Why are you staring at me like that?

by Betty Lochner on November 10, 2010

If you ask your friend, “What’s wrong?” and she shrugs her shoulders, frowns, turns away and mutters, “Oh, nothing.” You probably don’t believe her words. You believe something is bothering her because of her body language, right?

Your body language, also known as your non verbal communication, says more for you than you may think. Your body movements, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, posture, even how much distance you put between yourself and the other person communicates for you whether you intend it or not.

Your body language speaks for you

Incredibly, your body language is responsible for more than half of what you communicate. So, it will serve you well to pay close attention to how you are communicating without words.

One of the reasons we can get the wrong message out, is that most of us aren’t really all that self aware about what our body language is saying.We may think we have it all together, but often we are giving off signals that we don’t realize.

For example, do you know when you are you putting people off, or giving the message that you don’t care? Are you sending signals that you don’t intend to send by the way you are standing, moving, even staring? Are you looking away, crossing your arms, or unknowingly scowling? Do you look uninterested, bored, and distracted? Are you shuffling your feet?

I challenge you to start to pay more attention to what body language cues you give. Here are three small changes you can make to make your body language better match what you are trying to communicate:

1. Start by noticing what your body position is.

Is your body open? Try to keep your  arms down at your side, not crossed, folded, or in some other position. And, please don’t catch yourself clenching your fists.

2. Now, pay attention to the conversation and resist distractions.

Don’t look away, down, or at anything else but who you are talking with. In the American culture, good eye contact and a smile can greatly improve the impression people have of you.

3. Keep your body position at the same level as the person you are communicating with.

If they are sitting, sit. If they are standing, stand and meet their eye level. Don’t give off the feeling of a power difference.  That may be what they remember instead of what you say.

These three little things will help you better connect, rather than disconnect with your body language. Try them out, then ask a friend to give you feedback on how you are doing.

Do you have other tips for improving your body language? Please leave a comment and share them here!


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Betty Lochner December 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm


That’s so true! I think it’s because we feel more vulnerable when someone if really connecting with us!

2 Betty Lochner December 7, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Diane, Thanks for the comment! I will! Please subscribe to my blog or my fan page on facebook to get my regular blog posts! http://www.facebook.com/cornerstone.ct

3 Betty Lochner December 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Joel, You bring up an excellent point. The body language that you use must be genuine. A contrived attempt will be seen through immediately. I think the importance of being aware of your body language is so you can use body language to enhance your communication and get your message across. If you can’t do that sincerely, then don’t do it!

4 joel hochberger December 7, 2010 at 8:28 am

Betty, LOVED the title of this – and the content too! Here’s a problem though: It seems as though a lot of people have read articles (and maybe even taken courses) on body language, so they use gestures, eye contact, etc. that are obviously contrived. The obvious insincere smile, the obvious intentional pyramiding hands, etc. can do them more harm than good. Your thoughts on this…

5 Kimberly November 30, 2010 at 9:34 am

I love the idea of non verbal cues that we give to people all the time. I smile a lot, which makes people happy to interact with me and gives people courage about approaching me. I like that.

6 Diane November 18, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Great tips to utilize, this subject is so interesting. Perhaps you would post some more of your excellent tips.

7 Theresa Sheridan November 13, 2010 at 8:14 am

Have you ever noticed how truly uncomfortable some people get when you give them real eye contact? It’s interesting because we value eye contact so much, but it still makes so many of us squirm.

8 Betty Lochner November 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Yes, once you are aware of your body language, you can use it to your advantage for the purpose of the conversation!

9 Norma Maxwell November 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Great info Better and I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said that most of us are not even aware of our own body language. Thanks for the reminders…I know I will be paying closer attention to the nonverbal cues I may be sending out 🙂 Cheers ~Norma

10 Christine Morris November 11, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Betty, This is such a helpful reminder. It is important to pay attention to the signals we are sending. Working on one bad habit can mean a world of difference!

11 Sharon Larson November 11, 2010 at 5:24 am

You’re so right about the difference eye contact and a smile can make. I’m amazed by the number of people who feel they’re listening, but their eyes tell where their attention really is.

I find it helpful to observe the non-verbal communication of people who I feel are truly engaged. They are the best teachers!

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