Body Language to Avoid

Our body language exhibits far more information about how we feel than it is possible to articulate verbally. 

All of the physical gestures we make are subconsciously interpreted by others. 

This can work for or against us depending on the kind of body language we use. 

Some gestures project a very positive message, while others do nothing but set a negative tone.

Most people are totally oblivious to their own body language, so the discipline of controlling these gestures can be quite challenging. 

Most of them are reflexive in nature, automatically matching up to what our minds are thinking at any given moment. 

Nevertheless, with the right information and a little practice, we can train ourselves to overcome most of our negative body language habits.


Practice avoiding these 25 negative gestures:


“ I speak two languages, Body and English. ” — Mae West


  1. Holding Objects in Front of Your Body – a coffee cup, notebook, hand bag, etc.  Holding objects in front of your body indicates shyness and resistance, such that you’re hiding behind the objects in an effort to separate yourself from others.  Instead of carrying objects in front of you, carry them at your side whenever possible.
  2. Checking the Time or Inspecting Your Fingernails – a strong sign of boredom.  Never glance at the time when you’re speaking with someone.  Likewise, completely avoid the act of inspecting your fingernails.
  3. Picking Lint Off of Your Clothes – If you pick lint off of your clothes during a conversation, especially in conjunction with looking downwards, most people will assume that you disapprove of their ideas and/or feel uneasy about giving them an honest opinion.  Leave the lint alone!
  4. Stroking Your Chin While Looking at Someone – “I’m judging you!”  People frequently stroke their chin during the decision-making process.  If you look at someone while you’re stroking your chin, they may assume that you’re making a judgmental decision about them.
  5. Narrowing Your Eyes – If you want to give someone the impression that you don’t like them (or their ideas), narrow your eyes while looking at them.  It immediately places a scowling expression on your face.  A slight narrowing of the eyes is an instinctual, universal expression of anger across various species in the animal kingdom (think about the angry expressions of tigers, dogs, etc.).  Some people make the mistake of narrowing their eyes during a conversation as a reflex of thinking.  Don’t send people the wrong message… don’t narrow your eyes.
  6. Standing Too Close – This just makes people feel uncomfortable.  Most people consider the 4 square feet of space immediately surrounding their body to be personal space.  Cross this invisible boundary with good friends and intimate mates only.
  7. Looking Down While in the Presence of Others – usually indicates disinterest.  Sometimes it’s even interpreted as a casual sign of arrogance.  Always look straight ahead and make eye contact when you see someone you know.
  8. Touching Your Face During a Conversation – Face touching, especially on the nose, is commonly interpreted as an indication of deception.  Also, covering up the mouth is a common gesture people make when they’re lying.  Always keep your hands away from your face when you’re speaking.
  9. Faking a Smile – another sign of deception commonly seen on the face of a fraud.  A genuine smile wrinkles the corners of the eyes and changes the expression of the entire face.  Fake smiles only involve the mouth and lips.  It’s easy to distinguish between the two.  Don’t force yourself to smile… unless it’s for the camera.
  10. Leaning Away From Someone You Like – a sign of being bored and disinterested.  Some people may also interpret it to mean: “I don’t like you.”  People typically lean towards people they like and away from people they dislike.  This is especially true when they are sitting around a table.  If you lean away from someone you like, you’re sending them the wrong message.
  11. Resting Hands Behind the Head or on the Hips – usually interpreted as a sign of superiority or bigheadedness.  Only use these gestures when you’re in the presence of close friends.
