Positive body language and gestures that put people at ease

Updated 14 November 2022

Body language communicates more than just what you're saying verbally. It also affects how you're perceived, in addition to how you feel about yourself and others around you. Positive body language can put you at ease and make you more confident, while negative body language can cause stress and doubt in yourself. In this article, we provide some examples of positive body language that can make people feel comfortable around you and offer some tips on how you can exercise these yourself.

Related: What is Professional Body Language?

Positive body language

Positive body language and gestures create an atmosphere of trust, respect and understanding. Great leaders and communicators can influence others by simply standing up straight, smiling and making eye contact with those they speak to. The nonverbal cues you unconsciously use, including through your body language, are related to how people perceive you. Positive body language can allow you to relax in stressful situations and show that you're confident in what you're saying to others.

Related: The importance of nonverbal communication in the workplace

Why is positive body language important?

Your body language has a big impact on how other people view you. By understanding what positive body language is, you can make a good impression on others, leaving them feeling more comfortable and more receptive to your ideas. Making other people feel comfortable is important in any social situation, whether it's a business meeting or an interview. With just one gesture or a combination of a few, you can put someone else instantly at ease, not only building trust but making them more receptive to your ideas. Here are some of the most important examples of positive body language:

Face people directly

When you're talking to someone, face them directly. It shows a high level of trustworthiness and sincerity, which are key components for building strong relationships in business or friendship settings. Looking away from somewhere or down toward your phone tells people that something may be distracting you. If you have a reason for looking elsewhere, for example, if there's something behind them, then turn your body so you can still see them as they speak.

Maintain eye contact

Eye contact is a key part of positive body language. It makes you seem more confident, encourages your conversation partner to talk more and shows that you're truly interested in what they're saying. Maintaining eye contact also forces you to pay attention, which helps you maintain your focus.


A smile is a positive gesture that almost always puts people at ease. The physical act of smiling causes people to relax by releasing chemicals in our brain, like serotonin and dopamine, that reduce stress and make us feel good. Studies have shown that other people are more likely to approach you if you're smiling, not just at them, but in general. The next time you're trying to have a serious conversation with someone, force yourself to smile. It might surprise you how much it helps them feel more open and receptive.

Use open postures

When you're making conversation with someone new, try to keep your arms uncrossed. Crossing your arms puts up a physical barrier that communicates closed-off body language. These postures feel more natural when you relax, so even if you feel a little awkward about talking to someone new, your body language can appear open and approachable.

Sit up straight

Sitting up straight is an almost universally positive gesture. It shows that you're confident, alert, attentive and in control. These are all things people want to feel around you. When you sit up straight with your shoulders pulled back, but not so far back that they tense up, it makes other people more comfortable around you because they know you're engaged with them.

Related: 14 ways to project body language confidence (with example)

Lean in when talking to others

When you're having a conversation with someone, lean in slightly when you're talking. Not only does it communicate your interest in what they're saying, but it also shows that you care about them as a person and demonstrates that you value their opinions. This feels more natural than holding yourself stiffly and conveys more confidence than leaning away from or slouching toward someone.

Shake hands firmly

When you meet someone for the first time, shake their hand firmly. A loose grip can make it seem like you're not interested or that you aren't comfortable with them. To avoid making a bad impression, take control of your handshake by gripping strongly and maintaining eye contact as you say hello.

Related: Importance of first impressions (and how to improve yours)

Nod your head

When you nod, you make it clear that you're listening to someone. It can be easy to lapse into a passive role when you're listening, but nodding gives an active signal that implies you're still listening. Nodding is also a universal human gesture that everyone understands. Even those who don't speak your language can understand what you mean when you nod along with them.

Gesture with your hands

When you're speaking to someone, gesturing with your hands is a great way to help reinforce what you're saying. To put people at ease when you talk with them, gesture as you speak. When a speaker makes nonverbal gestures while delivering a speech, listeners feel they've established a connection with that person. Using gestures positively can also help you come across as more approachable. For example, when explaining something that could be confusing, using your hands to emphasise what's being said can help someone understand it better.

Open your palms

Open palms are a recognised sign of openness and honesty. Opening your palms shows people you don't have anything to hide. When you tell someone something or ask them for something, be it a pay rise, feedback on your project or help in some way, it can help the conversation go smoothly if they feel you aren't holding anything back from them.

Give people personal space

Giving people their personal space isn't just good manners, it's also an important part of positive body language. Making physical contact with others can be a gesture of friendship or affection, but it can also come across as aggressive or uncomfortable to someone you don't know very well. This is especially true when meeting someone for the first time. Give your interaction partners enough room that they feel comfortable speaking freely and don't crowd them by standing too close.

Mirror body language

When you're trying to form a bond with someone, mirroring their body language is a subtle but powerful way to do it. This includes things like posture, gestures, head nods and eye contact. If they cross one leg over another while sitting, try copying that action. If they lean forward in anticipation, then you may do too. When done well, mirroring can make your conversation partner feel comfortable and more willing to speak freely about what's on their mind.

Related: 8 types of nonverbal communication at work (with examples)

Relax your hands

Tense, fidgety hands say a lot about how you feel. Relaxing your hands can make you appear more approachable to others and reduce stress levels in yourself. It's much easier to be confident with loose, relaxed hands than tensing them into fists. Try stretching them out for a few seconds before speaking to someone.

Angle your feet towards who you're speaking to

By angling your feet toward someone you're speaking to, you can increase their willingness to listen. This is because they feel more included in what you're saying. If they know your body is facing them, their subconscious can let them know your attention is on them. This can make them feel important and increase their receptivity to what you're saying.

Relax your facial expressions

The way you hold your body has a big impact on how people perceive you. The first place to start is with your face. Your facial expressions are difficult to control, but you can make it a goal to practice looking in a mirror for one minute every day, trying to consciously relax any tension in your forehead, eyes, mouth or jaw. An engaged, nondefensive expression can help people feel more comfortable around you.

Related: A guide to the communication process (written and verbal)

Uncross your legs

Crossing your legs can make you feel stiff, closed off and self-conscious. When people sense those feelings from you, they can get nervous, and a conversation can start to feel strained or stilted. Uncrossing your legs can help you seem more open to others, making it easier for everyone to relax.

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