7 little-known body language signs that signal a lack of confidence

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Do you ever find yourself able to gauge someone’s confidence before they even open their mouth? Maybe you can’t put your finger on what the giveaway is, but you can just tell. 

A whopping 55% of our communication is non-verbal. What we don’t say often speaks volumes. 

Whether it’s a job interview, a first date, or a high-stakes business meeting, our body language can either be our greatest ally or our biggest enemy.

With this in mind, today we help you to put your finger on it; to identify exactly what body language signs suggest a lack of confidence.

You might even find that you are guilty of some of these without even realizing it. 

Let’s dive in.  

1) Foot tapping or leg shaking

Ever caught yourself or someone else tapping a foot or shaking a leg in a meeting or while waiting for something? 

I know I’m guilty of this one. Since I was a kid, foot tapping has been my go-to subconscious habit in stressful situations – be it getting an injection at the doctor’s office or sweating through exams at school.

As pointed out by the Williamsburg Therapy Group , many people fidget due to situational nervousness or worry, and this kind of fidgeting can be a sign of underlying anxiety. 

But what about confidence?

Well, as author Christine Louise highlights in a Psychology Today post, anxiety and confidence are “diametrically opposed.” 

When someone is constantly moving their feet or legs, it’s often because they’re grappling with nervous energy that they just don’t know how to channel effectively.

But here’s the kicker – unless it’s on a hard floor that amplifies the sound or movement, this habit can actually be pretty difficult to spot. 

Next time you’re in a quiet, carpeted room, pay close attention to the feet and legs. That subtle movement might just reveal more about a person’s inner state than you’d expect.

2) Frequent touching of face or neck

Did you know that, on average, people touch their faces about 23 times an hour

That’s right – it’s not just an occasional scratch or idle gesture. 

And according to clinical psychologist L. Kevin Chapman, as told to CNBC, there’s a deeper significance to this behavior.

He explained: “in some sense, it’s a way to regulate emotions, and it’s a way to kind of tap into how we’re feeling at any given moment.” He further notes that such behavior often surfaces when we feel awkward or uncomfortable.

This concept is extended by Joe Navarro, an FBI Agent and the author of What Every Body Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People. Navarro points out that when we experience an unpleasant emotion, our brain sends signals to stimulate nerve endings in our body – think of toddlers sucking their thumbs or adults rubbing their necks.

This action releases calming endorphins into the brain, effectively “pacifying” our discomfort.

So, the next time you see someone frequently touching their face or neck, take a closer look – it might not just be an itch or tiredness. It could well be a silent, subconscious signal of feeling under pressure or lacking in confidence

3) Slumped shoulders

“Shoulders back, chest out.” 

We’ve all heard this timeless advice. 

For me, my father would reel off these words before I faced something that demanded confidence – like a crucial sports game in my teenage years or a nerve-wracking interview. But is there any real validity to this advice? 

Absolutely.

Joe Navarro, the ex-FBI agent and body language expert I mentioned in the last point, also sheds light on this. He explains, “The shoulders communicate vitality but they can also communicate dominance and hierarchy.” Interestingly, he adds that we often overlook the powerful messages conveyed by our shoulder posture.

Slumped shoulders are more than just a sign of bad posture; they often reflect a lack of self-assuredness. When someone’s shoulders are perpetually drooped, it can indicate that they’re carrying more than just physical weight – it can be a burden of self-doubt or a lack of confidence. 

This posture sends a message of submission, of not feeling in control or assertive. It’s a physical manifestation of not feeling ‘up to the mark’ or ready to take on challenges head-on.

Get in the habit of taking a moment to observe how people carry their shoulders. It’s a subtle yet revealing indicator of how confident or dominant they feel in that environment. 

If you find yourself slumping, remember my father’s words – shoulders back, chest out. It’s not just about looking confident; it’s about feeling it too.

4) Avoidance of eye contact

Did you know that research has shown we find people more attractive when they make eye contact? 

Not the creepy, staring kind, of course, but the endearing, engaging type. 

It’s not just about attraction, though. A lack of eye contact often suggests a lack of confidence. It can be a signal of discomfort and a lack of self-assurance, especially in social or professional settings. 

So if someone shies away from meeting your gaze, it could indicate they’re wrestling with internal insecurities or simply don’t feel confident enough to hold that eye contact. 

5) Closed-off gestures (crossed arms/legs)

Have you ever noticed someone sitting with their arms tightly crossed or their legs firmly locked during a conversation or meeting? 

What does that posture tell you about their state of mind or confidence level?

Closed-off body language, such as crossed arms or legs, is often more than just a comfortable sitting position. As noted in Psychology Today, this can be a sign of someone “Masking Insecurity.”

It sends a clear message: “I’m not open to what’s being presented” or “I’m not comfortable in this situation.” It’s a physical manifestation of an internal state – one that doesn’t feel confident or at ease. 

Next time you’re in a social or professional gathering, take notice of how people position themselves. Those with open, relaxed postures are likely to feel more confident and engaged, while those with closed-off gestures might be struggling with self-doubt or unease. 

And if you catch yourself in such a posture, try to open up – uncross those arms, unfold those legs. It might just help you not only appear but also feel a bit more confident and receptive.

6) Fidgeting with objects

Fidgeting with objects is another tell-tale sign of nervousness or discomfort, signaling a lack of confidence. 

It’s like a physical outlet for internal jitters – a way to channel that uneasy energy into something tangible.

This behavior can be especially pronounced in high-pressure situations. The constant twirling of a ring, tapping a phone, or clicking a pen can reveal so much but we often fail to notice such habits. 

Keep an eye out for it. Once you see it though, you can’t unsee it. 

7) Low speech

Now, I know this isn’t strictly “body language,” as we typically define it, but it’s so crucial in conveying confidence that it had to make the list. 

Picture this: you’re in a work meeting, and someone speaks up. They articulate their thoughts with conviction, their voice loud, clear, and commanding the room’s attention. 

Now, contrast this with someone whose voice is barely above a whisper, making it difficult for others to hear what they’re saying. 

Who sounds like a leader? Who do you think exudes more confidence?

Speaking in a low or unclear manner often signals a lack of confidence in one’s words or ideas. It’s as if the speaker is not fully committed to their message, or they’re hesitant to put their thoughts out there for fear of judgment or contradiction.

A strong, clear voice, on the other hand, suggests that the speaker believes in what they’re saying and is not afraid to stand by their words. It’s a non-verbal cue that speaks volumes about the speaker’s self-assuredness and conviction. 

So next time you’re presenting your ideas, whether in a meeting or a casual conversation, remember that how you say something can be just as important as what you’re saying. 

Your voice can be a powerful tool in projecting confidence and authority.

The bottom line 

In a nutshell, your body speaks volumes about your confidence. 

From subtle fidgets to the way we hold our shoulders, each gesture paints a picture of our inner state.

Keep these signs in mind – they’re the silent yet powerful communicators of confidence or the lack thereof. 

Until next time. 

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Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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