1. The Definitive Book of Body Language: The Hidden Meaning Behind People’s Gestures and Expressions
Author: Allan, Barbara Pease
This is a great book on body language. It covers both how to read cues and how to adjust your own body language. It contains a LOT of illustrations which helps tremendously.
It could be a bit more detailed, and the humor is pretty childish at times. But because of how comprehensive and well-researched it is while still being non-technical, it was easy to choose this one as my top pick.
Do buy this book if…
You want something that covers it all.
You want something that’s simple to read.
You want a book with lots of illustrations (Best illustrations of the books I’ve reviewed)
4.3 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good).
Top pick for revealing lies and deception
2. What Every Body Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People
Author: Joe Navarro
The flavor of this book, in comparison to The Definitive Book of Body Language, is that this one is more focused on conflict, deceit, deception, etc. The Definitive Book is more applicable in day to day life, and that’s why I put that one as my top recommendation and this one as my secondary.
Some of the stuff felt obvious but that’s the case with all body language books. Therefore, this is my top pick on lies and deception.
Do buy this book if…
You want to be better at reading people who might deceive you
9. Body Language: Discover and Understand the Psychological Secrets Behind Reading and Benefitting From Body Language
Author: Harvey Segler
There are so much better books on body language than this one. It’s not a terrible book, it’s just that it covers nothing new.
I’d recommend the top books of this guide over it.
4 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good).
10. The Secrets of Body Language: An Illustrated Guide to Knowing What People Are Really Thinking and Feeling
Author: Philippe Turchet
This is an OK book on body language, but there are better ones (Like the ones by the beginning of this guide) that are more actionable.
It covers all the usual stuff, like how to pick up on what others mean and how to improve your own body language. On the upside, it has great illustrations, which is why I think it deserves a place on this list.
3.19 stars on Goodreads. Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good).
11. Without Saying a Word: Master the Science of Body Language and Maximize Your Success
Author: Kasia Wezowski
This book has great ratings on Amazon but it turned out to be a mediocre book. After examining the reviews closer on Amazon and comparing with the reviews of Goodreads, I’m pretty sure that the Amazon reviews are fake.
This book goes through all the stuff that the other books go through, and also pick stuff from Emotions Revealed about micro expressions.
There are much better books on the subject, but since this book has an artificially high rating, I thought I’d mention it in this guide so you have a chance to hear my opinion on it.
Being naturally shy can make it a challenge to get to know others. What does body language have to do with helping shy people improve their interaction with others? It is normal for people to “read” the openness of others. Unfortunately, for those of us who are deep thinkers, we can come off as being “stuck up” or unapproachable, but what we’re really thinking is:
“Are they waiting for someone else? Will they think I’m annoying? What if I say something stupid? What if they ignore me when I speak? Are they irritated about something? What is wrong with me that they are pretending I’m not here?”
Even though our preference in social situations may be to observe and analyze, when we want to make friends or impress a potential employer, we must step out of our comfort zone.
What do people look for when initially deciding who appears interesting enough to strike up a conversation with? A large portion of what people use to make this determination is through body language. While a person’s body language does not say everything about a person, there are some cues that we can take away.
I know for me, I’m attracted to open and friendly body language. When someone displays an open and friendly body language, I feel an increased level of comfort. Unless I feel a level of comfort, I don’t feel safe enough to open a conversation. However, if we never feel safe enough to meet new people, we miss out on discovering amazing people and taking advantage of new opportunities.
As I know that open and friendly body language is important to me, I try to be aware of my own body language. Even though I would prefer to be scrolling through my phone or eavesdropping on other people’s conversations (they shouldn’t talk so loudly), I know that won’t help other people want to get to know me.
Subsequently, I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the body language signs that people find attractive. While these body language techniques are not natural for a shy person, they can be practiced and improved. Most importantly, these techniques can be used on a date, at a potential job interview, or while interacting at a networking event.
Technique One: Smile
When meeting a new person, I like to smile at them. This presents the image of being open and friendly. However, this doesn’t work when I leave a smile plastered on my face. This comes off as fake and insecure. Instead, we should study the face of the person that we are meeting.
How long should you study their face? This should only take a few seconds. Any longer than a few seconds and the person may become uncomfortable. After studying their face for a few seconds, we should smile. What happens when we do this? The person feels like the smile was just for them.
