, they were:

  1. Failure to make positive eye contact.
  2. Lack of a smile.
  3. Poor posture.
  4. Fidgeting.
  5. Poor handshakes.
  6. The thousand-yard stare

Now for the remainder of the Top Twelve Body Language Mistakes People Make:

  1. Closed body language. Crossing the arms is the classic closed body language, so if you are a natural arm crosser, you’ll need to find another way to be comfortable.  Closed body language includes a tensing and holding of the muscles, closed or clenched hands, stiffening, and other similar actions.  Note how Charles’ body language (picture at top of article, left) is quite closed with him stiffening up, crossing his arms, peering down his nose over his glasses, and scowling.  Based on this combination, when you first see Charles are you thinking, big friendly teddy bear, or grumpy grizzly?
  2. Overuse of hand gestures. Gesturing while speaking is a natural way people enhance their message.  Although some people are naturally ‘hand-talkers,’ an overuse of hand gestures conveys nervousness and can be off-putting to many people.  Listeners begin to focus on the land gestures and miss the words and delivery.  After all, can you really take an over-dramatic hand gesturer seriously?
  3. Underuse of hand gestures. Some hand gestures are natural, but gesturing too little may be taken as a sign of disengagement, low energy, and working at a slow speed. In the picture at the top of this post, right, Leshana is clasping her arms behind her neck and hunching over, projecting a somewhat depressed image because her hands are not free to help convey her thoughts. 
  4. Too bubbly. Sometimes when people get nervous they talk too much and tend to speak a lot without saying anything (meaningful). Their faces get over-expressive. Sometimes nervous energy causes people to talk in a higher tone of voice that can also be distracting. Usually these habits are accompanied by the overuse of gestures. Aim for an energy level just slightly above that of the other person, and at about his or her same rate of speech.
  5. Facial expressions harden, eye contact diminishes, and the body language becomes closed. Small hand gestures close to the body and dropping the head forward slightly also signal defensiveness.  Defensive people are generally seen as less open and trustworthy.
  6. Disinterest/Distrust. What tells someone you are disinterested? Tired body language, yawning, avoiding direct eye contact, clock-watching, easily distracted, glancing at his or her phone, or making “I’m ready to go now” movements.  What tells someone you are not trustworthy?  Hands to your mouth while speaking, leaning away from the other person, either avoiding eye contact or locking eye contact while speaking to them, hand palming (hands up like you are looking to receive something), or any unnatural body language that seems contrived. 


Three Actions to Take With Your Own Body Language

A few additional points about body language worth remembering:

  • Every person has a body language that feels natural to him or her. Knowing and maintaining awareness of your own normal state body language – and what messages it sends – is an essential career and life skill to be mastered.
  • People seem to be more comfortable when interacting with others who possess similar body language to them. It is a best practice to mirror the positive body language elements the other person exhibits. 
  • Videotaping your own body language is great way to identify your obvious body language mistakes. Use your smartphone or tablet’s camera for this.  Work with a friend who will ask you a series of questions.  Respond as you would in an actual discussion. Videotape five to ten minutes, then play back the video and identify your body language strengths and mistakes.  Then tape another segment to see how you improved.  Continue this process for a few rounds until you are confident of your body language.


Bottom Line

Your body language communicates more of who you are than your words do!  Becoming more aware of your own body language and the impact it has on others is a life and career-success best practice. 

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