6 Body Language Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making 

We’ve all been there. We’re in a meeting, sitting in the back, having bad posture, taking up as little space as possible, all the while desperately hoping you’re not spoken to, even though you’re practically bursting with ideas. Unknowingly, we’re displaying bad body language. And it’s vital to convey the best cues possible, especially in a professional environment. 

So what is body language? It’s communicating via conscious or even unconscious cues like our movements, gestures, and behavior. I believe that we ought to know what not to do so we can learn what to do. So here are a few examples of bad body language:

  • Slouching
  • Fidgeting
  • Crossing arms
  • Grumpy facial expressions
  • Violating personal space
  • Not making eye contact or looking down or in other directions during conversations
  • Tone of voice

1. Slouching

Hours spent hunched over your desk can lead to bad posture and slouching. The same can be said for bending our necks over to look at our phones. While it’s noted that it’s bad for your health, it gives off another vibe to your office mates. For example, it can come across as sloppy or even lazy, even if you’re a stellar employee. So try to keep your posterior (yes, this includes the booty) against the back of your chair at a 90 degree angle. 

2. Fidgeting

We’re in a meeting when we see movement out of the corner of our eye. It’s Debbie from accounting, twirling her hair. The table is shaking. Mark from HR is bouncing his knee like he’s dribbling a basketball. You even find yourself playing with your pen. While you’re all probably trying to reduce anxiety or jitters, it looks like your head is in the clouds, and you’re not paying attention. To combat that, try to make eye contact and even speak up or ask a question to show you’re invested in what’s being said.

3. Crossing Arms

It may be an unconscious behavior we engage in, almost as a way of comforting or guarding ourselves. It’s the sense of being closed off or guarded which can come off as unfriendly. Try to uncross your arms and mirror the physical orientation of the person you’re speaking to.

4. Grumpy Facial Expressions

In the tech era, we’re always looking at some kind of screen. Typically, we’re absorbed in what we’re doing. Then, your significant other pops over if you’re working from home. You look up, startled, with a look of concentration that’s perceived as anger or irritation. To avoid that, practice smiling or a neutral expression so that when those interruptions happen, you’re able to convey a friendlier facial tone.

5. Violating Personal Space

Sure, we’ve all heard of the 6-foot rule due to COVID. However, even before the pandemic, we all liked our space. I describe it to my kid as their bubble. Their bubble is their physical boundary line that, if crossed, makes them uncomfortable. Personal space preferences can be basic, cultural, and even dependent on gender. Take mental notes of encounters with individuals, especially coworkers. Are they leaning into a handshake? Are they shaking your hand but take a step or two back? And it’s absolutely okay to just ask! They’ll appreciate your consideration and respect for how you physically interact. 

6. Eye Contact And Tone Of Voice

In yesteryears, the inability to make or maintain eye contact was a telltale indicator of insecurity. Nowadays, it’s caused by constantly checking our phones in someone else’s presence, which can show a lack of interest or even respect for that individual’s time and attention. After all, who wants to feel ignored or that a phone is more important than they are? Tone of voice is important. For example, talking too softly can indicate shyness or lack of confidence in what they’re saying. Speaking too loudly can be clipped and abrupt, which could be perceived as agitation. So, practice your tone with friends to find a happy medium that shows an open confidence.

An important note, however. 

“Bad” body language may be present in neurodivergent individuals who are not masking. Fidgeting may actually be stimming, which is a repetitive act or acts that provides comfort or stimulation. Eye contact can sometimes be a struggle as well. More in-depth information can be found here. If a neurodivergent person feels safe or comfortable discussing these traits with management, it can be beneficial as they now have the knowledge that it’s not rude or uninterested body language; it’s simply how their sensory processing may work.

Photo by christian ferrer on Unsplash


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