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Beware Body Language That Rules You Out

Negative body language may diminish your presence and reveal secrets you don’t wish to communicate. Here are just a few messages that you’ll want to avoid sending with your body language and posture, whether in a meeting or more informal setting:

“I’m a Loser or Victim”

Slouching suggests defeat. It mimics what wild animals do when larger animals drive them away from food. Defeated humans, like the cowered animals, hang their head either forward or sideways, look downward, and lean on first one and then the other foot or slink away as if dismissed. The look says “Poor, poor, pitiful me. Please feel sorry for me. I can’t help myself.” Often these people duck away from others and sit around the edge of the wall in a meeting, or sit or stand away from the action in any gathering, completing the picture of defeat.

“I’m Nervous or Need Reassurance”

Some gestures show signs of inward stress; they reveal inner tension and include smoking, gum-chewing, nail-biting, finger-tapping, foot-tapping, necklace twirling, hands rubbing neck, ring-twisting, hair-tossing, crossing one or both arms across the chest, and clasping hands tightly in front of or behind oneself.

“Do As I Say, Or Else!”

Pointing your fingers or gesturing with your palms down almost always sends a negative message of “Listen to me. I’m the authority here.”

What do you do if your body language betrays the inner you?

  • Act your way into new feelings. To feel confident, use confident body language.
  • Before a big meeting or an important presentation, pull some friends together for a dry run followed by feedback from the group. Choose friends or colleagues whom you trust will give you honest feedback.
  • Video-record yourself for your own review and critique.


I was nervous and confident at the same time. Nervous about going out there in front of all of those people….and confident that I was going to go out there and win.

—Althea Gibson

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