How to Understand Body Language

There are various estimates on how much of our communication is verbal and how much is non - verbal. In any case, body language is very important in all aspects of our lives to getting your true message across and interpreting the message of others. Here is a beginner's guide. These are very general, and in many cases, do not apply. Posture is often affected by physical issues, fatigue, an injury etc.


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    Understand the meanings of looking.
    • When you look strangers in the eye, you are saying, "I want to know more about you."
    • When you stare at strangers in the eye without a smile, it can be interpreted as antagonism.
    • When you look people in the mouth, you are saying, "I am not comfortable looking into your eyes" or "I want to kiss you."
    • When your eyes are locked onto a specific part of a person's face you are saying, "I am nervous."
    • When you look away from a person routinely or lean away from them, you are saying, "I don't like you." This also goes for being made uncomfortable by the person, or shyness.
    • When you raise one eyebrow, you are saying, "oh really?"
    • When you roll your eyes upwards, you are saying, "I am imagining"
    • When you close your eyes halfway, you are saying, "I am suspicious."
    • When you look down, you are saying, "I'm thinking."
    • When you widen your eyes, you are saying, "I am amazed."
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    Express yourself through facial features.
    • When you wink you are saying, "It's our little secret."
    • When you smile subtly, you are saying, "Here is a gesture of approval."
    • When you smile with teeth and close your eyes a bit, you are saying, "I am very happy."
    • When you walk constantly looking at the ground, you are feeling unconfident.
    • When you frown, you are saying, "I am bored/unhappy."
    • When you drop your jaw, you are saying, "I don't believe it."
    • When you bite your bottom lip while gazing at a person, you are saying, "I'm flirty."
    • When you bite your bottom lip, you are saying, "I'm nervous" or "I'm uncomfortable".
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    Move your head.
    • When your head is up, you are saying, "I don't mind people looking at me."
    • When your head is down, you are saying, "I don't want people to look at me."
    • When you turn your head to look at someone, you are saying, "I enjoy looking at you."
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    Understand meanings of the placement of legs.
    • When you hold your legs close together, you are saying, "I am modest."
    • When you hold your legs far apart, you are saying, "I am not modest."
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    Placing your shoulders.
    • When your shoulders are open and wide, you are saying, "I would like to meet new people."
    • When your shoulders are closed and hunched, and the expression unhappy, you are saying, "Leave me alone, please."
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    Understand the meanings of physical contact.
    • When you touch someone on the arm, you are saying, "I want us to be close."
    • When you touch someone on the waist/neck/face, you are saying, "I am physically attracted to you."
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    Understand the general condition.
    • When you are tense, you are saying, "I am not comfortable."
    • When you are relaxed, you are saying, "I am comfortable."
    • When you fidget, you are saying, "I want to find something better to do."


  • It is best to be relaxed at all times, because no one wants to be with someone who is uncomfortable.
  • Don't sit at a table with your hands clasped together. It means you are closed and although you might seem open, it is not what it is perceived as.
  • When a guy or girl bumps knees with you, they are flirting!
  • Note that when you use these in combination, they will be interpreted as such. For example, if a guy looks a female stranger in the eye, but he is tense, he is sending the message, "I want to know more about you, but you make me very uncomfortable." Or if he looks at your mouth he 1: wants to kiss you or 2; likes your smile or there's something stuck in your teeth. After that the girl may respond by closing her eyes halfway and looking away as if to say, "I am suspicious of your motive and I don't like you."
  • If you like them, then keep your body open. Meaning hands to your sides, stand up straight, and look happy or content. If he/she happens to be in a group, stand directly on his/her left side and let your hands hang by your side, giving the other a chance to take hold of your hand.
  • Read their signs too. If they are talking to you and have their hands in their pockets, they might be saying, "I'm comfortable, but not totally." If they are talking palms up, then you have a good chance. When you bite your lips or lick your lips you want a kiss.
  • It has been proven that physically changing someone's body language you actually also change their thoughts. So if someone has their arms crossed, grab their hand!


  • Be aware that body language does not have the same meaning everywhere in the world! For example, it is considered impolite in some countries to look the person you are talking to in the eye, and thus, does not always indicate disinterest.
  • The art of body language can be developed through regular use in ones lifestyle, however the instincts come natural to a person and a sincere observer cannot be fooled easily
  • Know that a disability may result in different body language. For instance, people with ADHD are often fidgety and restless, but it doesn't necessarily indicate boredom or disinterest. Autistic people typically concentrate better when fidgeting as needed and avoiding eye contact.
  • Reading body language is "almost" a science. If at all possible it is best if you know the person well enough to be able to see how their body reacts to situations. Just because someone wears sunglasses when its cloudy doesn't mean they are trying to hide "something" or look cool. But if that same person is wearing them indoors on the elevator, chances are, they believe they are cool and want you to know it. But it "could" also mean they are recovering from a bad hangover, or just got back from the eye doctor and actually need to wear shades to protect their eyes. Just a thought...Learn what is 'in-character' for someone and then notice what is atypical of them. The atypical signs are what you should be looking at.

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Categories: Language Nuances