10 Negative Body Language Tips – Stop Doing These Signals in 2021Last Updated: February 1, 2021
Understanding non-verbal communication and body language is vital in business, where we want our messages to be taken seriously. Here are 10 common negative body language signals to eliminate right now if you want to be more successful in networking and business generally.
Body language is the non-verbal communication that we use all in the time in our social and business interactions. It’s important to read these physical gestures, movements and expressions, and understand the positive or negative body language signals they are sending to other people.
When we meet a person, we want to emphasise how our spoken words should be interpreted, and so often we will use body language—gestures, movements or facial expressions—to supplement what we say.
Body language works sub-consciously, and when you’re networking on the business stage it’s vital to be aware of what it’s saying about you. Is your non-verbal communication positive, or is it negative body language that obscures or even contradicts what you are saying?
There are a number of definitive texts written by authorities in the filed, including Adrian Furnham’s and Evgeniya Petrova’s Body Language in Business, and The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease.
Another fantastic exploration is What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People written by ex-FBI counterintelligence officer Joe Navarro and co-author Marvin Karlins. The authors show you how to decode the sentiments and behaviour of others, and how to use body language to help ensure others look favourably on what you’re saying.
Here are 10 common negative body language signals that you need to stop sending right now, as they could be hampering your success in business.
1. Touching The Nose
This tic can be triggered for a number of reasons, but usually in stressful situations where your blood pressure rises, increasing blood flow to the skin, dilating the cells in the nose, making it itch. It is also associated with lying, which also causes increased blood pressure, making the person touch or scratch the nose or face.
Either way, it detracts from your image and presentation and is a form of negative body language that may cause people to lose confidence in you, or make it difficult for them to trust you or your message. So, if at all possible, keep your hands away from your face.
2. Pinching The Nose
Pinching the nose, like touching it, is a negative body language signal that the person has goofed or made a blunder that makes them feel they have lost some of their momentum. It’s a swift, involuntary reaction that happens in response to a mishap, even if you have behaved with otherwise impeccable poise and composure. A momentary slip, in other words, but one to be avoided if you don’t want others to question your bona fides.
3. Fixing The Hair
Fixing the hair is self-grooming, and even touching the hair fleetingly while speaking to others can send the signal that you’re uncertain or that you’re not adequately prepared for a presentation.
Also, beware the confident ‘hair flip’ that’s often seen in movies and commercials. Outside of that context, it most often just looks like crummy acting. Make sure that you do any grooming in private, away from your presentation audience or the people who you’ll be networking with.
4. Rubbing The Earlobes
Rubbing the earlobes can convey the impression of being deep in thought. However, it’s also a negative body language signal that the person may be worried, unsure, or engaged in deceit. Rubbing the earlobes is, like touching the nose, triggered by elevated blood pressure and release of histamine.
5. Biting The Lip
People bite the lip without knowing it. If you do it once, even fleetingly, while in front of your peers, you are sending a negative body language signal and create the impression that you may be unsure of yourself and are not confident about what you’re saying.
6. Covering The Mouth
It’s extremely important to be aware of covering the mouth. It typically happens during meetings and interviews and can make people seem deep in thought. But at worst, it’s associated with lying or deceit and so could seriously damage your image.
It projects not thoughtfulness but, again, lack of certainty and confidence. So be aware of it, particularly if it’s something you do when worried. It will almost certainly compound your fears in a situation where you want to be seen as radiating confidence. Don’t look like you’re fretting or caught ‘off your game’.
Scratching may seem innocuous, but this too is negative body language that is a signal the person may be unsure and lacking in confidence. People scratch the arms and neck for the same reason they touch their noses. When blood pressure rises, mass cells produce histamine, creating itchy skin. So, avoid scratching if you’re in a situation where the confidence of and trust of your peers matters. Scratching will undermine the import of your verbal message.
Fidgeting should not be seen solely as nervous shifting of position in your seat. It covers a multitude of swift motions and motions, such as adjusting our clothes and fiddling with objects such as pens, clenching and unclenching of the hands, or, if standing, shifting from foot to foot.
This is classic negative body language arising from situations of elevated stress. The only way to counteract it is to be ultra aware of it, but also to relax. Fidgeting distracts from what you’re saying, and so almost inevitably undercuts people’s confidence in you. Don’t do it. Stay in control.
9. Crossing The Ankles
Most of us are aware that crossing the limbs is a defensive physical shutdown. When seated, be careful not to cross the arms and legs, and particularly the ankles. It’s easy to do, but is a negative body language signal, creating the impression that maybe you’re hiding something or lacking in full confidence. It’s best not to do this when attempting to persuade others that you and your business idea are genuine!
10. Locking The Fingers Behind The Head
This posture can indicate someone who is comfortable and confident, but it also conveys a less welcome interpretation. It is an especially male gesture, indicating someone who is intimidating but also defensive. If it is something that you do when relaxed or happy, be aware of it and cut it out. Self-preserving defensiveness is not an image that you would want to convey even at home or with friends, and absolutely never in a business setting.