44 Body Language Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Like the myth that we only use 10% of our brains, the idea that 93% of communication is non-verbal stubbornly persists because people just won't shut up about it. However, the real figure is believed to be about 60-70%, which means body language is still more important than spoken words in getting your point across. Sometimes the signals we send are natural symptoms of how we really feel, and sometimes they're completely unintentional and unwanted. Hopefully you aren't making every mistake on this list, but here are 44 common ways your body may be talking behind your back.

On a Date

  1. Crowding them: Personal space means just that. Find the right balance between being seductively close to your date and stepping on their toes the entire night, or else they will think you are desperate. And nothing kills romance like a whiff of desperation.
  2. 10-foot pole: On the other hand, if you are overly concerned with keeping plenty of breathing room between you and your partner, they may become self-conscious or think that you are aloof and uninterested.
  3. Crossing your arms: Ladies, if you don't want a guy to think you don't like him, resist the urge to cross your arms and jut your hips out. For fellas, crossed arms imply arrogance, annoyance, or boredom, all messages you probably want to avoid.
  4. Leaning too far in: Just like with shaking hands, there's a fine line between appearing interested and breathing down your date's throat at the table. You'll come off needy or aggressive.
  5. Holding your drink too high: When's the last time you wondered how the way you hold your drink affects your "vibe?" Holding it close to the body and protectively says you're shy, while holding it with crossed arms is an ice-queen pose.
  6. Nodding too much: You want your girl to know you're right with her in the conversation, so you're nodding constantly. Ironically, people can take this to mean you're faking interest and are some kind of phony.

At Work

  1. Shaking hands too hard: We get it, a firm handshake means confidence. But we'd much rather discover that you are self-assured by speaking to you than having our fingers crushed.
  2. Weak handshake: It's tough to say which is worse, the too-hard or the too-weak handshake. Men and women equate a weak grip with weak character, which neither a boss nor a romantic interest find desirable.
  3. Wearing the wrong clothes: Clothes are a part of body language you ignore at your own peril in the business world. Clothes too baggy, too ratty, too sexy, too wrinkled: all of these tell employers you are not responsible enough to work for them.
  4. Ignoring people: A presenter has no way of knowing that you are taking notes on your iPhone, not texting or scrolling Facebook, and is liable to think you are being extremely rude. Use a pen and paper to avoid a miscommunication.
  5. Preening: Gussying up has its place in the mating world, but in a business environment straightening your tie or patting down hair makes people think you're vain or arrogant.
  6. Not gesturing: When making a presentation, if your arms are too still people will be off-put and think you're nervous, even if you aren't. If you're not a natural gesticulator, force yourself to incorporate a bit of gesturing.
  7. Over-gesturing: On the other hand, a recent survey of hiring managers found gesturing with the hands too much was in the top five of reasons employers would be less likely to hire an applicant, so don't overdo it.
  8. Turning your back on the audience: Make sure you practice your business presentation enough that you don't need to turn to look at the screen behind you, simply because no one wants to look at your behind.
  9. Not looking at everyone: Nobody likes to feel ignored. If you have a job interview with multiple interviewers, even if one never asks you a question, be sure to regularly make eye contact with him or her.

For Women

  1. The Scissors Stance: Crossing the legs while standing is typically a female thing. It may be fine in social situations, but don't do it at work because it implies submission, vulnerability, and even negativity.
  2. The partial arm cross: This is another entry from the world of women. Grabbing one arm with the other hand is like a one-armed hug for yourself, and it tells people you need calming down or reassurance.
  3. Tilting your head: Some of you ladies may be guilty of sending the wrong signal to male coworkers by tilting your head to the side while listening to them. They are probably seeing that as a flirtatious move, even if you only mean to convey agreement.

For Men

  1. Not shaving: Guys who don't shave regularly run the risk of being perceived as lazy and sloppy, not ideal qualities in an employee or a boyfriend.
  2. The Figure Four: In this position, you sit with one leg crossed over the other at a 90-degree angle. It may be comfortable but it implies a competitive attitude and, when coupled with the "hand clamp" (holding the crossed leg with both hands), it conveys stubborn intransigence.
  3. Cracking your knuckles: For one thing, the sound of cracking knuckles is disgusting to everyone within earshot who isn't you. It's also seen as a macho-poser move for guys.


