What you don’t say can be as telling—or more so—than what you do say. Body language is integral to communication and relationships and can make or break a connection between two people.
Because nonverbal cues comprise most of how people communicate, it’s important to consider the cues that harm your relationships. In this article, we’ll cover the most common body language blunders people make and how to avoid them. 1
Are communication problems getting in the way of your relationship? Learn how effective communication can help create and maintain a strong bond with your partner.
The impact of body language
The impact of body language on your relationship cannot be overstated. Numerous studies and experts have emphasized the significance of nonverbal communication in shaping the quality of interpersonal connections.
Nonverbal cues like facial expressions, body posture, and gestures convey approximately 55% of the overall message, while words only account for around 7%. So, if you are mindful of your body language, there is a high chance that your relationship can improve. 1
Even when you’re not doing it intentionally, body language can send all the wrong signals to your partner. If you are unaware of how your body is projecting messages, it’s easy to make mistakes that could damage your relationship.
Discover the hidden messages of body language in relationships. Learn how to interpret nonverbal cues and understand what your partner's body language reveals about your relationship dynamics.
9 body language mistakes
When it comes to body language mistakes, there are several common ones that can harm your relationship. Here are the top 9 body language blunders to watch out for:
1. Rolling eyes
Rolling your eyes may appear harmless, but it can harm your relationship by conveying disrespect and superiority. Eye-rolling is perceived as a dismissive and contemptuous behavior, causing your partner to feel invalidated and their self-esteem to suffer. 2
Eye-rolling has been found to be associated with higher levels of conflict and lower relationship satisfaction. It is essential to understand that eye-rolling is a negative form of nonverbal communication that can undermine trust and emotional connection with your partner. 3
Rolling your eyes during a conflict can escalate tension and undermine effective communication. Discover how emotional intelligence can help you respond constructively.
Slouching may seem like a comfortable posture, but it can negatively impact your relationship. It is linked to a lack of engagement and interest, giving the impression of disinterest and undervaluing your partner. 4
Slouching can indicate an aversion to communication, and your partner may perceive it as a sign that you’re not interested in them or the conversation. Therefore, it is vital to consciously stand up straight and maintain an upright posture when talking to your partner.
Even if you’re exhausted, trying to sit up straight can help make your partner feel listened to and respected. This can ensure that your relationship remains strong and healthy.
3. Not making eye contact
Avoiding eye contact can significantly impact your relationship. It is a powerful nonverbal cue that conveys disinterest, lack of trust, or even deceitfulness. 5
When you consistently fail to make eye contact with your partner, it can create a disconnect and hinder effective communication. To ensure your relationship remains positive, it is crucial to make an effort to maintain eye contact.
By looking into each other’s eyes, you and your partner can feel an emotional connection and trust in the relationship. This will help strengthen your bond and foster a lasting connection.
4. Crossing your arms
Crossing your arms is an unconscious sign of closing yourself off and not wanting to engage. It can give the impression that you are not interested in what your partner has to say or are uncomfortable with the conversation.
If you’re constantly crossing your arms, it can make your partner feel excluded and unwanted. To keep the relationship strong, keep your body language open and welcoming.
Keeping your body language open and welcoming is one of the key elements to building trust through better communication. Discover practical strategies to convey trustworthiness nonverbally.
5. Yawning in response to your partner
Yawning in response to your partner is one of the simplest body language mistakes you can make. Yawning is a sign of boredom, and doing so in response to your partner’s words can send the wrong message. 5
Contagious yawning, influenced by empathy and social bonding, can occur between individuals. However, yawning as a response disrupts communication flow and weakens emotional connection, as yawning can be contagious in a negative way. 6
When you’re sleepy and not paying attention, try to minimize yawning or make an effort to excuse yourself until you’ve had a break. This will ensure that your partner feels valued and respected.
