How to Read Body Language

Written by Jody Smith in Relationships
Viewed by 23 readers since 07-21-2009

Our words, experts tell us, are only a small part of what we say to those around us. Body language makes up a startling 50-80% of how we communicate with the rest of the world. And while some types of body language vary from culture to culture, some things are universal.

Facial cues are a good place to start. We can often recognize another person’s emotions by their facial expressions. A wrinkled brow may indicate confusion or upset. Tension can be read in a clenched jaw. Sorrow, happiness, fear, anger, all can come across clearly by the expression on a person’s face.

Is their face turned toward you, perhaps tipped at an angle? This is a classic pose which suggests your listener is giving you their full attention.

Eyes can speak volumes. Plenty of eye contact is a good indicator of interest. Dilated pupils are also an encouraging sign.

If the other person is looking around the room, avoiding your gaze, this can be a real signal that you have lost them. As their eye wanders, so does their attention. If they’re nodding in response to what you’re saying, this can denote interest, agreement or sympathy on the part of your listener. Smiles and laughter are always good signs.

Posture and position are also eloquent for someone able to read body language.

If the other person is standing with arms crossed, this can suggest that they’re challenging or resistant to you. If they’re seated with legs crossed and with arms folded, this may indicate that they’re closed to you.

Seated at a table, if your listener is leaning in your direction, then things are flowing well. If they lean back and away, this is not a good sign.

Are they slouched or standing tall? A slouch can speak of fear or embarrassment or insecurity, and a tall stance suggests confidence, pride and courage.

The hands tell their own tale as well. Are they folded loosely in their lap or on the table? This person is probably relaxed and at ease, and may be open to you. Are they fidgeting, fingers tapping? There may be tension and impatience, or anxiety being communicated by these actions. A clenched fist can be a clear indicator of animosity and aggression.

A restless body, in constant motion, with crossing and re-crossing of legs, or fingers playing with objects like a glass, or pencil, or matchbook, suggest someone who would prefer to be somewhere else.

It’s always possible for another person to cover their true feelings and intentions by consciously modifying their body language. The smile pasted on for the benefit of an unpopular boss, the hug performed out of politeness, the eye-to-eye gaze used to hide deception, all occur every day. We’ve all been guilty of changing our body language to fit a social situation or to keep our true feelings private.

But in general, if we can translate the body language of others, this will help us to read people in a useful way.


Related Posts