Technique Two: Eye Contact
Eye contact is important in social interactions. When we spend all our time looking at our phones or staring at the floor, we miss opportunities to get to know people that we might have a lot in common with. On the other hand, it can come off as disturbing if we make too much eye contact. At times, I’m uncomfortable looking someone in the eyes.
For instance, if I’m meeting an elected official or a business CEO, I struggle to look them in the eye. In those instances, I prefer to look at a space above their eyes or at the upper portion of their nose.
Technique Three: Open Arms
Many naturally shy people cross their arms in social interactions. This position brings us a level of comfort. Unfortunately, crossed arms can imply defeat. Instead, we should keep our body’s open to those around us. This body language technique indicates openness to others thoughts and ideas.
Technique Four: Put Up Our Phones
Using a phone as a crutch is not unusual for shy people. To avoid feeling uncomfortable around someone we don’t know, we pull out our phones. As a matter of fact, I did this today at my daughter’s dance class before I realized I was guaranteeing that no one would want to talk to me.
Okay, truth time, I got out my phone in the first place because a week ago, I made a comment to the group and no one responded. Granted, I didn’t look at them before speaking and had been staring at my phone for forty-five minutes. Nonetheless, I was protecting myself by pulling out my phone again. However, I realized that by using my phone as a shield, I was keeping people from getting to know me. I put up my phone and after listening in to their conversation, I looked them in the eye and asked a question. They responded. Once they responded, I shared a story about my daughter and they all laughed.
Technique Five: The Triple Nod
What is the triple nod? As a shy person, we sometimes find it difficult to continue a conversation; especially with a high energy person. Fortunately, there is a great body language technique that we can use in these instances to keep a conversation going. This technique is the triple nod. The triple nod is like an ellipsis in a sentence. It is a cue for the other person to keep talking.
How is it used in a real situation? If we are speaking with someone who is sharing, when they pause, we can look them in the eye and nod our heads three times in a row. This symbolizes that we are engaged and interested in what the person is saying. It is a great way to lengthen a conversation. If the person does not continue, then we pick up the conversation where they left off.
What do you think of my recommendations? Do you think they will make your conversations more comfortable? When you think back to a time you were comfortable striking up a conversation with a new person, were either of you following these techniques? I look forward to hearing your comments below!
Have you ever gotten a strong feeling about someone that you just couldn’t explain?
They didn’t say or do anything unusual, but for some reason you just know.
When you feel this way, it’s probably a good idea to “go with your gut.”
Research shows that the actual words you say only make up 7% of what you communicate.Your tone of voice makes up 38%, and your body language is– wait for it– a whopping 55% of your total communication.1
This proves that, while the way you say something is just as important as what you say, the loudest message is the one you’re sending without any words at all.
If your body language is broadcasting your insecurities, you’ll likely find it difficult to make new friends or land that dream job.
But if your body language is showcasing your confidence, doors will begin to open for you that you never knew existed.
Remember, more than half of what someone is learning about you on a date or at a job interview is being told to them through your body language. So no matter how much preparation you put into what you’re going to say, it’s of the utmost importance that your body language is echoing the same message.
Luckily, the following four steps will help you obtain the confident body language that will change your social life (and probably your personal and work lives) forever.
1. Confident Appearance
Ever heard the phrase, “Look good, feel good”? It’s more than just a catchy Instagram hashtag.
When you take care of your body and your appearance, you will feel better about yourself for a number of reasons: you will be healthier, happier, and proud of the way you look. As a result, your body language will be more confident because you’ll actually be more confident.
No matter what the occasion, the most important factor in “looking the part” is good personal hygiene. Some say cleanliness is next to godliness, but if you ask me, cleanliness is next to confidence.
Showering and brushing your teeth regularly, making sure to wear clean clothes, and combing your hair are all it really takes to prevent that uncomfortable moment when you begin to wonder whether or not you smell bad.
Wearing clothing that is appropriate for both the season and event is another easy way to not only feel confident, but appear confident as well.
2. Confident Posture
Now that you’ve dressed yourself confidently, the next step is to hold your body with a confident posture.
Although you might expect a confident posture to consist of a ramrod-straight back and arms held to either side, this sort of rigid position actually appears very uptight (think about it: this was the posture expected of medieval kings and queens, and they wanted to look intimidating).
