5 Reasons Why Your Body Language Might Be Holding You Back
Body language is an important part of communication, which can constitute 50% (or even more) of what we are communicating. But what is it exactly?
To put it simply, it is an unconscious aspect of communication that, a lot of the time, you aren’t even aware of. Through your body language, you could be sending out signals in conversations without realizing it. And, unfortunately, these signals aren’t always good – they might reveal your shyness, uncertainty, dislike, or any another feeling or emotion you were trying not to show.
So even in a life-defining moment like a job interview or a public performance, you aren’t fully in control – your body language is telling tales on you. It might be saying, “I don’t believe I’m good enough”, or “I’m uncomfortable in this situation”, or even, “I’m holding something back”.
But how can this be? Why would your own body betray you?
The scientific research on body language is clear. A recent NCBI study shows that much of our unique body language was developed before we reached 18 months old. Some of it is also genetic. Another research by Princeton University has found that body gestures signal our emotions 4 times more powerfully than our facial expressions.
Most of the time, unfortunately, you can’t see your own body language, so you aren’t aware of it – which is why so many people go through life oblivious to how their body language holds them back.
The good news is, however, that it’s not that difficult to improve and eliminate these bad habits if you know where you’re going wrong. To help you with this, here are the 5 most likely ways your body language is holding you back, and what you can do about them.
1. You don’t take body language seriously
The most important thing to learn from this article is to start taking your body language more seriously. After all, if you’re not aware of what you’re doing right and wrong, you can’t improve – but with a bit of awareness and knowledge, you can start making changes.
Consider the following:
- Observe yourself, either in a mirror on video. How do you perceive yourself? How do you think others perceive you? What do you need to change? Now you can answer all these questions.
- Ask trusted friends about your body language – they might be aware of certain negative mannerisms or tics, which they would normally be too polite to tell you about. Get them to be brutally honest – it’ll be worth it in the long run!
- Tell the same friends how you want to be perceived. They can tell you how near, or far, you are from your goal.
If you want to become serious, and more aware, of your gestures and facial expression, it’s also worth going on a training course that covers the topic of body language and how to improve it.
2. It is revealing your secret weaknesses
Sometimes, your non-verbal signs can reveal emotions and weaknesses you would rather hide, even without you realizing. In other cases, your body language makes it seem like you’re feeling uncertain, nervous, or embarrassed – even when you aren’t.
Thankfully, this too can be improved, and once you know where you’re going wrong, you can make some changes.
The most important behaviors to remember here are:
- Fear – often characterized by stiff posture, wide eyes, busy hands, rocking, feet angled away from the person you’re talking to.
- Nervousness – avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, biting your nails, awkward laughter.
- Embarrassment – blushing, hunching your body instead of standing tall.
All of these can damage how people perceive you at work and in life, so learn them, be mindful of them, and cut them out.
3. Your body language isn’t powerful
It is one thing to eliminate weak body language, but you also need to replace it with a more positive one, or you could be left standing there like a mannequin!
Using powerful body language can have a major effect on how people perceive you – including your boss, your customers, or the hiring manager at your next job interview. It’s clear why people with powerful body language have better career prospects.
If you want to improve your non-verbal communication, try the following tips:
- Make eye contact – not only does it show confidence, but it also makes the other person feel important and respected
- Smile – It shows you’re confident, positive, and relaxed, and it can also improve the mood of those around you.
- Firm handshake – Everyone knows this one, but not everyone uses it. A firm handshake says you are strong and purposeful.
- A powerful stance – An open posture, with feet slightly apart, conveys strength and readiness.
It might feel awkward at first, but as you practice and stay mindful of these body language habits, they’ll start to feel like you. And you’ll start to feel more confident and powerful as a result, too.
4. Your body language says you don’t care
Not all negative body language is related to weak emotions and traits, though. If you’re feeling too cool to be invested in a situation, or you just don’t care, your body language can give this away, too – which can often make other people question your character and commitment.
Imagine yourself in a meeting with a low-value customer, or a junior colleague. You might not put the same energy as when you meet your best customer or even your boss. But you need to be present and respectful in all your interactions.
Another good example is interviewing for a job, which you feel over-qualified and over-confident for… but you still want to be hired. If you aren’t careful, your body language could make you appear arrogant or disinterested.
Mannerisms to be aware of include:
- Leaning back in your chair, which conveys indifference or relaxation
- Yawning and slouching, which indicate boredom or tiredness
- Showing signs of distraction, such as looking away at other objects in the room
5. Your body language says you’re dishonest
Finally, some body language habits give the impression that you’re being dishonest, even when you aren’t, which can easily damage your working relationships.
There’s danger on both sides here. If you try too hard to use the right body language, you might come across as fake and dishonest. Your smile could appear phony or ingratiating, or the way you carry yourself could seem a bit forced.
On the other hand, if you say positive things – such as agreeing to work late – but with a sour expression that shows you don’t really want to do them, people might find you equally phony.
The takeaway? While you can change your mannerisms in various different ways, your body language still needs to match the things you say and do. After all, improving your body language is about becoming the best version of yourself – not pretending to be someone else.
Stay mindful about body language and focus on how you want people to think of you. With time and practice, projecting power and confidence will feel natural to you, and you won’t be held back by your body language anymore.
Ashley Andrews is an Inbound Marketing Strategist at Activia Training, a UK-based training provider specializing in improving delegates’ workplace performance in business skills, management development, and IT applications. Ashley is passionate about time management and communication skills, and regularly blogs about these – and many other topics – on the Activia blog.
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