  1. Sitting on the edge of your seat: Athletes on the bench of a losing team sit forward because they're tense and nervous. If you do this in a job interview or on a date you'll look the same way.
  2. The Ankle Lock: Courtroom defendants are three times as likely as plaintiffs to sit with ankles locked before a trial. It's a blatant defense mechanism that gives away the fact you're afraid or uncertain.
  3. Leaning back: Leaning back in your chair says, "Keep talking, boss/girlfriend; I'm just going to get comfortable while you blather about earnings/your day."
  4. Tap dancing: If you just have lots of energy and bounce your knees or tap your feet without realizing it, you may want to train yourself to stop. Tapping feet or hands signify impatience, nervousness, or boredom.


  1. Shifting weight: When you have to stand to give a presentation or are at a bar, you may get tired and need to shift your weight from one foot to the other. This may instinctively look like weakness to others.
  2. Pocketed hands: Take comfort in the fact that nobody else knows what to do with their hands either. So remove your mitts from your pants pockets because it looks like you're indifferent or unconfident.
  3. Walking small: Politicians walk with big strides because doing so exudes energy and confidence. If you walk slowly or shuffle people will associate it with uncertainty and weakness.
  4. Hunching your shoulders: Poor posture and slouching suggests to onlookers that you have no spine, literally and figuratively. Even if you aren't feeling it, you can fake confidence just by sitting up straight.


  1. Rapid-fire blinking: If you're excessively blinking because you've got a contact out of place or something, people may think you're uncomfortable or arrogant, as if you're too important to even look at them.
  2. Hawk eyes: Squinting can be a good way to convey keen focus on what someone else is saying, but it can also be mistakenly interpreted as distrust or uncertainty over the accuracy of what the other person said.
  3. Staring: Blinking is natural; long periods of looking at someone without blinking weirds people out and can convey aggression or even dishonesty.
  4. Searching for inspiration: If you look around before you open your mouth or while you're speaking, you're non-verbally saying you don't really know what you're talking about.
  5. Looking for the exit: If you're shy and have trouble making eye contact, it could be a problem. If your lady friend is telling you all about her job as a dental hygienist and you're looking anywhere but in her eyes, she'll think you're bored and wanting to bail.
  6. Saying hi to your shoes: You have to bow your head to look down, and if you do that in an interaction with someone, you've just silently told them you submit to their authority.


  1. Feeling your face: When you're nervous, you may get the urge to touch your face or rub the back of your neck. These are sure-fire ways to let everyone know you're nervous, so avoid them.
  2. Letting your mood determine your body language: If you let it, your emotions will seep out through your body language. But you can flip this around by forcing yourself to smile, for example, and your mood actually will improve.
  3. Checking the time: Looking at your watch may be a completely innocent act of seeing what time it is. Nevertheless, it's almost impossible for a person you're speaking with to not interpret it as you being bored.
  4. Biting your nails: You may only be doing it out of habit and boredom, but the message people get when they see you biting your nails is that you're anxious.
  5. Letting them see you sweat: You might be nervous, but unless they can smell you or you're in a white shirt, the best way to ensure they know you're nervous is to visibly wipe your sweaty palms on your pants. Just leave them alone and try to relax.
  6. Pursed lips: Your lips may be giving you away without words coming though them. Pursing your lips can convey distrust or disapproval.
  7. Yawning: You're exhausted from a late night yesterday. But hide your yawns or conversation partners will be positive they're boring you and will be offended.

Misusing Body Language

  1. Attributing too much to one signal: Did someone pass you in the hallway and not return your smile? Don't make the mistake of automatically thinking they hate your guts; there's probably another explanation.
  2. Not getting the message: Is it possible people have been non-verbally telling you that you have bad breath or that you're on thin ice? The body language mistake you're making is not reading the signs, so open your eyes!

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