7 Subtle Ways Your Body Language May Unintentionally Make You Seem Mean
Your body language is one of those things you probably don't think about until someone else mentions it. You might have a habit of crossing your arms when you're thinking or bouncing a leg when you're bored, but don't realize that other people notice these postures until they ask if you're feeling OK. Whether you're meeting someone new or just chatting with your best friend, the last thing you want is to convey that you don't want to be talking with them when you're actually glad to be having a conversation, so watch out for these subtle ways your body language can make you come off as mean. According to experts, even the tiniest movement or position can say so much.
"Body language is the strongest form of communication that we possess," licensed therapist Kim Egel, tells Bustle. "Our body language is speaking louder than anything that we're verbally saying." A number of different small body postures can seem totally mundane, but in fact be presenting you as mean or unfriendly to the person you're speaking with. If you want to come accross as friendly, be sure to keep direct eye contact, open arms, and a fluid body, says Egel. "A body that's well postured communicates interest, excitement, confidence and presence to its receiver," she says. "Head nods and smiles send the signal that you're engaged and listening."
Here are some body language cues that can unintentionally come off as mean, according to experts.
1. "Flashing" A Smile
A good grin can really show someone else that you're happy to see them, but not every smile is a friendly smile. "Sometimes we tend to 'flash' a quick smile that registers as false," Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and body language expert, tells Bustle. Instead, be intentional about smiling a genuine smile, she says. "When you want to appear friendly, smile with your mouth, eyes, and an inner voice that also says, 'hello!'"
2. Intense Eye Contact
While it's always good to make direct eye contact with someone while you're speaking with them, there are some kinds of eye contact that can come off as unfriendly. "Strive to make kind, gentle eye contact," says Dr. Manly. "If we’re not careful, our gaze can be intimating or off-putting," she says. "People sometimes register looks as being unfriendly or unkind — even when they are intended to be welcoming." One trick for changing the way that your eye contact appears to other people is to intentionally think positive thoughts (such as "I like you") as you're looking at them.
3. Crossed Arms
"Our body language is speaking louder than anything that we're verbally saying," Egel says, and your heart area especially can have a lot to say. Any position that blocks your heart, as in through crossing your arms over your chest, can send the message that you're emotionally closed off she says. Instead of this closed off posture, try letting your arms fall naturally by your sides or, if that makes you feel awkward, hold a drink so that you aren't fidgeting.
4. Not Sitting Or Standing Straight
"A hunched over posture along with any body positioning that is not directly straight-facing its subject can send the message that you're not fully engaged and interested in the conversation," says Egel. While sitting up straight might feel awkward for a while, improving your posture is really worth it. Not only does it help open you up to whoever you're talking to, but it also can come with a host of health benefits.
5. Leaning In Closely
If you're at a party or a work happy hour, the environment can be so loud that it makes it difficult to hear the person you're speaking to. But make sure to keep a good distance from the the other person, because leaning in too closely can make you seem overbearing and controlling, Dr. Jane Greer, relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, tells Bustle. This kind of body language can be off-putting because you’re not giving the person personal space, she says. If you really can't hear what's going on, try moving to a quieter area of the room.
6. Crossing Body Parts
Any body language that keeps you from facing the other person straight on could make you seem antagonistic, says Dr. Greer. For example, if you're sitting while speaking, crossing your leg and turning your body away from the other person, this could come off as unfriendly. Crossing your hands and keeping them in front of your lap can make you look stern, she says, which probably isn't your goal in everyday conversation. Relax your body and point yourself toward the other person to show them that they have your positive attention.
7. Sticking Your Chest Out
Squaring your shoulders might seem like a great way to seem confident, but sticking your chest out can make you appear combative, Tiffany Toombs, a body language expert who specializes in reading the body language of others, tells Bustle. "This stance is generally taken on to make someone look physically bigger to scare off an attacker," she says. "Instead, relax your shoulders and breath deeply into your belly."
It's important to feel relaxed and be yourself when you're talking to someone else, instead of constantly worrying about whether your body language is friendly or not. But keeping a few of these tips in the back of your mind can help you show other people that you're the nice person that you are.