  12. Not Directly Facing the Person You’re Speaking To – This indicates a certain level of discomfort or a lack of interest.  When we’re happily engaged in a conversation we face the person we’re speaking to with our feet and torso facing directly forward.  When we’re unsure of the other person, or not completely committed to the conversation, we tend to angle our feet and torso to the side.  Face directly forward during a conversation to give off the impression that you’re truly interested in what the other person is saying.
  13. Crossing Your Arms – a sign of defensive resistance.  Some people may also interpret it as a sign of egotism.  Always try to keep your arms open and at your sides.
  14. Displaying a Sluggish Posture – When you’re in an environment bustling with people your posture becomes an immediate telltale sign of your confidence and composure.  Your stance literally makes a stand for you, delivering a clear message about how you should be treated.  It can make a huge difference in the way strangers respond to you.  Place your feet a comfortable distance apart, keep your shoulders pulled back, head up and greet people with direct eye contact and a firm handshake.
  15. Scratching at the Backside of Your Head and Neck – a typical sign of doubt and uncertainty.  It can also be interpreted as an indication of lying.  Try to keep your hands away from your head when you’re communicating with others.
  16. Messing With the Collar of Your Shirt – It screams: “I feel horribly uncomfortable and/or nervous!”  Once again, keep track of your hands.  Don’t fidget.
  17. Increasing Your Rate of Blinking – a clear sign of anxiety.  Some people start blinking their eyes really fast (in conjunction with an increased heart rate) when they get nervous.  Since most people try to make eye contact, it becomes immediately obvious to others.  Be cognizant of your blinking habits when you’re nervous, especially if someone is looking at you from a close proximity.
  18. Slouching Your Shoulders – indicates low self-esteem.  People associate perked-up shoulders with strong self-confidence.  Always pull your shoulders back.  Not only will you look more confident, you’ll feel more confident as well.
  19. Standing with Your Hands Crossed Over Your Genitals – This casual posture almost guarantees that you’ll lose a little respect before you even have the chance to speak a single word.  People feeling nervous or unsure of themselves will unconsciously take a guarded stance.  Quite frequently they adopt a posture that guards one of their most vulnerable areas, their genitals.  This stance pushes your shoulders forward and makes your entire body look smaller and weaker.  Again, try to keep your hands at your sides and your shoulders back.
  20. Propping Up Your Head with Your Hands – “I’m getting bored!”  Never prop up your head with your elbows and hands during a conversation.  Place your hands on the table in front of you and keep them at rest.
  21. Wiping Sweaty Hands onto Your Clothes – a sign of frantic nervousness.  If your hands are sweating, just let them sweat.  Take a few deep breaths and try to relax.
  22. Sitting on the Edge of Your Chair – a clear indication of being mentally and physically uncomfortable.  It’s an apprehensive stance that will make others around you feel uncomfortable as well.  Keep your rear end firmly planted on the surface of the seat.  When you lean forward, use your back without moving your bottom.
  23. Foot and Finger Tapping – usually indicates stress, impatience or boredom.  Monitor your habits and practice keeping your limbs at rest.
  24. Using Your Hands to Fidget with Small Objects – a pen, paper ball, etc.  This is another sign of anxiety.  It can also be interpreted as a lack of preparedness.  It’s always best to keep your hands comfortably at rest when you’re in the presence of others.
  25. Repeatedly Shifting Body Weight from Foot to Foot – This is another gesture that usually indicates mental and physical discomfort. People may also see this and assume that you’re ready to abandon the conversation, especially if you’re not directly facing them.  Don’t shift your feet around more than once every 2 to 3 minutes.