On the other hand, slouching, keeping your head down, and crossing your arms are each a means of making yourself look smaller, which indicates timidity, fear, and insecurity.
A confident posture is the in-between; while it’s true that you should stand up straight, that doesn’t mean to stand uncomfortably straight. If it feels unnatural, it probably looks unnatural too.
Keep your chin up (not in the air, but also not tucked into your collar bone). Keep your hands loosely by your sides, have one hand (not both) casually tucked into a pocket, or use them to make natural hand gestures as you speak.
The position in which you hold your body indicates a lot about how you’re feeling. Making minor adjustments can cause you to instantly appear more confident.
3. Confident Hands and Feet
To be such small parts of your body, your hands and feet send big messages about the state of your self-esteem.
It’s not exactly a mystery why a police officer may ask someone to “keep your hands where I can see them.” Seeing their hands lets them know that the person isn’t holding a weapon or otherwise threatening their safety.
But this doesn’t just apply to law enforcement– it’s human instinct to feel increased trust when someone’s hands are visible. This is part of why we offer our hands to be sniffed by a dog who is unfamiliar with us, or why we hold our hands out when we are pleading with someone.
In the same way, keeping your hands free and visible is a component of confident body language.
If your hand are shoved deep into your pockets, you will appear uncomfortable and people will be wary of you– if you’re uncomfortable, there’s probably a reason… so maybe they should feel uncomfortable too.
It’s also important to pay attention to the nervous habits you may conduct with your hands.
Many people unwittingly mess with their hair, pick at their fingernails, or fiddle with their clothing or accessories when they get nervous. You may not realize you’re doing it, but other people will, and your insecurity will become transparent.
In addition to keeping visible hands and avoiding nervous tics, the way that you walk is another key indicator of your confidence.2
If you are shuffling your feet, taking teeny-tiny steps, or being a total weirdo behaving really oddly by walking on tip-toe, people will think you’re either scared, suspicious, or frighteningly strange (none of which are desirable outcomes).
Taking larger strides and keeping your eyes fixed on your destination, rather than on the floor, indicates that you are confident both in yourself and in what you’re doing and gives you the appearance of walking with purpose.
Finally, the stance that you take when you stop walking is a major contributor to your appearance of confidence.
Earlier I mentioned that hunching your shoulders or tucking your chin makes you appear smaller, and the same is true of a narrow stance.
Taking up more space by standing with feet shoulder-width apart or sitting with your feet planted firmly on the ground is an indicator of confidence. By doing this, you are showing that you know where you belong and you’re not afraid to be seen or to make yourself comfortable in your space.
Let me be clear– I’m not saying you should stand like a cowboy preparing to draw his pistol for a duel (and if you do stand that way, go ahead and walk around on tip-toe while you’re at it).
However, maintaining a comfortable stance that takes up an appropriate amount of space for your body size will make you appear much more confident than you will if you stand as though you’re in an overly-full elevator.
4. Confident Eyes
Your eyes are the fourth and final component of developing a more confident body language.
Staring at the ground, your hands, or basically anywhere except the person who’s speaking indicates
You’re guilty of something, or
In short, eye contact is key.
Unlike some of the previous points, this is not a new concept. Quite simply, don’t be afraid to look at people.
If you’re afraid to look at people, it’s probably because you don’t want them to look back. And that, my friends, is the number one sign of insecurity.
So, when you’re in a situation where you need to put on a confident body language, think of the children’s song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
Just kidding– but do think of your appearance, your posture, and your hands, feet, and eyes.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and the picture people see when they look at you is worth a million. So make it count.
5. Ways to Convey Confidence Through Body Language
Ever heard the saying “Fake it ’til you make it?”
Nine times out of ten, this phrase is used in reference to the habit of faking confidence.
The amount of confidence you exude can play a large role in the success you experience in your personal life, in your social life, and in your workplace. And though you may not always feel confident, the ability to act with confidence anyway is a valuable skill to have.
You probably wouldn’t walk into a room and say, “Hey everybody! I’m feeling really confident today!” (And if you would… please don’t).
Rather than annoying your coworkers, you’re likely to find that it’s much more effective (and socially acceptable) to convey confidence through your body language instead.
Body language is the non-verbal communication of your attitude and thoughts. Whether you realize it or not, you are always sending a message via your body language, and it doesn’t take an expert to decipher its meaning.
