Learn How To Read Body Language The Beginners Guide To Body Language

Body Acting as a “truth talker” – actions do speak louder than words. Here’s a look at how some of our body language translate to words. If you’re out on a date and flirting with someone is your primary goal – your body language can do all the talking for you. Leaning a bit closer than necessary, lingering glances and a fleeting touch will say all that you have to say without a need for words. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

If you've ever walked down the street and gotten a negative vibe from someone just from looking at them, your instincts may not have been all that off. The way people carry themselves, how they speak and where they place their bodies are all unconscious actions that broadcast their feelings. Body language expert explains how and when your body acts as a truth-talker. 

Touching Your Face: Have you ever had a conversation with someone and had a gut feeling they were lying? Well, you may not have been wrong. Unconscious actions, such as touching or slightly scratching the face, may signal lying. Just as young children are prone to covering their mouths when caught in a lie, adults mimic this effect by touching their forehead, nose or cheek, according to 'Body Language 101,' by body language expert David Lambert. Nervousness can also result in similar actions. "It's a pretty significant tell," says Wood. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

The Leg Cross: Crossing your legs is usually a signal that you're closing yourself off. "Women tend to cross their legs more than men," says Wood. "Part of it is just that the body can't reach the ground, but part of it is also keeping the crotch covered." For men, crossing the legs may be read as cockiness. "It's really male and very assertive," she says. No matter what gender you are, when you're in an interview or meeting, keep your legs uncrossed and plant both feet firmly on the ground. "That syncs your right and left hemispheres and helps you think and respond more clearly," Wood says. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

Licking Your Lips: It's hard enough picking out an outfit for a first date, let alone having to worry about inadvertent sexual signals. Unconsciously moistening your lips or rubbing your legs together can be taken as a sexual cue. "For females, especially, licking the lips can be sensual and purposeful," says Wood. "It's very arousing, and you do it subconsciously." So if your lips tend to be dry, make sure to slather on an extra coat of lip gloss or lip balm to avoid any confusion. Or not. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

Fidgeting: It's Monday morning. You're stuck in a meeting without having had your morning coffee. Assuming you can stay awake, fidgeting in your chair can broadcast boredom to your colleagues. When the left side of the brain is fed logical information, the right hemisphere craves stimulation. "It wants to play," says Wood. Your body responds by fidgeting, characterized by a finger tap or the more notorious jimmy leg. To prevent unwanted attention, Wood suggests taking notes or doodling to keep yourself focused and attentive. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

The Handshake: First impressions are hard to break, and an unnecessarily firm handshake can relay dominance while a pathetically limp one can show insecurity. Tonya Reiman describes the perfect handshake in 'The Power of Body Language': "Go toward the person, lean slightly forward, look them in the eye, extend your right hand and introduce yourself while pumping two to three times. Have an easy, comfortable grip and make sure to shake your entire arm, not just the wrist and fingers." 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

Biting Your Lip: Biting your lip can be a leftover habit from childhood that you haven't been able to break. Reiman describes people who bite their lip as vulnerable, embarrassed and shy. It's a nervous habit and often a tell for inexperienced liars. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

Smiling: Don't fake it. A forced smile is often a dead giveaway that you're not particularly fond of the person you're speaking to. Women tend to be social smilers and smile 70 percent more than men. But ladies, if you disagree with what a speaker is saying, don't smile and don't nod your head. "For men, it sends the message that you agree with them, and they get confused," says Wood. If you feel like you have to be polite, be nice for a moment, but then turn your lower torso away. "They'll subconsciously pick up on it that you're done and then move on," she says. Start subtly, and then make the shift away. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

Eye Direction

The following techniques known as Neurolinguistic Programming were developed by American psychologists Richard Bandler and John Grinder.They concluded that based on our eye movements we can reveal what our brains are focusing on by telling us if we are imagining something or remembering something, the only problem is many times it may occur in a fraction of a second so you must pay close attention.It is also thought the opposite directions apply for left handed people, so if for a right hand person…remembering means looking upwards and to the right, for a left handed person it would be upwards and to the left.Also keep in mind there are three memory channels in our brain…visual stored memories, auditory stored memories and emotional/feeling stored memories, 35% of people prefer to remember something through the visual information channel (with statements such as “I see what you mean”), 25% will rather use the auditory channel (“That sounds familiar”) and the remaining 40% incline towards the feeling channel (“We reached an understanding”).

