New York Etiquette Guide

Body Language Breakdown: Crucial Tips and Faux Pas

Posted on Wed, May 09, 2012




by Lyudmila Bloch, Etiquette Expert New York

Most people have probably heard the old saying, “I can read him like a book.” Believe it or not, there’s more truth to that statement than fiction. The fact of the matter is people give away a lot about themselves and what they may be thinking through their body language

Physical Messages Occur Spontaneously

Body language reveals different aspects of your emotions and thoughts all the time. If you are bored, disinterested or tired, you may start fidgeting, slouching, or leaning against something. The classic frustration position is, of course, to cross your arms or legs.  When interested, people lean forward, their eyes widen, and they nod almost unconsciously to what they are hearing.  All of these physical cues allow you to read others and determine what they are really thinking.

Men Versus Women

Men's body language tends to read like a stop sign in traffic because they have grown up communicating clearly and, usually, assertively. Men frequently use too many hand gestures. Women, on the other hand, are far more socially adept. Their body language cues are far more developed and subtle. As a result, women’s signals come more from their facial expressions, shoulders, and neck.  The eyes and mouth tend to give away some important body language signals. Common examples include head tilting, narrowing or rolling of the eyes, narrowing of the mouth, which indicates distrust or skepticism, and flushing of the face when put on the spot.


Conscious Body Messages

Mastering body language requires thinking ahead about what will be said and reinforcing your verbal message with positive body language signals: enhanced eye contact, direct body orientation, and appropriate hand gestures. For example, if giving a message of correction, the last thing you should do is wag a finger or put your hands on your hips. It reminds the listener of being yelled at by a parent as a small child. If making a statement of disagreement, instead of folding your arms, respond with a question of logic using open palms.  By starting with clarification and going through the logic of the issue, the other party can identify his own mistake without confrontation.

Body Language to Avoid (Negative Body Language Signals)

There are some types of behavior you should just avoid at all costs! The first is any kind of stamping, pounding, or jabbing motions when talking. These come across as aggressive and set people on edge. It also makes you seem hotheaded and irritable. Next, rolling of the eyes or looking away in a discussion is not recommended.  It tells the speaker that you are not interested and the discussion is a waste of time. Finally, avoid slouching when in a chair or standing.  It comes across as unprofessional and it communicates lack of interest, especially when a speaker thinks he is sharing something important.


Areas to Improve

Positive body language such as nodding, paying attention in meetings, and smiling all win cooperation from others; even if the issue at hand may be in contention.  It also helps tremendously to maintain eye contact when conversing with others, using pleasant tone of voice when greeting peers, subordinates, and supervisors. 

 By simply making these actions a regular part of your daily routine, you will be surprised by how much more you can get accomplished at work!  Please share this blog with friends!


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Tags: positive body language, body language signals, etiquette expert, body language, negative body language