Some of the most obvious examples of body language are things you see all the time. Someone standing with crossed arms, head tilted back, with eyes pointed towards the ceiling, shifting his weight back and forth while tapping one foot is clearly frustrated and impatient.
On the other hand, someone sprawled out on a sofa with her arms above her head and one leg up on a table is obviously comfortable in her environment. Neither of those people would need to explicitly tell you how they’re feeling. You would be able to tell just by looking at them; they are signaling it with their body language.
For several years, I was a 3rd grade teacher of at-risk children in an extremely impoverished neighborhood (in other words, a pretty stressful work environment). One of the ways that teachers in this district are evaluated is through “drop-in” observations, where the school principal comes by at random to watch a lesson.
Everything the teacher says and does is written down–verbatim–and evaluated according to an extensive rubric. The results of these observations affect the number of future observations the teacher will receive, as well as how much the teacher will get paid the following school year.
To call this “nerve-racking” is an understatement, and during my first year of teaching I was particularly terrified. And yet at every post-conference I attended, I was complimented on my “calm and confidence.” This was shocking to me because I didn’t feel calm or confident at the time. But I used my body language topretend like I did— and it worked.
The next time I had an observation like this, I didn’t have to fake my confidence quite as much because my actual confidence was much higher.
You too can use your body language to convey confidence using the following 4 tips.
6. Eye Contact
One of the most obvious “tells” of insecurity is the unwillingness to make eye contact. Avoiding eye contact indicates to someone that you are either uncomfortable or have something to hide.
You don’t want to make creepy eye contact either, though– meet the person’s eyes when they are speaking to you or you are speaking to them, and maintain a normal blinking pattern. If the conversation includes multiple people, switch between making eye contact with each of them instead of focusing on one person. Eye contact is the most important characteristic of confident body language.
Think of some of the most confident people you know. How do they position themselves? Confident people hold their heads up high and stand up straight, ready to face whatever comes at them. A posture of confidence is not stiff; it is relaxed and allows for plenty of movement. Hunching over, keeping your head down, crossing your arms, and folding into yourself are signs of fear, shame, and insecurity. Take note of how you hold yourself when you are nervous or uncomfortable, and make an effort to stand normally in these situations instead. It can be helpful to ask close family or friends who have spent a lot of time with you what they notice about your behavior in these situations so that you can be more aware of it in the future.
In addition to having a relaxed, open posture, confident people are comfortable moving around. Make sure you understand the difference between “moving around” and fidgeting– nervous tics such as messing with your hair, pacing, twisting an earring, 0r fiddling with a lanyard or the buttons on your shirt are not indicators of confidence. Stiffness, such as keeping your hands clenched tightly in fists or shoved deep into your pocket, indicates discomfort.
When watching someone giving a speech, it is clear they are nervous if they clutch the podium or their notes and rarely let go. Confident body language includes the use of hand gestures, animated facial expressions, and other natural movements that are appropriate for the situation at hand.
9. Facial Expressions
For some, facial expressions can be the most difficult aspect of body language to control. It can be easy to reveal exactly what you are thinking and feeling on your face. But with practice, you can learn to maintain facial expressions that exhibit confidence regardless of the situation.
First, confident people smile because they believe in their ability to handle any situation, and their lack of insecurity allows them to enjoy themselves. When you are nervous or uncomfortable, you smile less frequently, if at all. Making sure to smile (when appropriate) will give you the appearance of confidence.
Some things a confident person doesn’t do include:
Pursing his lips
Biting his lip
Blinking rapidly or unnaturally
Clenching her jaw
Think about which of these things you find yourself doing when feeling nervous and focus on maintaining a neutral facial expression instead, and be sure to smile when appropriate.
The most confident people you know are probably not as confident as they seem. Most successful people have discovered the truth in the saying “Fake it ’til you make it.” Learning how to use your body language to convey confidence–even when you aren’t feeling it– will allow you to develop actual confidence as you continue to experience success.
10. Common body language mistakes
Often when we feel uncomfortable in social situations, our body language is affected in the following ways:
Cross our arms like we want to protect ourselves
Act like we want to leave the conversation
Feel afraid to take up space
Sit or stand in a stiff position
Start fiddling with our phone
Doing this makes us look nervous and shy. Even more importantly: It makes us feel nervous and shy. That’s right. Like I mentioned in the previous chapter, using a nervous body language is causing you to feel more nervous.
