Body language refers to the nonverbal signals that we use to communicate with other people. Through conscious or unconscious gestures and movements, we’re constantly disclosing our thoughts and emotions by way of our bodies. These nonverbal signals make up a significant portion of our everyday communication.

The information we impart nonverbally, through our body language, is an important aspect of all human relationships. Experts estimate that the brain picks up nonverbal cues in a fifth of a second—which is much faster than verbal ones. Research on body language has progressed since it was first addressed by medical professionals in the 1970s, so read up and don’t let your body language sabotage your relationships.

You lean back during important conversations
Leaning back and sticking your legs out in front of you signal that you don’t care about a conversation or the person on the opposite end of the exchange. Instead, sit up straight or lean in to show greater interest.

You cross your arms
Crossed arms might indicate that you feel defensive or closed-off from an interaction. This positioning can be interpreted as a sign that you’re not willing to listen to what others are saying. Uncross your arms to appear open to the person and the exchange.

You don’t make eye contact
You’ve heard it plenty of times before, but it’s so true: Eye contact is essential to build trust in all interactions. If you don’t look people in the eyes, they might assume that you’re being dishonest or mischievous.

You fidget too much
People tend to fidget when they’re uncomfortable or bored. If you’re moving restlessly, you might be giving off the impression that you’re anxious and have something to hide, or that you just don’t want to be there.

You keep looking at your phone or your watch
You might think you can get away with glancing at your phone or your watch, but chances are, you’re going to get caught! Keep your attention on the people around you and the interactions at hand. It shows respect and general interest in the communication.

You fail to “mirror” the other person
Consciously or unconsciously, people who are listening closely will often mirror the other person’s body language. This positioning shows that you really care and you’re engaged in the present.

Of course, the positioning of our bodies sometimes has nothing to do with our internal attitudes. For example, someone might cross their arms because they’re feeling cold, not because they’re intentionally closing themselves off from the interaction. However, by learning the ways your body can sabotage your relationships, you can control your every move and avoid giving off unexpected (and often negative) messages.

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