7 signs your body language is sending the wrong message

Take your hands off your face.

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Take your hands off your face.
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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

  • Body language is an important form of communication – even if you’re not always aware of it.
  • The way you stand and gesture can make you seem more (or less) confident and attractive.
  • Some body-language tweaks are easier to make than others.

It’s generally easier to plan out exactly what you’re going to say than it is to plan out how you’re going to stand, what you’ll do with your hands, and your facial expression.

And yet your body language – whether during a presentation or in an online dating profile picture – matters a lot. So it’s worth paying attention to.

Below, find a series of common body-language mistakes that can make you seem less confident, more nervous, less attractive, and even more vulnerable to crime.


Your handshake is weak

Your handshake can reveal a lot about you. In a Psychology Today blog post, psychologist John D. Mayer cites two studies that demonstrate how.

A 2000 University of Alabama study found that people could predict the personalities of undergraduates they shook hands with. Specifically, the handshake raters intuited that the students with firm handshakes were more positive, more outgoing, and less socially anxious.

Meanwhile, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that, in mock interviews, students who had a firmer handshake at the beginning of the interview were ultimately perceived as more hireable.


You’re curled up in into yourself

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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr

Research suggests that we’re more attracted to people in expansive – as opposed to contracted – postures, even if we don’t consciously realize it. Think arms spread wide as opposed to shoulders hunched or arms crossed.

A 2016 study found that men and women pictured in contractive positions on a dating app were selected less often than the same exact men and women pictured in expansive positions.


You’re concealing your hands

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Carmella Fernando/Flickr

When you keep your hands out of sight, according to the book “Crazy Good Interviewing” by John B. Molidor and Barbara Parus, it looks like you have something to hide. This includes keeping your hands in your lap or behind your back.

As Anita Barbee, a professor of social work, told Real Simple, “A person may be telling you one thing, but these cues indicate you’re not getting the whole story.”


You keep touching your face

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Gallo Images/Getty Images

This is a dead giveaway that you’re nervous.

Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent and the author of “What Every BODY Is Saying,” previously told Business Insider that when you videotape someone who’s nervous and speed up the recording, “it’s hilarious how often we touch ourselves under stress.”

Some people, for example, squeeze their face, push on their cheek, or rub their forehead, Navarro said, as a way of self-soothing.


Your hands aren’t moving at all

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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr

You’re not guarding Buckingham Palace. Let loose a little.

Science of People, a human behavior consultancy run by Vanessa van Edwards, found that TED speakers who use more hand gestures on stage tend to get more views on their talks.


You walk slowly or with short strides

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A small 2013 study found that prison inmates who scored high on measures of psychopathy could pick out people who’d been victimized in the past, based partly on their walk.

People who were said to “walk like an easy target” – specifically, slowly and with short strides – were seen as more vulnerable to attack.

The only problem is it’s not so easy to change your gait to seem more confident – even if you’re trained to do so, researchers say the effects generally wear off over time. Still, it’s worth trying.


You avoid eye contact — or hold it for too long

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Mireya Acierto / Stringer / Getty Images

Eye contact can help facilitate social relationships and increase empathy between people. But how much is enough?

The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to the communications-analytics company Quantified Impressions, adults make eye contact between 30% and 60% of the time in an average conversation. They really should be making eye contact between 60% and 70% in order to create some emotional connection.

The Cut also reported on a British study that found the ideal length of eye contact for the person you’re looking at to feel comfortable is 3.3 seconds.