If you physically change your body language, your brain will produce hormones that will indeed make you feel more confident.
An Interesting study
In a study, two groups of people were instructed to make a series of difficult decisions.
One of the groups had been instructed to maintain a confident body language during the decision-making. This group felt more confident with the decisions that they had made compared to the test group.
This experiment proved that you actually become a more confident person simply by using a confident body language.
11. How to get an open and outgoing body language
Here’s a complete list of mistakes related to body language and examples on how socially skilled people do it differently. Before we start off, two things:
1. Don’t be overwhelmed by this list – you don’t need to memorize it
Instead, pay attention to if there’s anything you can adjust when it comes to your body language and keep that in the back of your head.
2. If you forget to follow some of the advice on this list, no worries
This is for you to get an overview and see the big picture to help you to get rid of bad habits. It’s your overall appearance that matters. Rather be relaxed and make mistakes than being stiff and afraid of making mistakes.
12. Crossing your arms
People who cross their arms come off as nervous or skeptical. Avoid doing this when you’re talking to someone. Also avoid to “protect your belly” by holding a hand in front of it or holding something you carry in front of it. That’s a clear sign of being uncomfortable
What to do instead:
Let your arms hang relaxed along with your sides.
If you’re holding a glass or a phone or a bag, hold it at waist level with relaxed arms along your sides.
A great habit is to simply put your thumbs in your pockets and let your fingers point downward when you’re talking to someone. That will create a natural, relaxed look.
13. Body rocking
Reporters who are out on the field are taught in journalism class to “anchor” themselves in the ground in front of the camera to convey more confidence and to avoid moving around too much.
If you feel uncertain of where to stand and it feels like everyone is looking at you, throw a mental anchor right where you are and stand still on the spot with your feet at shoulder width.
It can be comforting to know that when you don’t know where to go or what to do, instead of flinching around, just encamp where you currently stand until you know where you’re going next. That will make you look confident and relaxed.
14. Hunching forward
As proved in studies, hunching forward increases cortisol levels in your blood which will make you stressed. It also makes you look submissive and nervous, so try to avoid it.
In a study, test subjects were asked to guess who was the leader of different work teams. It turned out that they didn’t pick the actual leader, but most often chose one of the groups with the best posture. A good posture automatically signals that you’re confident and it makes you more attractive.
People often make the mistake of leaning backward when they try to improve their posture. Avoid doing that and instead, use the technique below.
15. 5-second posture quick fix
These are the benefits of doing this exercise:
You will look more confident and attractive.
People will assume you to be the leader of the group.
It’s better for your back.
Your voice will automatically become stronger because now there’s more room for breathing and voice resources.
Stand in front of a mirror and lift your chest upwards (don’t push it forward, just up). Lift it so that you feel a bit of stretch in your belly.
Some things to think about here:
Keep your chin in and down.
Keep your hip slightly forward rotated so that your spine remains straight, it’s easy to rotate it backward and that will push your belly out.
Don’t lift your chest too high. Check in a mirror from the side and hold it where it looks good. When you hold it – memorize the sensation in your belly.
Whenever you think about it, raise your chest until you feel that feeling you’ve memorized in your belly.
So in summary, with maintained cheek and hip, move your chest up until you feel this slight stretch in your belly.
Your back can hurt a bit before you get used to your new posture. When that happens, give your back some rest.
Practice this whenever your posture comes to mind. It took quite a while for me before I did it permanently. Now, I don’t need to think about it anymore: It has been taking care of by my subconscious. Be prepared to remind yourself time after time for several months before it’s a part of your new permanent posture.
16. Feet direction
If you want to understand someone’s true intent, look at their feet. Their feet almost always point in the direction they subconsciously want to go.
If a group of people are having a conversation, they will point their feet towards the person they are attracted to or towards the person who they see as the leader of the group. If someone wants to get away from the conversation, their feet are pointed away from the group or towards the exit.
Christoffer Lindgren who’s part of the SocialPro team is exceptionally good at connecting with people. One of the reasons for this is his ability to direct his full attention to the person he’s talking to. You never get the feeling that he has to go somewhere (unless he has to), and that makes him rewarding to talk to.
