10 Powerful Tips for Avoiding Negative Body Language

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31 May 2017
Written by Speak First Linked-in icon

Bad body language can ruin your impact in a wide range of situations, says Steve Bavister from global training and coaching consultancy Speak First.

Don’t fidget!
Shifting your position when seated tells people immediately that you’re uncomfortable. Plant your feet flat on the ground, stop moving and sit tight. 

2. Keep your head up Take care with your head position. When you tilt your head down and lower your eyes you appear submissive. Holding your head high and ‘standing tall’ communicates confidence.

3. Face the other person If you turn your body away – with your shoulder facing the other person rather than the front of you body – you come across as awkward. Face them almost square on and avoid having your arms across your body. If you’re exactly square on to them it can come across as confrontational.

4. Don’t touch yourself! When you rub or scratch your body you’re virtually screaming ‘I’m nervous’. These are self-comforting gestures controlled by your unconscious mind designed to pacify you when you’re stressed. In particular, avoid touching your face or rubbing your neck.

 Man in shirt and tie

5. Hold strong eye contact How long you look at someone is an indicator of status - dominant individuals tend to make longer and stronger eye contact. If you look away too soon you’ll be perceived as weak – but at the same time, you don’t want to stare people down.

 6. Stand still Shuffling from one foot to another – especially when giving presentations or speaking in public – shows you’re unsettled. Standing still shows you’re ‘grounded’ and comfortable.

 7. Get your handshake right Many people have strong opinions on handshakes. Get yours wrong and you’ll have problems. If it’s weak – a dead fish – others will think you’re weak. If there’s too much pressure – you’re a crusher – others will think you’re compensating for a sense on inferiority.

8. Leave your hair alone Fiddling and fussing with your hair, or running your fingers through it like a brush, conveys insecurity – and is a lot more common in women than men, perhaps because their hair is more typically longer.

9. Don’t tug at your collar or cuffs Some men – including Prince Charles of the United Kingdom – betray their nerves by tugging at their cuffs or collar, or by incessantly adjusting their tie. Check these areas just once, then leave them alone.

10Avoid jingling coins or keys in your pocket Putting your hands in your pockets when you have coins or keys there can lead you to jingling or jangling them, which can be distracting and once again suggests that you’re uncomfortable.

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