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5 Common Body Language Mistakes

Posted 12/2/2016 by UHBlog

Want to say all the right things without opening your mouth? We can help.

5 Common Body Language Mistakes

Your body has a language all of its own, but are you paying attention to what it’s saying? From casual conversations to formal interactions, you reveal a lot about yourself with your body language.

“Fifty-five percent of the way an audience receives a message from the sender is based on how the sender is showing the message as well as speaking it,” says stress resilience specialist Heidi Weiker, MSSA. “That means if there’s a discrepancy between someone’s words and how they say it, we go with their body language.”

Your body language is all about communicating and connecting with others. Even small errors in your body language can impact your credibility and may prevent you from portraying your most confident, positive self.

If you want to fix the most common body language mistakes, Weiker recommends focusing on these five body language practices:

  1. Shaking your head. “You often shake your head from side-to-side in disbelief or excitement,” says Weiker. “Shaking your head in a ‘no’ direction when saying ‘yes’ is a very common body language mistake.”
  2. Posture and stature. The way you position your body makes a statement. Weiker warns against three poses that may send a negative message, including:
    • The fig leaf: “Your body is pulled in with your hands in front of your groin like you’re wearing a fig leaf,” she says. “This makes us look timid, afraid or anxious.”
    • The wonder woman. “If you stand with your legs spread wide and your hands on your hips, this posture says ‘dominate’,” Weiker says.
    • The drill sergeant. “The drill sergeant stands with their legs wide, arms behind their back and hands clasped,” she says. “This position can make us look too dominant.
  3. Facial expression. We are wired to tune into others’ facial expressions, but our own often get us in trouble.
    “If we tilt our chin way too far down, it says ‘I’m passive, I’m weak, I’m not confident,’” says Weiker. “A chin held too high says ‘I’m arrogant, over confident,’ and 'You’re not worth my time.’”
  4. Eye contact. Instead of eye contact, focus on eye connection.
    “Look at a person until you connect, then move onto the next person," she says. "Research shows that if you have an audience of 75 and make eye connection with five or six, everyone in the room will feel looked at.”
  5. Arm movements. People often struggle to figure out what to do with their arms. Weiker covers the do’s and don’ts of arm movement.
    • Do:
      • Assume an open stance – Let your arms hang loosely at your sides
      • Reflect your message – “Use your arms to express your message,” she says. “If something is declining, small, high or low, this can be shown with your arms and hands.”
      • Loosen up. Shrug your shoulders and shake it out
    • Don’t:
      • Keep your hands in your pockets
      • No more taxes – “This means your arms are going up and down with your hands in unclenched fists. It’s distracting,” she says.
      • Windshield wiper – “Your elbows move side-to-side with everything you’re saying," Weiker says. “It detracts from your message.”

According to Weiker, stress and discomfort often manifest in your body and may lead to inaccurate body language. If you think that’s what is affecting you, a Stress Management and Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T) can help with your body’s communication. The workshop, developed by University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network can help you learn ways to develop your stress resilience and improve your ability to react positively to stress.

For advice on breaking bad body language habits and communicating the best you, visit University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network website or call 216-285-4070.

Heidi Weiker, MSSA is a stress resilience specialist, life coach and HeartMath Interventionist at the University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Weiker or any health care provider online.

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