Module Four: Body Language Mistakes

There are different factors that will create false body language signals. This is why it is so important to examine the positions and gestures as a whole when attempting to interpret body language. To prevent body language mistakes, become aware of these factors and think carefully when reading body language.

Poor Posture

Posture can lead to unfair judgments and prejudices. Often, poor posture is seen as a closed body language that people assume is caused by a lack of confidence. There are, however, many different reasons why someone can have poor posture. While it is true that most people can improve on their posture, the changes that can be made to a person’s musculoskeletal structure are limited. Always pay attention to other cues, and do not make rash judgments based solely on posture.

Some Causes of Poor Posture:

  • Injury: Both acute injuries and repetitive motion injuries can alter someone’s posture.
  • Illness: Autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, can damage the skeletal structure.
  • Skeletal structure: Scoliosis and other problems with the spine will affect posture.
  • Temperature: People may take a closed posture when they are cold.

Invading Personal Space

Invading personal space is seen as an act of hostility. Western societies typically use five different zones, depending on social situations.

  • 12 feet: This zone is for the public. The purpose is to avoid physical interaction.
  • 4 feet: This zone is reserved for social interactions such as business settings. Touching requires the individual to move forward.
  • 18 inches: This is a personal zone. It allows contact, and it is reserved for friends and family.
  • 6 inches: This zone is reserved for close relationships. This zone can be invaded in crowds or sports.
  • 0 to 6 inches: This zone is reserved for intimate relationships.

It is essential to remember that these zones are part of most Western cultures. There are reasons why people will invade personal space that have nothing to do with hostility.

Personal Space Differences:

  • Culture: Each culture has different boundaries and personal space.
  • Background: Personal history and background will affect an individual’s concept of personal space.
  • Activity: Some activities require people to work closely. This should be considered before assuming someone is invading personal space.

Quick Movements

Quick movements may be interpreted as a sign of nervousness. They may, however, be used to draw attention to specific information when speaking. Consistent jerking movements, however, do not always indicate nerves or negative emotions. Do not make a snap judgment about quick movements. There are reasons why movements may seem quick or jerking.

May alter movement:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Exhaustion
  • Cold


Most people fidget from time to time. In interviews and social settings, fidgeting can indicate nervousness, boredom, frustration, stress, or self-consciousness. It is an outlet to release feelings or an attempt at self-comfort. Besides emotions, there are a number of other reasons why people may fidget.

Other Reasons for Fidgeting:

  • Attention deficit disorder: ADD and ADHD are often accompanied by fidgeting.
  • Hormone imbalances: These may be accompanied by nervous energy.
  • Blood sugar imbalances: Fidgeting accompanies sugar highs.
  • Imbalanced brain chemistry: These may increase tension.
  • Medications: Steroids and other medications can cause imbalances

Case Study

Sara was not impressed with Jon when she first saw him. His shoulders were hunched over in a closed-off position. She went into the interview knowing that it would be a waste of her time. Jon’s head position, however, showed interest. He had an engaging smile and was genuinely interested in the position. Given his skills and complete body language assessment, Sara became more positive about Jon as a candidate. The interview revealed that Jon had worked a manufacturing job where his upper back was injured.