5 Body Language Mistakes to Stop Making Now
Everyone has own version of a poker face, but there is one expression that can be a dead giveaway that you're hiding something. Body language expert Janine Driver says, "Sucking in your lips until they're hidden in your mouth says you're holding something back." Two infamous examples: former congressman Anthony Weiner, when he said his Twitter account had been hacked; and baseball player Alex Rodriguez, when he talked about using banned substances. "I see many people do it when they're trying to hide an emotion too uncomfortable to share," says Driver.
Striking a balance between aggressive eye contact and not enough of it is critical for successful social interactions, say Florin Dolcos, PhD, and Sanda Dolcos, PhD, director and co-director of SCOPE Neuroscience Lab at the University of Illinois. If you avoid looking at someone's eyes while talking with them, you could send signals of avoidance, or lack of sincerity or interest. But if you're obsessively locking eyes with them, you may create the impression of rudeness or intimidation. The Dolcoses say there isn't a rule of thumb for this; some experts recommend eye contact for 30 percent to 60 percent of the time during a social interaction; others recommend engaging in eye contact 50 percent of the time while speaking and 70 percent of time while listening; and maintaining the eye contact for 4 to 5 seconds. Stay somewhere in the middle, and you should be fine.
When you're in a scenario wherein you need to break bad news to someone, they're (understandably) likely to feel upset. Here's what not to do: If you notice that person crossing her arms or clenching her hands into fists, make a conscious effort to not copy her. Try to keep your body in a neutral position. "Mimicking distress poses can quickly exacerbate the situation," says executive coach Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD.
We know handshakes are supposed to be strong, firm and with just the right amount of pressure. But the Dolcoses say that even a "good handshake" can go badly if you retract your hand too early from the other person's grip. Doing so conveys rejection. They point out that people may not actually realize they do this, so take note next time you shake hands with someone. It should last between one and two seconds, and you should ideally aim to release pressure at the same time as the other person does.
The Dolcoses confirm what your mom always said: Stand (or sit) up straight. Your emotional or psychological state definitely influences your posture, they say, and the message you're conveying when you slouch or stoop can be boredom, lack of motivation or even depression.