Reading Body Language Simplified

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Body language, as the name suggests, is the language of the body. Signs and hints conveyed to the other by facial expressions, mutual space, body gestures, subtle specific attention, touch, breathing, and eye movements are some of the major aspects of body language. Having no verbal aspect, body language is a voluntary or involuntary communication between people through actions. Messages and thoughts are conveyed which can prove to be very useful if controlled.

Folded arms, a firm gaze, fidgeting with hair all transfer a different energy and convey a different meaning to the receiver. Starting from the way you walk to how you sit, the position of your legs and the gaze of your eyes, everything is body language and everything tells something about you. A firm handshake can transfer confident vibes whereas a too firm one can intimidate. The most common gesture understood by everyone is the thumbs up and the thumbs down. We have always been deciphering and using body language without even receiving a single lesson…

Deciphering body language is becoming essential as globalisation is bringing people from different backgrounds, cultures and languages together. It becomes easier to understand even without words how the other person is feeling e.g. he/she is disinterested, panicked, calm, confident, emotional, confused, amused etc. Reading and understanding body language and gathering such information can prove to be very fruitful.

Body language, though not an exact science, can help us understand emotions better. When payed attention, we can observe signals and signs given through our body and if picked up they can help make our life easier.

Here is a list of common body signs that help depict different emotions through body language:

1) Eyes

Eyes are the most expressive part when it comes to body language. From a fierce gaze to lover’s look, eyes deliver our emotions. If we learn how to read the eyes, we might not need words. The brain is split between left and right sides thus affinity towards any side denotes a different meaning. The right side of the brain ‘constructs, builds and feels’ and the left side is ‘memory and facts’. Thus when the eyes are tilted to the right they signal that a lie is being fabricated unlike when on the left when facts are being recalled. Wide eyes display interest, eyebrow raise as suspicion, dilated pupils show attraction and droopy eyes can show tiredness or disinterest. A constant gaze when talking usually means honesty but this can be faked. Eyes tell a lot if observed properly. Pay attention!

2) Head

In school, we are taught that nodding the head is agreeing and moving it sideways is disagreement. Though good as basics, there are other subtle ways to read messages conveyed by slight head movements that can convey us hidden meanings. A slow head nod shows interest and agreement, whereas a fast one can show eagerness. Head held high up usually indicates confidence, sometimes arrogance (other body parts must be noticed), alertness or confidence. A head tilted to the side is usually harmless and submissive. Head held low is disappointed, tired or let down. A slight movement can change a head held high to chin up which denotes pride and self confidence, though both can be interchanged.

3) Arms

If you walk into a room and everyone has their arms folded to the chest, and it is clearly not cold, you will feel a certain distant energy. Folded arms represents holding back or defence usually used when concealing or when felt threatened by opposition. Closed arms along with clenched fists is hostile behaviour. If at any point either of the arms is used to conceal the front of the body, either by scratching the other shoulder, or covering the genitals (male), one arm across the body and the other holding it (female), handbag or papers held close to the chest, a drink held with both hands covering or hiding the body show nervousness, lack of confidence and create a barrier. Only when the arms are held behind the body they show attentiveness and authority.

4) Legs

Similar to arms crossed legs show disinterest or holding back. Uncrossed and parallel legs show interest, openness and certainty. An ankle lock or one leg wrapped around the other can show defensiveness and/or insecurity. Open leg gesture (usually used by males) is a confident and sexual hinting posture. If arms are also wide spread this can convey a lot of confidence but is not deemed appropriate for many situations for the space it demands the indecency of open wide legs. Constant moving of a foot conveys nervousness, anxiety or lack of attention whereas dangling of a shoe by the toes (usually by women) can be interpreted as flirting or relaxation.

5) Hands

Our hands do everything for us and they hold a significant importance in delivering body language too. Like any other body part closed clenched fists denote anger, resistance or even determination whereas open palms show trust, submission and honesty. Fidgeting fingers, playing with a pen or picking nose, any random act with fingers shows disinterest or possible day dreaming. Touching the nose while talking hints towards lying or exaggeration whereas rubbing or touching the nose when listening shows holding a though back or thoughtfulness. Hands running through the hair is mainly associated with flirting or if upset.

Body language can sometimes convey a meaning that thousands words couldn’t. In order to totally understand and read body language we must start by noticing our own. To read signs is innate, and to read body language we must focus on the basics. So start making observations and noticing how people gesticulate while communicating with others.

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