There are a number of body language habits that are generally considered to send a negative message and it is therefore suggested are best avoided. I am sure that individuals will have very differing views on these but it’s always worth considering whether any of the following are stopping you from keeping communication flowing smoothly.
1. Frowning – This is very unwelcoming.
2. Making a face or scowling – This can be an unconscious expression of disapproval or dislike. Try to maintain a neutral expression even if you don’t like what you hear.
3. A fake smile – This makes you seem unwelcoming and dishonest.
4. Avoiding eye contact – Eye contact shows you are paying attention. Avoiding eye contact could mean you don’t care about what is being said. It might also be a sign you are being dishonest, as in the phrase “he couldn’t look me in the eye”.
5. Staring too long – Excessive eye contact might make you seem aggressive or even rude. In Asian countries, it is considered disrespectful to look directly into the eyes of someone of high status.
6. Squinting – This is similar to frowning. It also indicates dislike.
7. Looking down/stooping – This can suggest disinterest, or arrogance. Staring at your feet and shuffling them can also suggest nervousness and the desire to get away.
8. Crossing your arms in front of your chest – This is very unwelcoming and can also be a sign of a lack of interest or a refusal to communicate.
9. Holding things in front of you – Holding your purse, a folder or coffee cup in front of you or close to your chest is like a barrier, making you seem aloof. If you can’t put them down, hold them to your side if you can.
10. Standing with your hands on your hips – This stance is one of aggression and bossiness, so it can close down communication before it ever really starts.
11. Fidgeting with a pen or your phone – These actions suggest you are really not paying attention to what is being said. It can also indicate impatience for the meeting to be at an end.
12. Checking your watch – This shows you are bored or under pressure and therefore not paying attention fully to what is being said. It also suggests impatience.
13. Leaning away – Leaning away suggests “standoffishness.”
14. Leaning too close – This can invade others’ personal space and make them feel uncomfortable.
15. Casual touches – This can suggest too much familiarity if you don’t know the other person well.
16. Shaking hands – This is accepted in the West but still avoided in Asian countries. A bow, or a prayer sign (wai) with hands pressed together at the level of the chest is more common there.
17. Using your left hand – This can be a problem in the Middle East, where this hand is seen as dirty and only used for lavatory purposes.
18. Leaning against something – This can make you look too relaxed.
19. Sitting with your legs crossed – This can also make you look too relaxed. It is frowned on in Asian countries.
20. Touching your face – Touching the face, especially the nose, is seen as a sign of lying.
21. Touching your hair – Fiddling with your hair seems to indicate boredom or nervousness.
If you have not assessed your own body language recently, it might be time to practice in a mirror, such as when you are speaking on the phone. Or, video yourself and assess your body language. You may have more bad habits than you think. If this is the case, consciously work towards eliminating them and see what a difference it can make to your level of success.