6. Glaring or giving “the look”
Glaring or giving “the look” is a significant body language blunder that could damage your relationship. A harsh stare can convey criticism and disapproval, making your partner feel attacked or invalidated.
It’s important to remember that your facial expression can speak volumes. A harsh stare can signal anger and resentment even if you do not intend to be mean or angry.
7. Lack of active listening signals
Active listening is about more than just hearing your partner’s words. It involves sending nonverbal cues of understanding and engagement, such as nodding and making affirmative noises. 7
When you fail to send active listening signals, it can make your partner feel unheard and unappreciated. This can significantly weaken the emotional connection you have with your partner.
Active listening is a powerful tool for effective communication. Learn valuable tips to engage fully in conversations and demonstrate genuine interest in others' perspectives.
8. Staring or zoning out
Staring or zoning out can be misinterpreted as disinterest or even disdain. To ensure your partner does not feel ignored, avoid having a blank stare or daydreaming while they’re speaking.
Rather than zoning out, try to maintain eye contact and be an active listener. This will help your partner feel heard and understood, strengthening the bond you have with them.
Active listening is a powerful tool for effective communication. Learn valuable tips to engage fully in conversations and demonstrate genuine interest in others’ perspectives.
9. Avoiding physical contact
Physical contact can be an essential part of a relationship, helping to create intimacy and emotional connection. Avoiding physical contact can make your partner feel neglected and isolated, causing your relationship to suffer.
Because touching produces oxytocin, the feel-good hormone often associated with love and bonding, it is important to show affection through physical contact. Consider cuddling or simply holding hands to increase the bond between you and your partner.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you must always be physical. Respecting your partner’s boundaries and discussing what feels comfortable for both of you is important.
Understanding and avoiding these common body language errors ensures that your relationship remains strong and healthy. Making a conscious effort to be aware of your body language can help create an emotionally secure connection with your partner, resulting in greater satisfaction and intimacy.
Master the art of communication in relationships with these essential techniques. Get started today!
The best relationship books to help you survive and thrive
Whether single or in a relationship, it can be tough to navigate the waters of love. These books offer advice and guidance from experts and real-life couples alike, giving you the tools you need to make your relationship work. These books will surely provide some valuable insights if you are looking for a way to spice up your love life or simply learn how to better communicate with your partner.
- Love: The Psychology of Attraction: A Practical Guide to Successful Dating and a Happy Relationship
- Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age
- The Power of Four Bases for Relationships: Can You Hit a Home Run in a Relationship?
- Communication and Relationship: A Guide to Deeper Connection, Trust and Intimacy to Improve Communication and Strengthen Your Bond as a Couple
- Couple's Bucket List: 101 Fun, Engaging Dating Ideas
- ↑ Mehrabian, A. (2016). Silent messages: a wealth of information about nonverbal communication (body language). http://www.kaaj.com/psych/smorder.html.
- ↑ Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1992). Marital processes predictive of later dissolution: Behavior, physiology, and health. Journal of personality and social psychology, 63(2), 221-233.
- ↑ Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1999). The timing of divorce: Predicting when a couple will divorce over a 14-year period. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61(3), 737-745.
- ↑ Pease, A., & Pease, B. (2004). The definitive book of body language. Bantam.
- ↑ Navarro, J. (2008). What every body is saying: An ex-FBI agent's guide to speed-reading people. HarperCollins.
- ↑ Platek, S. M., Mohamed, F. B., & Gallup, G. G., Jr (2005). Contagious yawning and the brain. Brain research. Cognitive brain research, 23(2-3), 448–452. doi.org
- ↑ Hargie, O., & Dickson, D. (2004). Skilled interpersonal communication: Research, theory, and practice. Psychology Press.
- ↑ Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W. A., & Light, K. C. (2008). Influence of a 'warm touch' support enhancement intervention among married couples on ambulatory blood pressure, oxytocin, alpha amylase, and cortisol. Psychosomatic medicine, 70(9), 976–985. doi.org