Want to know powerful, dominant, confident body language postures? Here’s 2 great resources you MUST WATCH! 1 | 2

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Date: 9 Jul 2009 | Author: mesmerX | Category: News | Views: 1412759

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Comments: 60

Guest | 6 Mar 2012 – 06:26
This list should be called "How to be Fake".

Guest | 11 Feb 2012 – 21:15
that’s how the author feels when they experience these gestures lol not all true but generally some of it can be

Guest | 25 Jan 2012 – 04:57
hmmm… This might explain why I don’t have many friends smile

blue | 11 Aug 2011 – 09:52
use drugs and none of these are true.

Guest | 5 Jul 2011 – 19:03
what? when you talk to someone you’re supposed to sit there like a statue?

i’ll narrow my eyes, hold my drink, and make all the actions i feel are necessary to be a human being.

Guest | 3 Jul 2011 – 22:27
Very encouraging to read all these comments rubbishing, in a good-humoured way, this list of the crudely obvious. If you were writing a cheapo, quickie novel you might use some of these actions to shorthand what’s going on during conversation. But what about some positive indicators. No, maybe not.

Guest | 3 Jul 2011 – 09:20
People who think you are completely still if you don’t do any of the above gestures are either freaking uninterested liars, don’t know anything about bodylanguage or just don’t have any imagination. Whatever happened to positive gestures, hmm?

Guest | 30 Jun 2011 – 06:36
crying angry sad laughing tongue wassat wink smile

Guest | 28 Jun 2011 – 19:43
The title of this should have been, "how to spot the boring co-workers…"

Guest | 22 Jun 2011 – 11:00
Ya the only remedy is…..stand like a robot. Wtf?

Guest | 20 Jun 2011 – 04:03
These are accurate body language signals. The key is to keep these in context. Other factors may be at play; a nose may itch… or if a person is lying, the blood vessels constrict, which make the nose-touch a physical reaction to lying. So how should you act? Take notice of how you interact with close, trusted, equal friends when you’re talking about something you are interested in.

Guest | 18 Jun 2011 – 17:06

jfkingston | 16 Jun 2011 – 15:42
so this is pretty much saying… do absolutely nothing and look straight ahead. this sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me

Guest | 10 Jun 2011 – 21:00
I do not believe these are true facts at all. You can not tell someone’s thoughts or personality by a movement they do in conversation.

Jezus | 8 Jun 2011 – 09:58
If everyone would follow these ‘rules’ we’d be living on one boring planet! Conversations need to be enervating and exciting. ‘Negative’ body language doesn’t exist. It’s just body language, it helps understanding. If you cover it up, you will not be understood.

Guest | 8 Jun 2011 – 05:31
Stand up straight and be a good little sheeple, everybody!

Guest | 5 Jun 2011 – 17:44
However, if you really hate this person and wish with every aspect of your being that they would stop talking to you, you should do all of the above.

On a less sarcastic note, since when did people learn body language by reading about it? If the other person is assumed to be ‘unconsciously’ reacting to you, maybe you should do the same thing towards them instead of manipulating them. I feel like the only people who actually use advise from these lists are sad, pathetic people who can’t be honest with themselves (and by extension anyone else) and so they feel they have to study open body language in order to seduce some unsuspecting person who hopefully hasn’t read the list. Unless you’re an actor and you’ve had lots and lots of practice in lying and deception, you don’t need this list. That’s what words are for.
Example : "Dude, why are you crossing your arms? Are you being defensive towards my last point in the conversation? Do you not like me?"
"No, it’s not that. It’s just really fucking cold out here. Why do you always want to have a philosophical discussion in snow storms?"
"Beats me."
"Oh well. Still love you Bro, but I’m not uncrossing my arms."
"Alright. I’ll try not to become more instinctively guarded against you as a person."

Guest | 4 Jun 2011 – 21:24
This is an extremely Western interpretation of the meaning of these gestures. In the Confucian world, many of the gestures that indicate shyness and reservation, and are thus to be avoided, are regarded as appropriate social etiquette. The notions of personal space vary among every culture. Four square feet is not some rule of thumb, maybe only among Americans and some Western Europeans.

Guest | 26 May 2011 – 16:28
Interesting but a lot of those interpretations are wrong. Google the word "Synergology" it is the science of reading someone body language and it’s slightly more complex then you make it sound. Blinking a lot for instance is a sign of a high brain activity, like when your paying attention to what someone is saying to you if you stop blinking you are probably thinking about something else while the person is speaking.

Dan Miller | 20 May 2011 – 06:57
this is just one way to interpret those gestures.

Guest | 15 May 2011 – 19:27
Um maybe you should specify that this article is intended for AMERICANS. Obviously, other cultures vary in what is considered rude/uncomfortable/etc.


Guest | 15 May 2011 – 14:48
It all makes sense, but even if someone successfully abided by these guidelines, the obvious amount of energy & concentration spent on staying still would indicate an excessive desire to please. I often find it awkward talking with people who are unusually still.

I read through a lot of the comments just to get some idea of what WOULD be ‘acceptable’. Glad I’m not the only one.