If you’ve read Pickup advice, you’ve probably heard that you should look like you’re on your way somewhere – at least the first minute or so. If you’re in a situation where it’s not explicitly meant to socialize, say that you start talking to your neighbor in the hallway, it can be a good idea to not instantly point your body straight towards him or her as it can feel too invasive. However, say that you want to create a close connection with your neighbor, make sure to give him or her your full focus after a minute or so.
We are already programmed to do things like this automatically, but sometimes it can be good to reflect upon how we actually behave socially and if we are repeating some mistakes that are easy to fix.
So – to really connect with someone, make that person feel like you have time for him or her and aren’t on your way somewhere else.
Often when we feel a bit uncomfortable talking to someone – perhaps because we don’t know what to say next – we want to get away from the conversation. The other person might mistake that for you not wanting to talk.
Signal that you are interested in continuing the conversation by pointing your feet towards the person.
When we feel uncomfortable, our reptile system makes us attend a body language that’s great for defense and escape. Feet towards the exit – protecting vital organs, sitting straight up instead of leaning backward, tensing our muscles, producing adrenaline and cortisol to act fast and hit hard.
It’s a great system when it comes to avoiding being eaten – it isn’t as good for socializing and making friends.
You have to work against the reptile system to create this backward effect of feeling confident through acting confident. Here’s a good exercise for this purpose:
18. Taking up space-exercise
Say that you’re at someone’s house, in an unknown environment with people you don’t know.
You probably feel stiff and suddenly it feels like you forgot how to even sit in a way that wouldn’t make people think you’re weird.
Think back on how you would sit if it would be in your own sofa together with your best friend, and attend that pose. (Within the social rules of the situation you happen to be in).
It’s probably more relaxed; leaning backward, taking up more space with your arms and legs.
Use this “my own sofa” position whenever you feel tense when sitting.
Except for in situations where there’s an actual risk to be eaten, it’s never wrong to use a relaxed body language. Outgoing people don’t only show that they enjoy the moment. They are also great at mirroring the person they are talking to.
Mirroring is when you in a non-obvious way behave like the person you’re talking to.
Everyone is doing this subconsciously – more or less. Without even thinking about it, you speak with a different jargon and speed to say, your grandma, than with your friends.
20. An interesting experiment
In an experiment, one group of people watched a documentary about senior living, while the other group watched a nature documentary.
Without the test subjects knowledge, the scientists measured how long it took for them to walk the hallway from the video room to the entrance of the facility after the movie.
The group who had seen the documentary about senior living were on average walking slower than the reference group. This experiment shows how mirroring is something we do subconsciously.
With that said, we sometimes forget to adjust how we behave, and that creates a disconnect between us and people we meet.
To get a sense of how mirroring can be the deal breaker when it comes to making friends, let me tell you a story about a guy I know who no one really wanted to hang out with, simply because he always spoke very fast and with a higher energy than anyone else.
This lack of mirroring affected his entire life – he couldn’t connect with people.
As he after a while became aware of this and started to adjust his energy, it was like his social life just switched on in just a few weeks – it became fun to hang out with him.
Mirroring affects not only the social energy level but also your general appearance. If you want to connect with someone, act more like that person.
Position the other person is standing in or sitting in.
Jargon; the level of advanced terms, foul language, jokes.
Type of discussion; If someone’s talking about the meaning of life it’s weird to start talking about everyday matters and vice versa.
Naturally, you shouldn’t compromise who you are and only mirror what you’re comfortable with.
21. Final Exercise – Turning nervousness into confidence
An outgoing body language is about looking and feeling comfortable, mirroring the person you’re talking to and showing that you’re into the conversation when you’re talking to someone.
Here’s a great exercise that I used to do a lot.
It’s said that if you are afraid of the dark, the best way to conquer the fear is to stand still in a dark room for a long time. Being scared is energy consuming, and after a while, your body simply won’t have the energy to feel scared anymore. Well, in this exercise we are going to use the same principle but for social situations instead.
Say that you’re in one of those situations where there are people around you and you don’t know what to do, so you pick your phone up just to look busy.
Next time, instead of picking your phone up, enter a relaxed position like the “my own sofa” position. Or, if you’re standing up, just put your thumbs down your pockets, fingers pointing downwards.
Actively lower your stress levels by breathing slowly and paying attention to each breath.
You will after just a minute notice how you are in charge of how you feel – you will experience how you are the one who decides if you want to feel comfortable.
