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7 Deadly Sins of Nonverbal Communication

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The most historic and seminal study that’s ever been done on body language is called the Mehrabian study.

In this study, they took a group of speakers and asked the audience to evaluate if the speaker is credible. Do you believe the speaker is the speaker an authority in their field? Do you trust them? and it was based on 3 things body language, tone of voice, and content.

Which do you think was the best and biggest and most major indicator of authority? Was it content like most of us think? Was it our tone of voice or was it body language?

Actually, it’s really surprising: 55% of the audience’s perception of a speaker’s credibility is based on body language. This means I believe you, I trust you, you’re an authority in your field based on how you move and your non-verbal communication.

Stay tuned. On Moxie Talk, we’re going to look at all the ways that you can avoid the 7 deadly sins of nonverbal communication.

If you’re wondering what the other percentages were, 38% of the speaker’s credibility was based on the tone of voice and only 7% on content.

Stay tuned on Moxie Talk.


Hey everyone! I’m Fia Fasbinder. Welcome to Moxie Talk where we help you find your voice, share your message, and lead with confidence.

Today we’re talking about non-verbal communication and the way I’m going to address this is by giving you the 7 deadly sins of nonverbal communication.

I’m gonna act these sins out for you and, don’t worry, I’m not gonna stop there—I will give you a solution also.


The first deadly sin of body language, this drives me crazy as we don’t get to see this as much in the virtual world but eventually, we will get back to in-person presentations and this is what I call spider feet because if you think of a spider’s feet tapping back and forth…

How many people have we seen that do this, moving side to side while presenting?

They’re just kind of moving, they’re not paying any attention. Their body language is all over the place! Instead of listening to the speaker, you want to just tell them to stand still! This is what I call spider feet and there’s a really easy fix for it.

The first is to…

Ground yourself.

Imagine that you have tree roots growing from the soles of your shoes into the ground. (I have actually been known to duct tape speakers’ feet to the floor.)

If you’re not sure if you’re doing spider feet and you need another way to test it, you can crinkle up newspaper and stand on that while you’re preparing and you will hear your spider feet. So you want to make sure that you ground yourself. Really ground yourself and make sure that you’re really rooted into the floor.

The other added benefit of doing this is studies have shown that when we ground ourselves we actually release testosterone. This is our power hormone for every single person. We feel more powerful, we feel more grounded and we can present without this wishy-washy body movement. So that’s deadly sin— and the fix for it—for number 1.


Number 2 is what I call swaying — like the speaker’s on a boat and if you keep watching them sway like this you’re gonna vomit. This is even worse in the virtual world and it’s even more distracting, right?

Most speakers aren’t aware they’re doing this and the first step to changing any behavior is…


If you’re not sure if you’re swaying, start a quick Zoom recording or a Webex recording and watch it back and you’ll see if you’re swaying. Again, awareness is the first step. If you are swaying, make a conscious effort to stand still.

What will help you is to imagine all that energy that went into swaying going out of your mouth, going into your words, into your audience, into your hands, and into your facial expression.

A lot of people feel less stiff when they can get all that expression out with their words and their eyes and their hands and avoid the swaying on the boat.


Number 3 is anything repetitive. The swaying was repetitive but oftentimes, I see speakers all the time that do repetitive motions like twirling their hair. At times, men play with their wedding rings.

I’ve been known to take off wedding rings and watches and anything that you could move over and over.

Another unconscious habit that will distract the audience from listening to your powerful message: watching you twirl your wedding ring back and forth (and wondering when you’re going to stop.)

If you’re a hair twirler, this really undermines your authority. So if you can’t stop twirling your hair or playing with your hair as a woman, wear it back. Just simple — wear it back and then you won’t be able to play with it.

If you know that you’re playing with your wedding rings, take them off. If you’re gonna play with your watch, take it off. Avoid and eliminate anything that is going to be repetitive and distract from your message.


The next tip has to do with eye contact. Avoiding eye contact is something that drives people crazy. Everybody wants to have a connection with the speaker and if you spend the entire presentation like looking down, then they can’t connect with you.

When I’m coaching clients to connect with their eyes from a stage like in a TED talk, we talk about connecting with the different parts of the audience.

Have you ever been to a concert and you feel like that singer’s singing right to you? They’re singing to you, they’re singing about you and there are thousands of people there — that’s because they’re looking to that part of the room.

Now in the virtual world, obviously most of us are not making eye contact in person, but it’s important that you make eye contact with the camera on your computer — which feels to people on the other side of that screen like you’re making eye contact with them.

Make eye contact with camera.

A really easy way to do this is to move the squares of the people’s faces right under your camera.

The gallery of faces automatically goes to the side and we see people all the time looking to the bottom or side to side and it appears to us that they have shifty eyes. Really, they’re just looking at where the faces are on the screen. So move those faces right underneath the camera.

If you’re using dual monitors, make sure that the faces are on the monitor with the camera. You don’t want to spend your whole presentation looking down..

Eye contact is like the non-verbal equivalent of saying someone’s name. It’s letting people know you recognize them, you see them, you’re glad they’re there, they’re important to you. So make sure you’re making eye contact.