Guest | 14 May 2011 – 08:21
I think it depends on the culture we come from. They all have different meanings and rudeness can be interpreted in so many ways. It’s all relative.

Guest | 14 May 2011 – 03:12

dont move!!!

Guest | 13 May 2011 – 22:14
Sooo what you’re saying is that we cannot do anything with our hands ever, right?

Guest | 13 May 2011 – 22:13

Guest | 12 May 2011 – 17:17
This is a great list of hints if you’re being interrogated for possibly committing a crime, but other than that these are typical human behaviors….the human body is awkward. people want to be comfortable during conversations. These behaviors make them comfortable.

Guest | 12 May 2011 – 07:32
These body actions can be interpreted like they are just fine, and often they’re true. But to me, its just another list to homogenize people. Don’t be shy, don’t be arrogant, don’t get angry, be the perfect likeable person.

Guest | 11 May 2011 – 11:42
These criteria make sense but to be honest, I would find anyone who did none of them during an interaction to be much more unnerving.

HeadyJ | 11 May 2011 – 00:53
This is a great list of negative body language. Like it or not most jobs require face to face interaction with real people not to mention social interaction in daily life. Younger generations are losing touch with the ability and the desire to communicate with other people in person. The art of conversation including appropriate body language should be taught in schools.

Guest | 10 May 2011 – 21:18
This list is all negative, it’s stupid. Instead of telling us NOT to do them, it should be telling us to be aware of how we can come off. I like to use these when I’m talking to certain people.

Guest | 9 May 2011 – 16:39
So what ARE you supposed to do with your body in a conversation?

Guest | 6 May 2011 – 13:12
To the person up there that said this would Psychology.
I would be reluctant to call this that. This would fall under correlational research. It’s not real conclusive in any significant way. It’s just a broad heuristic for measuring body language. One or more of these stances may mean one emotion is more likely, but it’s important to remember that context plays such a huge role.
Don’t read into it too much. Or ask the other person if unsure.

FloorMan | 3 May 2011 – 10:33
#5, 13 & 23 are useful to me as a bouncer…

Guest | 30 Apr 2011 – 23:23
The REAL explainations
1. Holding Objects in Front of Your Body – having an object you need to hold
2. Checking the Time or Inspecting Your Fingernails – wanting to know what the time is, or habit
3. Picking Lint Off of Your Clothes – Noticing your clothes are linty, and wanting to correct that.
4. Stroking Your Chin While Looking at Someone – "My Chin itches!"
5. Narrowing Your Eyes – Too bright
6. Standing Too Close – Yeah, i’ll give you this one. Personal space rules.
7. Looking Down While in the Presence of Others – seeing something interesting below other person’s eye-level
8. Touching Your Face During a Conversation – Itchy!
9. Faking a Smile – just learn to real smile.
10. Leaning Away From Someone You Like – trying not to seem to into them. Or they stink.
11. Resting Hands Behind the Head or on the Hips – leaning back in a chair, relaxed.
12. Not Directly Facing the Person You’re Speaking To – Heaven forbid I decide to look elsewhere than the person I’m talking to.
13. Crossing Your Arms – a relaxed stance, and a common way to hold one’s arms. Especially when cold
14. Displaying a Sluggish Posture – Aka, don’t slouch. So?
15. Scratching at the Backside of Your Head and Neck – Itchy!
16. Messing With the Collar of Your Shirt – Shirt doesn’t fit right.
17. Increasing Your Rate of Blinking – "Be cognizant of your blinking habits when you’re nervous" yes, that will tone down my blinking so well….
18. Slouching Your Shoulders – not wanting to stand like a tin soldier.
19. Standing with Your Hands Crossed Over Your Genitals – Something to do with your hands
20. Propping Up Your Head with Your Hands – i’ll give you this. Acting bored around people isn’t all that good.
21. Wiping Sweaty Hands onto Your Clothes – instead of, say, wiping them on anyone else’s clothes
22. Sitting on the Edge of Your Chair – " a clear indication of being mentally and physically uncomfortable." or, being a good little kid and acting attentive like you were taught.
23. Foot and Finger Tapping – restless habit.
24. Using Your Hands to Fidget with Small Objects – restless habit.
25. Repeatedly Shifting Body Weight from Foot to Foot – My Feet Hurt! (you stand stock still for more than 5 minutes in 3-inch heels)