  • Eyes Directions NLP Body Language: EyesTop Right: When someone is looking to their top right, it is a sign they are remembering something using the visual channel in the brain.
  • Top Left: When someone is looking to theirtop left, it is a sign they are imagining something using the visual construction channel in the brain.This is great for when asking a liar a question that requires memory (eg: Why didn’t you bring your homework today?) and instead of looking up and to the right to remember why…the look up and to the left to imagine something and make up and excuse.
  • Center Right: When someone is looking totheir center right, it is a sign they are remembering a sound using the auditory channel in the brain.
  • Center Left: When someone is looking to their center left, it is a sign they are imagining a sound using the auditory construction channel in the brain.
  • Bottom Right: When someone is looking to their bottom right, it is a sign they are remembering either a tastea smell or a feeling using the kinesthetic channeling of memory.
  • Bottom Left: When someone is looking to their bottom left, it is a sign they are having an internal dialog with themselves either out loud or inside their heads (observe crazy people when they are blabbering to themselves and they’ll usually be using this eye direction).

biting glasses frame arm 150x150 Body Language: EyesIf the person wears glasses, you might watch them sometimes start playing with them and sticking one arm of the glasses frame in their mouth…also known as The Pacifier, anything put in the mouth to fiddle with is a sign the person needs reassurance, in this case people who start sucking on their glasses arm frame are trying to buy themselves time from answering something and are making a decision or arranging their thoughts as to what to say.
Glasses Adjusting 150x150 Body Language: EyesIf however they start adjusting their glasses on their nose, it sends the signal they like what they are seeing or hearing and by rearranging the glasses on their nose it’s a subconscious way of symbolically “re-focusing” their attention to make sure what they see is true…this is known as a positive evaluation gesture, for people who don’t have glasses…scratching or smoothly rubbing their eyebrow is a substitute to reveal the same internal positive attitude.

Pupil Dilation: Dilated pupils have long been considered a sign of beauty. When your pupils dilate, you're probably viewing something you find exciting or attractive -- a big tell on any date provided it's not a candlelit dinner. According to Reiman, Italian courtesans would go to dangerous lengths to dilate their pupils by putting droplets of belladonna in their eyes. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

The Arm Cross: Crossing your arms is a telltale sign of disapproval. "You're closing a part of yourself off from other people," says Wood. "You're sending a message that you're not accessible." If you're having a disagreement, try to keep your arms at your sides or gesticulate with open palms in order to portray that you're being amenable. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

Trivial Tasks: Unconsciously fiddling with jewelry, chewing your thumb or even sucking on your pen are called displacement activities and can signal tension, according to Lambert. If you're on an interview, keep jewelry to a minimum and make sure to place your hands on your lap. 

Body Language Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

The Arm Grip: Have you ever watched passengers boarding the plane and known instinctively which ones were afraid of flying? An indication of nervousness is arms folded across the chest with each hand clasped tightly around the upper arm. If you tend to cross your body with one arm and clasp your hand around the other arm, you may be portraying that you're uncomfortable or feel unsafe. Lambert suggests that people do this unconsciously to recreate a childhood feeling of safety when a parent holds your hand. If you're speaking in front of an audience, try to keep your hands at your sides or practice gesticulating to depict confidence and maintain the audience's attention.

25 Acts of Body Language to Avoid


Body Language

Our body language exhibits far more information about how we feel than it is possible to articulate verbally.  All of the physical gestures we make are subconsciously interpreted by others.  This can work for or against us depending on the kind of body language we use.  Some gestures project a very positive message, while others do nothing but set a negative tone.

Most people are totally oblivious to their own body language, so the discipline of controlling these gestures can be quite challenging.  Most of them are reflexive in nature, automatically matching up to what our minds are thinking at any given moment.  Nevertheless, with the right information and a little practice, we can train ourselves to overcome most of our negative body language habits.

