We’ve all been in situations where we wished we could crawl out of our skin, right? Whether you’re preparing to give a presentation, getting ready for a first date, or meeting someone for the first time, you’re probably displaying a myriad of signs of body language of nervousness.
What are we talking about? Body language refers to conscious and unconscious nonverbal signs and signals we use to communicate with each other. With body language, we’re able to convey information that would otherwise remain unsaid. The things we don’t say can convey volumes of information, too.
Mannerisms, gestures, expressions, body movements, and even the way you carry yourself when you’re talking to people can make a world of difference. Body language can be a powerful tool, but you might not think that way because all your body language does is give away your nerves.
Whenever you’re doing something you’re not comfortable with, your heart starts pounding, you feel like you can’t catch your breath, you suddenly become red and sweaty, and you feel like your body is working against you. Whatever the reason might be, your “fight or flight” response is going crazy.
Worry not, though, because you’re not the only one dealing with anxiety, stage fright, a fear of public speaking, or overall nervousness. When you do your research and figure out your body’s way of telling you that you’re freaking out, you might be able to finally overcome your nerves. We’ve got your back.
10 tell-tale signs of the body language of nervousness
Fidgeting must be the number one sign of nervousness out there. When you don’t know what to do with your hands or how to keep your mind occupied to stop you from getting overly nervous, you might turn to fidgeting. We’re not talking about fidget spinners, of course, but that’s where the idea comes from.
Fidgeting refers to small movements you make with your hands or your feet to get your mind off of something. Common ways of fidgeting include playing with small objects, clicking the top of your pen, spinning your phone on the table, dangling your keys, or even tapping your foot on the floor.
Pacing stems from the same need to stop your mind from playing tricks on you and making you even more nervous than you already are. People who pace typically do so because they’re worried about something, nervous about a big event coming up, or even frustrated with someone.
When you catch yourself pacing before doing something that’s out of your comfort zone, know that you’re displaying body language of nervousness. People around you might not appreciate you doing this, though, especially if you’re pacing in the workplace. Pacing can be distracting for those around you.
3. Avoiding eye contact
People who can maintain eye contact without breaking apart are confident, but that’s not the case with everyone. Maintaining eye contact can be a great way of attracting attention, demanding respect from the people you’re surrounded by, or even asserting dominance.
Avoiding eye contact, on the other hand, typically means that you’re nervous, insecure, and incompetent. Additionally, avoiding eye contact decreases your presence and makes everyone think that you’re not worth their while.
Whether you’re looking down, glancing at your phone, or finding other ways to avoid eye contact, you need to stop ASAP.
4. Swaying or rocking
What’s wrong with swaying or rocking? Nothing, except for the fact that everyone’s going to notice you’re freaking out. When you start transferring your weight from one foot to the other, stepping back and forth while waiting for your turn to speak, or gently swaying, you’re giving off the wrong impression.
People will think you’re unprepared or trying to distract them from what you’re talking about. Whether you’re struggling with these movements when you’re at work, talking to your SO, or even hanging out with friends, you need to work on calming yourself down.
5. Cracking your knuckles
Now, the reason you need to stop cracking your knuckles when you’re nervous might surprise you. More times than not, people who crack their knuckles before they speak are seen as arrogant, angry, and even aggressive. Moreover, they look like they’re taunting someone to get into a fistfight.
We’re pretty sure that’s not something you want, and that’s why you need to stop cracking your knuckles when you’re unsure what to do with your hands. Whether it’s a bad habit or a nervous tick, cracking your knuckles can get you in trouble and accidentally cause ligament injuries.
Stopping this habit is a matter of self-discipline. You simply need to train your hands to express gestures that go with whatever you’re talking about. You can rely on gestures to hide the fact that you’re nervous, too, you simply need to know what you’re doing.
6. Crossed arms
Crossed arms are another sign of body language of nervousness because they send the message that you’re unapproachable, reserved, and standoffish. When you cross your arms, you’re subconsciously putting a barrier between you and those you’re talking to.
Next time you catch yourself crossing your arms when talking to a date or colleague, try uncrossing them and placing them on the table, on your lap, or even letting them hang in a relaxed way. You’re going to appear much more confident and easygoing that way, and that’s what you want, right?
7. Picking or biting your nails
An extremely noticeable sign of discomfort, picking and biting your nails can be incredibly distracting to you and the people around you, too. A huge number of people resort to picking and biting their nails when they’re going through something traumatic or stepping out of their comfort zone.
Both gruesome and worrisome, picking and biting your nails can cause an array of both mental and physical health problems down the line. Not only can you become addicted to harming yourself, but you can end up with a nasty infection. Needless to say, keep your nails away from your mouth.
We all blush for one reason or the other. Blushing can be a sign that you’re attracted to someone, getting frustrated with something, or even scared to do something you’ve never done before. Blushing seems to be a part of our everyday existence.
But for some people, blushing can be a dead giveaway that they’re nervous when they’re giving a speech, approaching someone they’re attracted to, or even standing up for themselves. Before you talk down on yourself, know that you’re not alone and that getting a little red in the face doesn’t mean you’re a loser.
Sweating can mean a million things, and you’re certainly not the only one dealing with sweaty palms. Some people suffer from a medical condition that causes them to overheat and sweat. Some people sweat out of anxiety. Whatever your reason might be, there’s no need to be ashamed of sweaty palms.
Sure, your sweaty upper lip and flushed cheeks might be telling the rest of the world that you’re nervous to speak up. Sweating happens to be a natural reaction to a stressful situation, and there’s nothing you can do about that – except try to relax before you start sweating.
10. Maintaining distance
We can’t forget about your wish to remove yourself from every situation that makes you uncomfortable, right? While there’s nothing wrong with looking after yourself and being in tune with what you want and don’t want, chances are that you miss out on things because you’re too nervous to do them.
Whether that means going to a party without a date, agreeing to attend a seminar that can further your career, or going on a date with someone who might be out of your league – you need to figure out a way to say yes to these things without breaking a sweat.
Maintaining your distance from people, physically or mentally, won’t change the fact that you’re nervous around them. Quite the contrary, you won’t become more comfortable around them because you never give them the chance to present themselves to you.
How to overcome nervousness?
We’re not saying that you can follow a few tips and tricks and wake up a new person. We’re saying that you can work on your body language and change the way you react when you’re confronted with something that makes you uncomfortable.
Start by taking a deep breath and trying to calm down every time you’re about to do something that makes you freak out. Pay attention to your body language and try to keep your body still. Practice gestures and expressions that exude confidence rather than scream “I’m nervous!”
Make eye contact with the people you’re talking to. Practice with people you’re comfortable around, and try doing the same with your colleagues. Observe the progress you make after every conversation and make sure you celebrate even the smallest of wins. We’re rooting for you!