You will also notice how, as long as you look confident, you don’t need to talk to someone or do something with your phone.
For me, this was a paradigm shift.
I started enjoy feeling relaxed in environments that I know most people think are stressful. It was a relief for me to just stand and feel relaxed in intense social situations: “Nah, screw this nervosity thing. I’m gonna choose to sit here and enjoy it instead.”
Perhaps someone’s remarked that you look angry or aloof. Or, you wonder why people approach your friends but not you. Here’s how to go from looking unapproachable and stand-offish to approachable and friendly.
Part 1: How to appear more approachable and friendly
Head tilted down
Wrinkle because of tense eyebrows
Smile in the corner of the mouth
Slight crows feet in corner of eyes
1. Relax your face
Nervousness can make us tense up without noticing. Remind yourself to relax the muscles in your face if you think that you might look tense. Make sure your lips and teeth don’t press together: You want your jaw to be just slightly open.
2. Practice a casual smile
Smile slightly with the corners of your mouth if you usually frown. It will feel weird before you make it a habit, but that’s normal. The smile can be very subtle – it’s more about canceling out the frown than grinning.
Having a resting facial expression that looks bored or angry is called RBF or Resting Bitch Face. For some reason, it’s associated with women, but it’s as common for men as it is for women. Test if you have RBF here.
3. Smile with your eyes
Smiling with only the mouth and not the eyes can look insincere. You know that you smile with your eyes when you get a little wrinkle in the outer corner of your eyes that has the shape of a crow’s feet. Ease up a stern face by smiling slightly with your eyes together with a smile in the corners of your mouth.
4. Relax your eyebrows
Relax your eyebrows if you tend to lower them. Lowered eyebrows and the wrinkle between the eyebrows signals anger, even if we just do it because we’re uncomfortable or think about something that bothers us.
5. Ask good friends why they think you look unapproachable
Tell a friend you trust that you think that you look unapproachable. Ask them why they think it could be. They might notice things about you that you had no clue about.
Be clear to your friend that you don’t want supporting words but their honest opinion on what you could do differently.
6. Keep a bit of extra eye contact
Look people in the eyes. When you greet people, keep a second of extra eye contact after you’ve shaken hands.
Eye contacts make friendly situations more friendly and hostile situations more hostile. Therefore, it’s important to keep eye contact with a relaxed face. Pro tip: Blink once while you keep eye contact to make it feel less like a stare.
7. Look in people’s general direction
Don’t look straight at strangers at mingles and parties, but in their general direction. If they, in turn, look in your general direction, you can make eye contact and give them a friendly smile. If you don’t look in people’s general direction, you won’t notice if they try to make contact with you.
8. Use an open body language
Use an upright posture: Straight back and arms uncrossed. If you tilt your head back, you can come off as intimidating or stuck-up. If you tilt it down, you might come off as insecure or aloof. Therefore, keep you face vertical and your gaze horizontal.
9. Use a mirror to see how you look
Try out the examples above in a mirror. Compare the difference with and without adjusting your smile, eyebrows, and tension.
Use the mirror to make sure that you don’t over-do. Even better is to take a video of yourself with your phone. At least for me, this felt more natural than looking at yourself in a mirror.
10. Avoid things that cover you, such as sunglasses, hoodies, or big scarves
People get uncomfortable when they can’t see someone’s eyes or facial expressions clearly. Therefore it’s good to avoid obscuring your face. Covering your neck can signal that you’re uncomfortable: Since it’s a vulnerable area, exposing it or covering it (with clothing or a hand) has historically been an indicator of how comfortable we are.
11. Avoid intimidating clothes
Avoid dressing in all black or in clothes that might make people uncomfortable approaching you. I love people who express themselves with their clothes and I often dress in all black, but when I have the goal of being approachable, I always avoid extremes.
Showing a lot of skin doesn’t necessarily make you more approachable. The same thing here: If you look TOO different from those around you, it can be intimidating.
On the flip-side, you can also stand out in a good way: Having a colorful or unusual item on you or wearing an eye-catching outfit that enhances your looks and isn’t intimidating.
To know the difference, ask yourself if your outfit signals that it could be a positive or negative experience to approach you.
12. Don’t act busy when you’re not
Be present in the moment and avoid your phone when you’re around people. Practice looking at bypassers rather than at your phone. If you look busy, people will assume that you don’t want to be bothered.