Number 5: sin number 5 is hand gestures. Other than ‘How do I get rid of my nervous energy?’ The thing that I get asked the most often   is, “What do I do with my hands?”

I always ask those people — Do you have any idea what your hands are doing in everyday life? and they always say — I have no idea. That’s right! because they’re just natural extensions of your body. You’re communicating both with your voice and with your hands.

Even so, when we get nervous we get awkward and we get really self-conscious of our hands and then we start to do all these weird hand gestures, or our hands start to shake, you know, anything like that.

The biggest tip to avoid any kind of strange hand gestures and hand movement is just to take some deep breaths, relax, and focus all of your energy out onto your audience.

Relax and focus energy out

If you’re paying attention to where your hands are and what your hands are doing, then your energy is going the wrong way. It’s going inward. You’re thinking about yourself. Where you should be in a presentation is outward — thinking about the audience.

So really make a conscious effort to start looking at people, gauge their facial expressions — are they resonating with your message? Are they paying attention? Ask a question, make sure that you

switch your energy from inward to outward

If that doesn’t work, I’m going to give you a little hack (I hate hacks) I don’t have a lot of them but here’s a good one —

Start your presentation holding something

Start holding on to something that would make sense like a clicker, or if you’re drawing on a whiteboard, a whiteboard marker, or a cup of coffee but be careful because if your hands shake you’ll spill it on yourself. Use something until you are calm enough to put it down and then use some natural hand gestures.

So that’s number 5.


Sin number 6 is making our bodies small. We have this tendency when we get nervous in presentations to bow down and hunch over, or cross our hands, or the one where your hands are in front of your crotch (I call this the fig leaf.)

We’re actually unconsciously trying to hide our bodies from being attacked by a predator. It is an ancient response to a threat.

Your brain, your amygdala, your lizard brain does not know the difference between fear of giving a presentation and fear of being attacked by a saber-toothed tiger. It just knows fear. And when it feels fear, it feels a threat and it goes into fight or flight. One of the things we do to flee is make our bodies small.

We want to make sure we don’t give our presentation like this because obviously we look nervous and this will undermine your executive presence.

So, What is the antidote to getting small?

Get big to maximize

Get big! Maximize the space your body takes up in a room. If you ever want an example of this, watch a TED Talk by Amy Cuddy called – Your body language shapes who you are

It’s a phenomenal TED Talk. She did a social study on body language by having a group of participants do a power pose every day for 2 minutes and then she studied them.

The group that did the power pose was phenomenally more confident. There is a direct connection between powerful body language and feeling powerful and if you feel powerful, you’re gonna look powerful. If you look powerful, your audience is gonna think you’re powerful.

So really make sure that you’re opening. This is really difficult when you’re nervous. I know it’s going to be really hard when you’re nervous. Everything in your body is going to want to go small, but I’m just going to encourage you to open out.

Another technique if this is really difficult for you is to

think like an actor.

When actors are playing a character, they emulate the body language of the character. If I’m going to play a character that’s confident, what am I going to do?

I’m going to go out and I’m going to watch confident people and then I’m going to move like confident people so I am playing a confident character. So if this feels so unnatural to you to get big because this is just not how you move, become an actor. Emulate the body language of somebody that’s confident until you start feeling confident—and you will. I guarantee it!


We’re all the way to the 7th and it’s no facial expression and no smile. Now a lot of people do this and they don’t even realize they’re doing this.

A lot of people do this because they’re lost in thought. They’re not even aware of what their facial expressions are doing but the problem with that is that we mirror facial expressions. If your face goes flat, your audience thinks Oh! she must be disengaged, she must be nervous, she must not want to be here. Eventually, they are going to feel that way, too.

Your expressions tell the audience what to feel

But if you smile, if you use expressions on your face, they will mirror that behavior too.

The other great benefit to smiling is when you smile in an audience and the audience smiles back at you, our brains release dopamine which is our feel-good hormone, and oxytocin which is the bonding hormone that babies and mothers release. This is a great reason to smile.

You can smile at the camera, too, when you’re doing Virtual. This is not something that happens just in the real, in-person world. This works in the virtual, too. So get that good smile going.

Make sure that you’re making your audience release all that good dopamine and if you’re not sure if you’re smiling, record yourself. Start a Zoom meeting or a Webex meeting and watch yourself back. You will see instantly if you’re not smiling. Now, please-please-please, people…

Do not rehearse in front of a mirror

Whoever came up with that idea, it’s awful-awful-awful. You’re just going to make yourself so self-conscious that you’re not going to be able to do anything. Talk about focusing your energy inward! If you’re watching stuff in the mirror, all you’re doing is thinking about what you’re doing.

Record yourself

So if you want to know if you’re doing any of these sins — do not practice in the mirror. Start a recording and then play it back afterward. It’s the best way to get feedback on yourself.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and found it informative and relevant. If you did, make sure to share it with friends and subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel. Make sure to watch some of our other videos and blogs —  we’ve got a lot of them.

If you want more information about how Moxie can help you then check out our website or book a call!

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