8 Myths about Body Language

Following my recent article about Body Language at Interviews I have had a number of conversations from which it is obvious that there still quite a few myths about Body Language and I thought it was worth taking a look at some of them so that you can avoid these “fake news” ideas. These myths about body language could be preventing you from communicating with others effectively, or picking up the often subtle clues that are important when dealing with people – such as in a tricky business negotiation, or a dispute with a friend or family member.

Here are eight myths to look out for:

1. A smile means the person is happy

It will usually mean that, but it could also mean they are confused, uncomfortable, or just being polite.

2. Liars avoid eye contact

Shy people do too! In fact, studies have shown that pathological liars often look straight at a person in order to make sure their lie is being accepted as truth.

3. Crossed arms always mean resistance or not being approachable

They can actually mean a lot of different things, ranging from “it’s cold” to mirroring because you are actually doing it yourself. It can also stop people from feeling too “exposed”, especially women, until they are able to relax into a situation.

4. Eye direction

The theory is that if a person looks to the right they are lying, and if they are looking to the left, they are telling the truth. There is really no set pattern. The only thing you can do is observe the person to try to gauge what is typical for them.

5. 93% of all our communication is body language

If that were true, we could watch foreign language films and understand them without subtitles. About half of our communication is influenced by body language, but words, tone and style are key. They should ideally match the body language, and vice versa.

6. You can’t practice your body language

This is false. The best public speakers assess themselves in a mirror or on video to see what bad habits they have so they can replace them with good ones. Good salespeople will do this as well to make sure that nothing they do will send an unspoken message that will blow the deal they have put so much effort into.

7. Fidgeting is a sign of nervousness

It might be, but it could also be pent-up energy from having to sit still for too long.

8. Body language is the same the world over

What is acceptable in the West might be completely offensive in the East, and vice versa. Handshakes are still uncommon in Asian countries compared with the bow. Nodding means yes in some countries and no in others. Learning the differences can make you a more successful communicator no matter where you go.

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