13. Don’t stand too far away from others
When we feel uncomfortable, we often try to put distance between us and those around us (without even being aware of it). One example is if we share a couch with someone and we start leaning away from that person. Another example is if we’re in a group conversation but don’t feel included so we stand one step outside of the group. If you notice that you stand far away from others, move a bit closer so that you are within a normal distance.
14. Think of something that makes you happy when you want to be seen as approachable
Think about something specific that makes you happy. Tap into that happiness and try to feel it in your entire body. I, for example, get happy when I think about meeting up with a specific friend for coffee. I can visualize the walk to the café and focus my attention on the positive feeling. This makes me feel – and look – happier and friendlier.
15. See people as old friends
Imagine that everyone you meet is an old friend. How would you react? How would you smile? What would your face and body language be like?
16. Maximize your looks
Look your best and take care of your appearance. Here are some examples: Make sure that your hair looks good and get regular haircuts. Wear clothes that make you look good. If you have acne, take Vitamin A. If you are very pale, spend 20 minutes in the sun daily. If you’re overweight, look up a sustainable weight loss diet. It’s a good mindset to always do something to make your future you a little better than the current you.
17. Make a positive remark if you want to start talking to someone
Making a positive remark signals that you’re open for interaction. It can be obvious and doesn’t have to be clever. Simply saying a few words is enough to let people know that you’re friendly.
“I love this view” “The bread smells so good” “This is such a nice house”
Part 2: How to be more friendly when you interact with someone
1. Dare to be warm first
It’s common to be standoffish if we’re a bit uncertain what the other person might think of us. To avoid rejection, we wait for the other person to be friendly before we dare to be. That’s a mistake because the other person is probably thinking the same thing.
Dare to meet the person like you would if you’d assume that they’ll like you: Smile, be friendly, ask sincere questions, make eye contact.
2. Ask a personal question to signal that you’re friendly and open for interaction
Ask how people are and what they do. It signals that you’re open for interaction. The conversation can be very simple and what you ask isn’t that important. It’s just about signaling that you’re friendly.
– Hi, how are you doing? – Good, how are you? – I’m good. How do you know people here?
3. Use a friendly tone of voice
Use a tone that’s a bit friendlier if you usually sound harsh. Feeling nervous can tighten your throat and give you a stern voice. Ease up by practicing different ways of talking when you’re by yourself. One trick to sound friendlier is to use tonal variation: Varying more between your low and high tones.
Here’s an example:
Part 3: Deal with underlying reasons for looking unapproachable
For some of us, there are underlying reasons for why we look unapproachable, such as anxiety or shyness.
Negative self-talk like “people won’t like me” obviously makes us more hesitant to approach people. Ironically, this hesitation makes us look unapproachable, and when we don’t get interacted with, we think it’s because people don’t like us.
Change this by challenging your critical voice. If the voice tells you that people won’t like you, remind yourself of times where people did indeed like you.
Part 4: How to be approached more
This part is relevant if you want to be approached in a dating or flirting context.
“I’m relatively good-looking but my friends get approached way more. I’m afraid that I look unapproachable. How do I get approached more by guys?”
The advice you’ve received so far in this guide is relevant here as well. Here are some additional advice specifically for being approached more.
1. Keep eye contact and smile
If you make eye contact with someone, keep that eye contact a second extra and smile. You can blink once to avoid coming off as staring. Subtle flirting like this signals that you’re friendly and makes is much less scary for someone to come up to you.
2. Avoid only going out in large groups
Large groups make it scary for someone to approach. The social shame is naturally much higher if the approach doesn’t go well when there are more people to observe it. You’re likely to be approached more if you’re by yourself.
3. Behave more like you do when you’re relaxed even when you’re in public
When we get nervous we tend to restrict ourselves. Think about how you are when you’re with close friends in a safe environment. If that’s more like you, your authenticity will make you more attractive.
4. Dare to take up more space
When we feel uncomfortable, we tend to take up less space, both in conversations and physically.
When you’re out, you can practice taking up more space by taking a walk around the venue without having a specific goal other than to “check it out”. It can feel uncomfortable at first but helps you expand your comfort zone. In a conversation, practice sharing your opinion on a subject even if it feels uncomfortable to have everyone’s eyes on you.
Don’t be overly loud or overly dominant. That can come off as over-compensating and signal insecurity.