Practice avoiding these 25 negative gestures:

I speak two languages, Body and English.
- Mae West

  1. Holding Objects in Front of Your Body – a coffee cup, notebook, hand bag, etc.  Holding objects in front of your body indicates shyness and resistance, such that you’re hiding behind the objects in an effort to separate yourself from others.  Instead of carrying objects in front of you, carry them at your side whenever possible.
  2. Checking the Time or Inspecting Your Fingernails – a strong sign of boredom.  Never glance at the time when you’re speaking with someone.  Likewise, completely avoid the act of inspecting your fingernails.
  3. Picking Lint Off of Your Clothes – If you pick lint off of your clothes during a conversation, especially in conjunction with looking downwards, most people will assume that you disapprove of their ideas and/or feel uneasy about giving them an honest opinion.  Leave the lint alone!
  4. Stroking Your Chin While Looking at Someone – “I’m judging you!”  People frequently stroke their chin during the decision-making process.  If you look at someone while you’re stroking your chin, they may assume that you’re making a judgmental decision about them.
  5. Narrowing Your Eyes – If you want to give someone the impression that you don’t like them (or their ideas), narrow your eyes while looking at them.  It immediately places a scowling expression on your face.  A slight narrowing of the eyes is an instinctual, universal expression of anger across various species in the animal kingdom (think about the angry expressions of tigers, dogs, etc.).  Some people make the mistake of narrowing their eyes during a conversation as a reflex of thinking.  Don’t send people the wrong message… don’t narrow your eyes.
  6. Standing Too Close – This just makes people feel uncomfortable.  Most people consider the 4 square feet of space immediately surrounding their body to be personal space.  Cross this invisible boundary with good friends and intimate mates only.
  7. Looking Down While in the Presence of Others – usually indicates disinterest.  Sometimes it’s even interpreted as a casual sign of arrogance.  Always look straight ahead and make eye contact when you see someone you know.
  8. Touching Your Face During a Conversation – Face touching, especially on the nose, is commonly interpreted as an indication of deception.  Also, covering up the mouth is a common gesture people make when they’re lying.  Always keep your hands away from your face when you’re speaking.
  9. Faking a Smile – another sign of deception commonly seen on the face of a fraud.  A genuine smile wrinkles the corners of the eyes and changes the expression of the entire face.  Fake smiles only involve the mouth and lips.  It’s easy to distinguish between the two.  Don’t force yourself to smile… unless it’s for the camera.
  10. Leaning Away From Someone You Like – a sign of being bored and disinterested.  Some people may also interpret it to mean: “I don’t like you.”  People typically lean towards people they like and away from people they dislike.  This is especially true when they are sitting around a table.  If you lean away from someone you like, you’re sending them the wrong message.
  11. Resting Hands Behind the Head or on the Hips – usually interpreted as a sign of superiority or bigheadedness.  Only use these gestures when you’re in the presence of close friends.
  12. Not Directly Facing the Person You’re Speaking To – This indicates a certain level of discomfort or a lack of interest.  When we’re happily engaged in a conversation we face the person we’re speaking to with our feet and torso facing directly forward.  When we’re unsure of the other person, or not completely committed to the conversation, we tend to angle our feet and torso to the side.  Face directly forward during a conversation to give off the impression that you’re truly interested in what the other person is saying.
  13. Crossing Your Arms – a sign of defensive resistance.  Some people may also interpret it as a sign of egotism.  Always try to keep your arms open and at your sides.
  14. Displaying a Sluggish Posture – When you’re in an environment bustling with people your posture becomes an immediate telltale sign of your confidence and composure.  Your stance literally makes a stand for you, delivering a clear message about how you should be treated.  It can make a huge difference in the way strangers respond to you.  Place your feet a comfortable distance apart, keep your shoulders pulled back, head up and greet people with direct eye contact and a firm handshake.
  15. Scratching at the Backside of Your Head and Neck – a typical sign of doubt and uncertainty.  It can also be interpreted as an indication of lying.  Try to keep your hands away from your head when you’re communicating with others.
  16. Messing With the Collar of Your Shirt – It screams: “I feel horribly uncomfortable and/or nervous!”  Once again, keep track of your hands.  Don’t fidget.
  17. Increasing Your Rate of Blinking – a clear sign of anxiety.  Some people start blinking their eyes really fast (in conjunction with an increased heart rate) when they get nervous.  Since most people try to make eye contact, it becomes immediately obvious to others.  Be cognizant of your blinking habits when you’re nervous, especially if someone is looking at you from a close proximity.
  18. Slouching Your Shoulders – indicates low self-esteem.  People associate perked-up shoulders with strong self-confidence.  Always pull your shoulders back.  Not only will you look more confident, you’ll feel more confident as well.
  19. Standing with Your Hands Crossed Over Your Genitals – This casual posture almost guarantees that you’ll lose a little respect before you even have the chance to speak a single word.  People feeling nervous or unsure of themselves will unconsciously take a guarded stance.  Quite frequently they adopt a posture that guards one of their most vulnerable areas, their genitals.  This stance pushes your shoulders forward and makes your entire body look smaller and weaker.  Again, try to keep your hands at your sides and your shoulders back.
  20. Propping Up Your Head with Your Hands – “I’m getting bored!”  Never prop up your head with your elbows and hands during a conversation.  Place your hands on the table in front of you and keep them at rest.
  21. Wiping Sweaty Hands onto Your Clothes – a sign of frantic nervousness.  If your hands are sweating, just let them sweat.  Take a few deep breaths and try to relax.
  22. Sitting on the Edge of Your Chair – a clear indication of being mentally and physically uncomfortable.  It’s an apprehensive stance that will make others around you feel uncomfortable as well.  Keep your rear end firmly planted on the surface of the seat.  When you lean forward, use your back without moving your bottom.
  23. Foot and Finger Tapping – usually indicates stress, impatience or boredom.  Monitor your habits and practice keeping your limbs at rest.
  24. Using Your Hands to Fidget with Small Objects – a pen, paper ball, etc.  This is another sign of anxiety.  It can also be interpreted as a lack of preparedness.  It’s always best to keep your hands comfortably at rest when you’re in the presence of others.
  25. Repeatedly Shifting Body Weight from Foot to Foot – This is another gesture that usually indicates mental and physical discomfort.  People may also see this and assume that you’re ready to abandon the conversation, especially if you’re not directly facing them.  Don’t shift your feet around more than once every 2 to 3 minutes.