Guest | 30 Apr 2011 – 21:42
Repeated studies have shown that folding the arms is not always a sign of being guarded, oftentimes it is a comfortable stance, or a default position for many people. It’s important to look over the entire face and body before interpreting one thing as being the sole indicator of mood.

GOD | 18 Feb 2011 – 16:39
stay still and look at me like a human, for my sake!
I don’t want you messing around with this marvelous tapping fourlimbed handsome body I built you!
and who cares if you want to feel confortable or carry your shit around the most natural way for you?
WHY, OH, MY, WHY are you shifting your weight foot to foot? you want to die? is that it?
and you chin, leave it alone! even if your brain works better in some possitions you have to remember that some asshole is going to give you his heart or not for the manner you touch yourself while thinking!

just messing with you kiddo, go around and enjoy your nature, you are fucking perfect, I know, I did it

ow, yeah, and use contraceptives if you cant raise I child, ok?

see you!

Guest | 18 Feb 2011 – 09:02
So basically you stand still and just stare them dead in the eye?

Guest | 17 Feb 2011 – 23:49
Not all of these things actually mean what you say they do.

It all depends on who you are talking to and what type of conversation you’re in.

vedette | 17 Feb 2011 – 17:47
Right.. I’m sure just standing there looking like a lifeless mannequin isn’t going to make one super enjoyable to engage with or be aound either?! Is it even humanly possible to avoid all the above? Geesh..

guest 50 | 17 Feb 2011 – 10:22
its not a bad list adhd people fidget and twitch alot and it does make people nervous and such. Also other habits looking at the ground fooling with the clothes etc. its a pretty hard thing to overcome in the social life this list just helps u to remember how to train yourself to not be awkward.
U guys are so negative

Guest | 15 Feb 2011 – 19:01
These broad generalizations are a pants load. Someone picking lint off their clothes has no deeper meaning than they had lint on their clothes and wanted it off. Please stop this pointless drivel.

Guest | 15 Feb 2011 – 16:11
As certain people have already indicated, some of these are simply bullshit; not only because of the fact that some acts of body language might mean something completely different when performed by certain people, i.e., they are intended differently and should not be confused with the meaning/interpretation as suggested above, but also because of the fact that it probably doesn’t even hold that the *majority* of people, i.e., the so-called "norm", perceive/interpret certain acts of body language as described above, regardless of whether or not these descriptions are presumably backed up by psychology/research (which I highly doubt in case of some of the above). I’m "hiding" behind my coffee cup when I’m holding it in front of me? I’m disapproving someone’s idea when cleaning my own clothes? Deceiving someone when touching my face? Please, give me a break.

Guest | 8 Jul 2010 – 04:27
And this list is exactly why I have stopped interacting with real people as much as possible.

Guest | 17 Dec 2009 – 13:37
How about instead of making a list of norms FOR confident people BY confident people why don’t we instead try to understand that sometimes these things don’t mean what we assume they do. That sometimes if we think someone is being rude they just don’t know what else to do.

Guest | 30 Oct 2009 – 14:57
Would be fun to use as a twister kind of game. Take turn to pick a random item and add it to your posture. When a person fails he/she leaves he game. The last standing will have won.

The list is to obvious and not really useful. Like not looking away when talking? What if they were discussion something on a table. Looking away and down… and I will touch my face if a bee lands on it.

Basically what you should do is be your self. Imagine how you would like to be addressed. Easy.

Anonymous | 20 Oct 2009 – 18:37
All you retards are missing the point. This is psychology and psychology is a description of the norm. I guess you’re all just special if you don’t agree. laughing

Guest | 13 Oct 2009 – 21:18
Think I will just bodypop and mess with their NLP minds

satchel | 7 Oct 2009 – 17:44

Guest | 7 Oct 2009 – 04:09
I think the comments section pretty much has it covered thus far.

