7 Unexpected Mannerisms Body Language Experts Say Can Make People Feel Uncomfortable
A person's body language can give a lot way. For instance, a person can hype themselves up to be the most confident person in the room. But if they're constantly fidgeting to the point where they seem unrelaxed, you know they're probably bluffing. While a person's mannerisms will sometimes give them away, other times, it can make them come off a certain way without them realizing. According to experts, there are some pretty common body language cues and mannerisms that can make people feel uncomfortable, given the person and the context.
"Many of us know to pay close attention to the words we choose, but we pay little or no attention to how we’re delivering our messages," Denise M. Dudley, Ph.D., author and behavioral psychologist, tells Bustle. More often than not, though, Dudley says when people received mixed signals from someone else, they will read more into body language cues than what they hear. In other words, how someone looks while they're communicating something is probably more important than their words.
Having the ability to make others feel uncomfortable isn't something most people do consciously. Often times, people don't even realize that the things they do or say are actually turning people off.
There are many body mannerisms that can unintentionally make other people feel uncomfortable, GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in social anxiety, tells Bustle. "But more often than not, these mannerisms are just the results of insecurity." Think of these common gestures as nervous habits, Guarino says. It's just small things people tend to do without ever realizing it.
And it's important to always note the context of these gestures — while some people may be made uncomfortable by certain mannerisms, others may not be as bothered. Usually if someone realizes they are sending out the wrong signals, a simple apology or discussion of the mix up is enough to move past any awkward moment.
So here are some unexpected mannerisms that can mistakenly make people feel uncomfortable, according to experts.
1. Intense Eye Contact
Making eye contact when you're communicating with someone is super important. As Dudley says, that's the best way to stay engaged in a conversation. "When people make eye contact, it shows others they're interested in what is being said, they're confident about their own personal power, and they're an open, friendly person."
However, it’s equally important for individuals to break eye contact every now and then. "Making eye contact without breaking it makes the other person feel as if the exchange is way too intense," she says. It can come off as intimidating. Ideally, everyone should strive to make assertive eye contact which involves looking directly at the person and breaking eye contact every so often.
2. Standing Too Close
People in general tend to feel uncomfortable when other people enter in their personal space too soon, or without being invited. "Characteristically, we stand (and sit) close to our family members and close personal friends, and we keep our distance (approximately three feet in western culture) with strangers and casual acquaintances," Dudley says. That's why when someone violates this unwritten rule, it can feel as if they’re attempting to establish physical familiarity and intimacy way too soon. That can be pretty uncomfortable for some. Instead, she recommends for all people to keep an approximate three-foot distance between themselves and others until a closer relationship is established.
3. Friendly Patting
"Unless it’s your grandma patting you (and hopefully baking you cookies), most people don’t want to be patted," Dudley. Some people just don't like to be surprised with a friendly touch on the hand, on the shoulder, or on the head. "For some, it can feel ... lascivious," she says. "It can also feel patronizing and demeaning." Instead, offering up a friendly handshake should be the go-to.
4. Adjusting One's "Parts" In Public Places
"I’m actually mentioning this seemingly obvious point, because I’ve seen it happen more times than you might imagine," Dudley says. Everyone is entitled to feel comfortable. But it can make others feel super uncomfortable when they're grabbing, scratching, or ajdusting themselves in front of the others, even if it's unintended. Sometimes, it just happens without the person even realizing that they're doing it. "If someone has an itch, or if their underwear is riding up, they need to head to the bathroom or close their office door," she says. Once there, they can make any attempts they want to fix their issue.
5. Winking At The Wrong Time
A wink between friends is totally fine. But a seemingly random wink from a stranger or acquaintance can feel invasive to some. "In behavioral terms, a wink is technically a break in 'normal' eye contact, which disrupts the flow of the conversation," Dudley says. That’s why winking at someone when sharing an inside joke is perfectly fine, she says, it’s like a quick aside. But when someone winks without any discernible reason, it can feel confusing. "Instead, maintain positive, steady eye contact, and save the winks for your best buds," she says.
6. Standing With Unnatural Arm Placement
When someone is feeling unsure of themselves, the tendency is stand in a very unrelaxed way. According to Guarino, someone standing with their shoulders hunched forward or holding their arms behind their body can be off-putting for some people. It can be difficult to really focus on a conversation with someone when they just look uncomfortable. "It's important to keep the shoulders rolled back," she says. "Let your arms relax at your sides or pockets." When everyone is comfortable, communication will be easier.
7. Looking Down When Talking To Someone
When someone keeps their chin down or close to their neck when they're speaking to another person, it can create an uncomfortable glare with their eyes, Guarino says. That's why the importance of making eye contact is always stressed by experts. But understandably, it can be difficult for some. "It's often a challenge for people who are already struggling," Guarino says. "For those who can't maintain eye contact, I advise you to keep contact with the bridge of the other person's nose or the top of their forehead instead." But be sure not to focus on it too much, or else that may also not come off well.
The reality is, you can't ever really control how someone sees you. However, being mindful of how they react to the things you do or say can help you make slight adjustments if you feel it's necessary.