    Bad body language

    So you're as tense as a Tyson contender, but don't blow your job chances by letting it show on the outside. Here's what to leave behind when you walk into that interview room.


Body barriers

It's natural to hide behind barriers when we want to protect ourselves, but an interview is not the time to come over all shy and retiring. Folding your arms across your chest conveys a nervous, negative and even aggressive attitude that will only get your interviewer marking crosses way down the clipboard. You could say the same about leg crossing, but most experts agree that it's your upper torso that really says most about you. So aim to be open and honest, in mind and body.

Children often cover their mouths when they're telling lies, and this is a habit that extends into adulthood. It's just as we get older so our body language becomes a bit more refined. Hand covering becomes nose touching or cheek brushing, but it'll still invite suspicion on the part of your interviewer.
Face touching

Shifty eyes

Don't keep turning your attention to the floor or the ceiling. It might be a blank canvas for your thoughts, but it appears as if you're evading a question.


You might be tempted to lose that nervous energy through the floorboards, but watching your knee bouncing up and down is one distraction your interviewer doesn't need. If you're really finding it hard to sit still then channel it into hand gestures that back up what you're saying.

Lint picking

Plucking dust from your sleeves or your knees conveys an element of boredom or distrust, because in some ways it's an excuse to form another body barrier. Even if you're certain there's a speck on your leg, just leave it alone. Nobody else will have noticed it but you.

18 ways to improve your body language


Continuing from the previous post 6 reasons to improve your body language, here is just a few of many pointers on how to improve your body language. Improving your body language can make a big difference in your people skills, attractiveness and general mood.


There is no specific advice on how to use your body language. What you do might be interpreted in several ways, depending on the setting and who you are talking to. You’ll probably want to use your body language differently when talking to your boss compared to when you talk to a girl/guy you’re interested in. These are some common interpretations of body language and often more effective ways to communicate with your body.

First, to change your body language you must be aware of your body language. Notice how you sit, how you stand, how you use you hands and legs, what you do while talking to someone.

You might want to practice in front of a mirror. Yeah, it might seem silly but no one is watching you. This will give you good feedback on how you look to other people and give you an opportunity to practise a bit before going out into the world.

Another tip is to close your eyes and visualize how you would stand and sit to feel confident, open and relaxed or whatever you want to communicate. See yourself move like that version of yourself. Then try it out.

You might also want observe friends, role models, movie stars or other people you think has good body language. Observe what they do and you don’t. Take bits and pieces you like from different people. Try using what you can learn from them.

Some of these tips might seem like you are faking something. But fake it til you make it is a useful way to learn something new. And remember, feelings work backwards too. If you smile a bit more you will feel happier. If you sit up straight you will feel more energetic and in control. If you slow down your movements you’ll feel calmer. Your feelings will actually reinforce your new behaviours and feelings of weirdness will dissipate.

In the beginning easy it’s to exaggerate your body language. You might sit with your legs almost ridiculously far apart or sit up straight in a tense pose all the time. That’s ok. And people aren’t looking as much as you think, they are worrying about their own problems. Just play around a bit, practice and monitor yourself to find a comfortable balance.