Guest | 2 Oct 2009 – 23:11
some things I disagree with:

Most of these "negative" body movements mention how people will INTERPRET what you do as negative, but not that the action necessarily means that you are thinking those negative thoughts. For example, if you pick lint off your clothing, it might be because you just noticed an embarrassing piece of lint, or perhaps you are just very self conscious. If you stroke your chin while looking at someone, you might just be making a decision about what they are talking about, not making a judgment about the person. If you try and explain quantum physics to me, I might stroke my chin while looking at you… because quantum physics is difficult, and I’m looking at you because we are in the middle of a conversation! A lot of this says to me that instead of changing your body language, maybe you ought to not be so quick to judge a person by what they do with their hands during a conversation.

Secondly, the list is specifically a "what not to do" collection. But often, a person might want to express these "negative" feelings, without having to say them directly, which can be quite awkward. For example, if I am incredibly bored, I might look at the time or clean my fingernails. The person might then get the message and leave me alone, without my having to say "I’m sorry sir, but you are simply BORING." If body movements are truly a language, than we should learn to speak it, not avoid it.

Guest | 2 Oct 2009 – 03:27
laughing Right.. I’m sure just standing there looking like a lifeless mannequin isn’t going to make one super enjoyable to engage with or be aound either?! Is it even humanly possible to avoid all the above? Geesh..

Phil E. Drifter | 15 Sep 2009 – 05:08
How about not looking someone in the eye when you’re talking to them, that’s a sure sign that they’re lying.

I knew my OLDER brother was thieving things from me (2 pornos, my tenor sas [he’d recently been fired and I’m sure he hocked it at a pawn shop] 2 replica knives I’d bought at the local Rennaisance Faire, a photo album friends gave me while i was in the hospital, a glass ash tray with a cannabis leaf painted on the bottom) all because he’d borrowed a different porn, lent it to someone else and then SHE stopped talking to him, so he was forced to pony up $50 to replace it (it was a damn good porno: Seymore Butts Complete Guide to Female Ejaculation.

Then he hid behind his mommy while my sister who didn’t know the details called the cops and i was arrested.

Guest | 15 Sep 2009 – 03:48
24 and 25 are a load, though. I have bad knees, so I have to shift my weight, and I can’t concentrate as well without being able to fidget with something in my hands. Not a bad list, although a lot of anti-body language is like one guest stated, "stand perfectly still with your entire body as straight as possible." Impossible to avoid all negative body language. Let your body language speak for you, or monitor your body language to see exactly what your subconscious is saying because it could very well be the opposite your mind feels. Either that or it could be an underlying cause, like I said with my knees or my not being able to concentrate.
At the same time, don’t automatically assume that because somebody has crossed arms, they’re in a defensive stance; sometimes it’s just more comfortable to stand that way; With my bad balance, I tend to cross my arms fairly often. Oddly, it helps. lol

Guest | 14 Sep 2009 – 05:35
Geesh. I would say this is impossible except that I have seen one person do all at once. Her body language says I submit, her facial expression says I don’t have a brain in my head, her mouth looks like a fish about to take the bait.

No thanks, I’ll take my chances being me.

Guest | 13 Sep 2009 – 16:11
Simple… Lean in when you talk to people you like and make eye contact. For everyone else screw them cause you shouldn’t care anyway(you don’t like them).

Guest | 13 Sep 2009 – 10:34
Another list of the obvious.

Guest | 13 Sep 2009 – 02:17
Love it how there’s always primers on how to avoid bad body language but woe if there’s one that tells you how to remedy them!wassat

Guest | 12 Sep 2009 – 07:15
Stand perfectly still with your entire body as straight as possible. Don’t you dare move a muscle. Just freeze there and eventually the bears will sense your incredible confidence and move on.

Seriously, does anybody follow all of these suggestions? Is it even possible?

Guest | 9 Sep 2009 – 22:09
So what the hell are you supposed to do?

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