You know what they say about a picture being worth a thousand words. Now what if you didn’t just apply it to your Instagram account? What if you could use that advice in real life?
We’re talking about body language – specifically, the bad body language habits that are subtly sabotaging your success, without you even realising it.
How you say something is at least equally important as what you say. It may even be more important. In other words, your body is the picture, and if you’re not conscious of the words it’s saying, the negative messages it sends can override what you’re actually trying to communicate.
Bad body language habits are so unconsciously ingrained that they can be hard to identify and even harder to break. This first step is to realise which ones are mistakes in the first place. Below are some of the biggest.
Your mother was right when she told you not to slouch. Terrible posture isn’t just bad for your health, it sends the message that you lack confidence. Hunching can also make you look uncomfortable, untrustworthy, and unfriendly. Sit up straight and, while you’re at it, keep your arms uncrossed. Crossed arms look defensive and unwelcoming, and a listener is more likely to perceive you as trustworthy if they can see your hands when you’re talking.
Adopt the Goldilocks approach when it comes to movements: not too much, not too little, just right. Fidgeting sends the message that you’re bored, nervous, or lack power in a situation. Using hand gestures while speaking is an effective way to engage listeners, but excessive gesturing is a turn-off. On the flip side, being too still can also leave a negative impression. Your eerie calmness may make people feel uneasy, or suggest to them that you’re not interested in what they’re saying.
Do you want to be the guy who limps through life or the guy who fearlessly strides through it? A shuffling gait is the active equivalent of slouching. It says that you’re nervous or uncomfortable, and lack self-confidence. The good news is, adopting a more powerful walk doesn’t just project confidence to viewers – it can make you more confident for real.
A Stony Expression
Don’t underestimate the power of your pearly whites. Smiling demonstrates an array of positive qualities, from confidence and openness to warmth and energy. It also triggers a subconscious response in your listener, said body language expert and author Tonya Reiman to Business Insider. When you smile, other people are more likely to smile back and form a positive impression of you. “Without the smile,” she added, “an individual is often seen as grim or aloof.”
Unsettling Eye Contact
Once again, Goldilocks gets it right. Too much eye contact comes off as aggressive or creepy. Whoever you’re talking to will become uncomfortable quickly. On the other hand, avoiding eye contact can signal disgust, indicate that you lack confidence, or make you seem untrustworthy. Aim for a series of long glances rather than intense stares or total evasion.
It’s unsettling when verbal communication and non-verbal communication don’t sync up. If you’ve said something out loud, your body should be sending a complementary message. It rubs people the wrong way when they perceive a mismatch, and it undermines what you’re really trying to communicate.
In cases where verbal and non-verbal messages aren’t in alignment, the non-verbal signals win out in the listener’s brain. So if you say “That’s a brilliant idea, boss!” but your arms are crossed, your eyes roll, and your voice is monotone, the message received isn’t positive. The listener knows you’re a liar. Be careful that underhanded communication habits don’t land you in hot water.