1. Don’t cross your arms or legs – You have probably already heard you shouldn’t cross your arms as it might make you seem defensive or guarded. This goes for your legs too. Keep your arms and legs open.

2. Have eye contact, but don’t stare – If there are several people you are talking to, give them all some eye contact to create a better connection and see if they are listening. Keeping too much eye-contact might creep people out. Giving no eye-contact might make you seem insecure. If you are not used to keeping eye-contact it might feel a little hard or scary in the beginning but keep working on it and you’ll get used to it.

3. Don’t be afraid to take up some space – Taking up space by for example sitting or standing with your legs apart a bit signals self-confidence and that you are comfortable in your own skin.

4. Relax your shoulders – When you feel tense it’s easily winds up as tension in your shoulders. They might move up and forward a bit. Try to relax. Try to loosen up by shaking the shoulders a bit and move them back slightly.

5. Nod when they are talking – nod once in a while to signal that you are listening. But don’t overdo it and peck like Woody Woodpecker.

6. Don’t slouch, sit up straight – but in a relaxed way, not in a too tense manner.

7. Lean, but not too much – If you want to show that you are interested in what someone is saying, lean toward the person talking. If you want to show that you’re confident in yourself and relaxed lean back a bit. But don’t lean in too much or you might seem needy and desperate for some approval. Or lean back too much or you might seem arrogant and distant.

8. Smile and laugh – lighten up, don’t take yourself too seriously. Relax a bit, smile and laugh when someone says something funny. People will be a lot more inclined to listen to you if you seem to be a positive person. But don’t be the first to laugh at your own jokes, it makes you seem nervous and needy. Smile when you are introduced to someone but don’t keep a smile plastered on your face, you’ll seem insincere.

9. Don’t touch your face – it might make you seem nervous and can be distracting for the listeners or the people in the conversation.

10. Keep you head up – Don’t keep your eyes on the ground, it might make you seem insecure and a bit lost. Keep your head up straight and your eyes towards the horizon.

11. Slow down a bit – this goes for many things. Walking slower not only makes you seem more calm and confident, it will also make you feel less stressed. If someone addresses you, don’t snap you’re neck in their direction, turn it a bit more slowly instead.

12. Don’t fidget – try to avoid, phase out or transform fidgety movement and nervous ticks such as shaking your leg or tapping your fingers against the table rapidly. You’ll seem nervous and fidgeting can be a distracting when you try to get something across. Declutter your movements if you are all over the place. Try to relax, slow down and focus your movements.

13. Use your hands more confidently – instead of fidgeting with your hands and scratching your face use them to communicate what you are trying to say. Use your hands to describe something or to add weight to a point you are trying to make. But don’t use them to much or it might become distracting. And don’t let your hands flail around, use them with some control.


14. Lower your drink – don’t hold your drink in front of your chest. In fact, don’t hold anything in front of your heart as it will make you seem guarded and distant. Lower it and hold it beside your leg instead.


15. Realise where you spine ends – many people (including me until recently) might sit or stand with a straight back in a good posture. However, they might think that the spine ends where the neck begins and therefore crane the neck forward in a Montgomery Burns-poseYour spine ends in the back of your head. Keep you whole spine straight and aligned for better posture.


16. Don’t stand too close –one of the things we learned from Seinfeld is that everybody gets weirded out by a close-talker. Let people have their personal space, don’t invade it.


17. Mirror – Often when you get along with a person, when the two of you get a good connection, you will start to mirror each other unconsciously. That means that you mirror the other person’s body language a bit. To make the connection better you can try a bit of proactive mirroring. If he leans forward, you might lean forward. If she holds her hands on her thighs, you might do the same. But don’t react instantly and don’t mirror every change in body language. Then weirdness will ensue. :)


18. Keep a good attitude – last but not least, keep a positive, open and relaxed attitude. How you feel will come through in your body language and can make a major difference. For information on how make yourself feel better read 10 ways to change how you feel and for relaxation try A very simple way to feel relaxed for 24 hours.


You can change your body language but as all new habits it takes a while. Especially things like keeping you head up might take time to correct if you have spent thousands of days looking at your feet. And if you try and change to many things at once it might become confusing and feel overwhelming.


Take a couple of these body language bits to work on every day for three to four weeks. By then they should have developed into new habits and something you’ll do without even thinking about it. If not, keep on until it sticks. Then take another couple of things you’d like to change and work on them.


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