Anxiety Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment and Therapy Understanding and Improving Body Language When You Have Social Anxiety By Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 28, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Thomas Barwick/Getty Images Body language and nonverbal communication make up a large part of what we understand about others, our first impressions, and the messages that we convey to those around us. Body language can be particularly important if you have social anxiety. If you live with social anxiety disorder (SAD), you might be unknowingly projecting a number of different nonverbal cues of anxiety. Some of your behaviors might also turn other people off. Though you might feel awkward at first, learning different cues can help you practice becoming more confident and approachable. Social anxiety can also make it harder to read the body language of others. Learning to interpret the signals people are sending can make you more confident and comfortable in social situations. If you are looking to improve your body language and your ability to read that of others, the following tips can help. In each section, you'll also find links to more advice to boost your body language skills. Appear More Approachable If you live with social anxiety, you probably exhibit a lot of "closed" behaviors that make others think you don't want to be approached. Things like crossing your arms, looking down, or standing at a distance all say "Leave me alone." If you want to change things up and start creating a more inviting aura, start by practicing some more approachable body language. Some strategies that can help include: Avoiding fidgeting or other nervous habitsKeeping your head upMaking eye contactNodding as you listen to others speakSmiling Watch for Mistakes If you have SAD, it is important to watch for body language signals that might communicate things you might not intend. In general, these are closed behaviors that make you appear unapproachable, aloof, disinterested, or uncomfortable. Although these behaviors might feel natural due to your anxiety, the message that they send to others is that you are not an easy person to get to know. If you want to change your social success, start by looking to see if you are making these body language mistakes. A few body language behaviors that can send negative signals include: Awkward or fake smilesCrossing your armsFidgetingLack of eye contactLooking downMoving away from peopleSlouching Appear More Confident People with social anxiety tend to judge themselves harshly. Because they evaluate themselves negatively, they also tend to believe that other people see them in the same unflattering light. This can often lead to poor self-confidence and low self-esteem. Some actions that can help you have greater confidence or appear more confident include: Having a firm handshakeStanding tallWalking with broad strides Using body language that conveys greater confidence can even help make you feel more confident. One way to begin building better confidence is to carry yourself in a confident manner, even before you feel that way on the inside. Notice Facial Expressions Beyond the language of the body, the language of the face tells a lot about what a person is feeling. We know that there are four universal emotions that are experienced by everyone. People with social anxiety disorder often have trouble with things like eye contact, which can make it more difficult to notice the facial signals that other people send. Some facial movements that can convey emotion include: Covering the mouth with the handsLowered eyebrowsPursed lipsRaised eyebrows If you are interested in becoming better at reading facial expressions, first learn these basic emotions and then look to see indicators of each during a conversation. Recognize Deception Anxiety can sometimes make it so you don't notice the body language signals that other people are sending. Common behaviors such as not making eye contact or looking down can mean you might miss some of the common signs of deception. If you've ever suspected that someone isn't being honest with you, it can be helpful to look at both their spoken words and their body language. Some signs that someone might not be truthful include: Engaging in grooming behaviors such as playing with their hairHolding their body stifflyNot making eye contact Of course, none of these actions alone means that a person is necessarily lying. When you are interpreting body language, it is often helpful to look for signals as a whole. There are many reasons why a person's body language might not match the spoken word; one of these is that the person is telling a lie. Understand Nonverbal Communication Are you looking for a quick guide about how to decode the body language signals that others are giving you? It really boils down to two dimensions: comfort and discomfort. Look to see which of these manners your conversation partner is exhibiting and think about what that means for what is being said. If there is a disconnect between words and body language, body language may sometimes be a more reliable indicator. Some things that you can do to help improve your understanding of nonverbal language include: Asking questions about what people meanLooking for nonverbal signals that don't match up to spoken wordsNoticing tone of voicePaying attention to the context and situationWatching how body language is used to emphasize your words While body language can be revealing, it is also important to remember that body language signals can be misread. Focus on looking at a person's signals as a whole, both their words and their body language, to better understand what they are trying to convey. A Word From Verywell Learning how to improve your body language skills doesn't have to be difficult. With plenty of practice, many of these skills will become easier for you. As with anything, exposure to what you fear will reduce your anxiety. Once your anxiety is lowered, it will become easier to read others' body language and make sure that your own nonverbal behavior is aligned with the message that you truly want to send. 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Willis ML, Dodd HF, Palermo R. The relationship between anxiety and the social judgments of approachability and trustworthiness. PloS One. 2013;8(10):e76825. American Psychological Association. Reading facial expressions of emotion. May 2011. Brinke LT, Stimson DS, Carney DR. Some evidence for unconscious lie detection. Psychological Science. 2015;25(5):1098-1105. By Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Social Anxiety Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.