Body Language is a significant aspect of modern communications and relationships.
Body Language is therefore very relevant to management and leadership, and to all aspects of work and business where communications can be seen and physically observed among people.
Body language is also very relevant to relationships outside of work, for example in dating and mating, and in families and parenting.
Communication includes listening. In terms of observable body language, non-verbal (non-spoken) signals are being exchanged whether these signals are accompanied by spoken words or not.
Body language goes both ways:
- Your own body language reveals your feelings and meanings to others.
- Other people’s body language reveals their feelings and meanings to you.
The sending and receiving of body language signals happens on conscious and unconscious levels.
If you are really interested in being able to read a person’s body language accurately, you may have to ‘study’ that person for some time. What is true for one person may not always be true for another. For example, when lying, some people break eye contact, while others ensure to maintain even more eye contact than usual so that they won’t be suspected of lying.
Typically, the most unique body language can be found in nervous habits. While there are lots of actions that most people perform when nervous (such as shifting weight or darting eyes), there are other actions that could be based off of someone’s past or just something they’re insecure about.
Watch their head position.
Overly tilted heads are either a potential sign of sympathy, or if a person smiles while tilting their head, they are being playful and maybe even flirting.
Lowered heads indicate a reason to hide something. Take note if someone lowers their head. If it is when he is complimented, he may be shy, ashamed, timid, keeping distance from the other person, in disbelief, or thinking to himself or herself. If it is after an explanation, then he may be unsure if what he said was correct, or could be reflecting.
It should be noted that some cultures see this as a sign of respect.
Tilted heads mean that they are confused or challenging you, depending on their eye, eyebrow, and mouth gestures.
Look into their eyes.
People who look to the sides a lot are nervous, or distracted. However, if a person looks away from the speaker, it very well could be a comfort display or indicate submissiveness. Looking askance generally means the person is distrustful or unconvinced.
If someone looks down at the floor a lot, they are probably shy or timid. People also tend to look down when they are upset, or trying to hide something emotional. People are often thinking and feeling unpleasant emotions when they are in the process of staring at the ground.
Sometimes looking down and away from the body can indicate shame or guilt. Just be certain to validate this feeling by reverting back to the topic a second time to validate the body language reading.
Some cultures believe that looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of disrespect, or is only done with intimate friends or family, so this could explain why someone is avoiding eye contact with you.
Dilated pupils mean that the person is interested. Keep in mind, however, that many substances cause pupils to dilate, including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, LSD and others. Don’t mistake having a few drinks for attraction.
If their eyes seem focused far away, that usually indicates that a person is in deep thought or not listening.
Watch their arm and hand movements.
People with crossed arms are closing themselves to social influence. Though some people just cross their arms as a habit, it may indicate that the person is (slightly) reserved, uncomfortable with their appearance (self-conscious and trying to cover it), or just trying to hide something on their shirt. If their arms are crossed while their feet are shoulder width or wider apart, this is a position of toughness or authority. Crossing arms may also mean that a person is angry and trying not to show it.
If someone rests their arms behind their neck or head, they are open to what is being discussed or just laid back in general.
If their hands are on their hips, they might be waiting, impatient or just tired.
If their hands are closed or clenched, they may be irritated, angry, or nervous
Watch their feet.
A fast tapping, shifting of weight, laughing, or movement of the foot will most often mean that the person is impatient, excited, nervous, scared, or intimidated.
The meaning of feet tapping can usually be discerned depending on the context; if you are currently talking and they are tapping their feet, that is an indication of a desire to leave (though usually this behavior manifests when the person is anxious to get somewhere specific, such as a meeting, rather than because of what you’re doing specifically). Slow shuffling indicates boredom with the current situation. If during flirtation your legs/feet touch, tapping can generally be interpreted as nervous excitement. This is because if they were uncomfortable, they would discreetly move away from the contact, a much more subtle escape than indirectly trying to tell you to move away.
Note though that some people with ADHD will constantly jiggle their legs. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s entirely subconscious and, while eccentric, it is difficult to stop. Some people also do it out of habit.
If the person is sitting, feet crossed at the ankles means they’re generally at ease.
If while standing, a person seems to always keep their feet very close together, it probably means they are trying to be “proper” in some way. Sometimes feet together means that they are feeling more submissive or passive.
If they purposely touch their feet to yours, they are flirting!
Pay attention to gestures in conversation.
Exaggerated movements can express passion or interest in the subject. Frequent reaching forwards or superfluous hand gestures can mean that someone is trying to convince you of something. Noting the intensity, frequency, and reach of hand gestures can help you read another person’s body language, but remember that the exact meaning of these gestures will depend largely on context.
Be aware of nervous gestures:
If someone brushes their hair back with their fingers, this may be preening, a common gesture if the person likes you, or their thoughts about something conflict with yours. They might not voice this. If you see raised eyebrows during this time, you can be pretty sure that they disagree with you.
If the person wears glasses, and is constantly pushing them up onto their nose again, with a slight frown, that may also indicate they disagree with what you are saying. Look to make sure they push up their glasses with an intent, not casually adjusting them. Look for pushing on the rim with two fingers, or an extra motion of wiggling the side of their glasses. The frown or raised eyebrows should tip you off. (Note: A frown may also indicate eyestrain, and constant re-adjusting of glasses could be the result of an improper fit. The distinguishing feature is whether they are looking directly at you while doing it.)
Lowered eyebrows and squinted eyes illustrate an attempt at understanding what is being said or going on. It’s usually skeptical. This is presuming they are not trying to observe something that’s far away.