Most everyone's body language is a bit different. Some body language might represent learned behaviors, while some of it might also be cultural (a thumbs up means drastically different things in various parts of the world).
There does seem to be a certain amount of it hard coded into our DNA however. Studies have been done illustrating the movements of blind children and their similarities with children who had perfect sight. Hand movements when illustrating points, pouting and other emotional gestures are examples of this kind of behavior.
When trying to read someone's body language, it is also important to note that some language might simply be the result of circumstance. For example, maybe the person you are reading is cold and has crossed their arms in response.
How to Read Body Language
Here is a handy list of body language signs. Given the proper context, these nonverbal cues can help you with interpreting body language.
Examples of Body Language
Body hunched - low confidence
Clenched fists - aggression
Crossed arms - shut off, uncomfortable
Dragging feet - lethargy
Dropped shoulders - lethargy or weariness
Fidgeting with objects, hands - nervous
Hands behind head - arrogance, superiority
Hands on hips - in defiance
Hands on table - in agreement
Head down - timidity
Head rested on hand - bored, disinterested
Leaning away - discomfort with the situation
Leaning in closer - interest, comfortable
Looking at watch - boredom
Looking away to the left - lying
Messaging temples - anxiety
Nodding - interest, agreement or understanding
No eye contact - lack of confidence, lying
Shaking of legs - a sign of stress
"Shifty" eyes - nervousness
Stroking of chin - thinking, in thought
Tapping foot - impatient or nervous
Wiping hands on clothes - nervousness
How to Tell if Someone is Lying
One of the most sought after secrets of understanding body language is the ability to tell if someone is lying to you. Does body language tell if someone is lying? While it is a nearly impossible to know for sure if someone is telling the truth, there are a few signs of lying you can keep an eye out for.
The first symptom of lying is lack of eye contact. If someone is noticeably nervous and shifting their eyes around, or better, looking to the side as the speak to you, this is a common symptom of lying. Watch the subject's hands, if they touch their hand/mouth/throat while speaking, this is another common behavior.
Study the person's emotions and their statements. If their body gestures do not match, or are oddly timed ("I really like my gift!" and then smiling afterwards), there is a decent chance that they may not be telling the truth. Further signs of lying are if the person turns away, shifts their body somehow in another direction, or places objects in between the two of you.
Liars, especially liars who are not well practiced, will show signs of nervousness. Use your own judgment in regards to the circumstances and context, and remember, you can never be 100% sure.
Improve Your Body Language
Improving your body language will help you come across as more confident. It will also help make you a more persuasive salesman, which is a trait that can aid you in a variety of circumstances. It is important to understand that you shouldn't force your body language, but rather be aware of it to help control your emotions and tactics. Forced body language can come across as awkward and strange. Most of us can usually spot unnatural movements.
There are different body language expectations for different circumstances. On a job interview, you want to appear calm, cool and collected. You want to come across as confident and in control. You do not want to come across as creepy. Prolonged eye contact, close talking -- these may be appropriate on an intimate date, but not in a job interview!
Here are some tips we've come across to help improve your body language:
- Smile and laugh - Laughter is contagious, it will also help put you in a positive mood. Your body language will naturally improve because of it.
- Slow down, breathe regularly - Nothing will stress you out more than moving at full speeds. Don't walk fast, don't talk fast and remember to breathe. Not only will this help calm you down, it'll calm down the people around you who pick up on stressful vibes.
- Use your body with purpose - No fidgeting and keep your hands out of your pockets. Don't be afraid to take up a little space. Show you are comfortable in the situation, not put-up-your-feet comfortable, but that you are in control and unafraid. Use your hands to expand on points or call attention to important statements.
- Hold objects by your side - If you have a drink in hand, keep it to your side, not in front of your chest. Holding your drink in front of your chest can express the same feelings as if you were standing with your arms crossed. Relax.
- Show your interest - Nod occasionally to let the person you are interacting with know that you are listening and are in agreement. Leaning in is another way to show your interest, just be careful not to lean in to soon or to often, or you may creep them out.
- Eye contact is powerful - Make eye contact with the people you are talking to, just don't stare. Breaking eye contact downward is generally more positive than breaking eye contact to the sides. If you have trouble looking people in the eye, try looking at their nose instead. They won't be able to tell.
- Mirror - This is a tough one because it can be hard to pull off. When two people have strong rapport, their actions and body language will naturally start to mirror each other. If you can, you can stimulate this by consciously doing it. Just be careful, as if you get it wrong, it will be really awkward for everyone.
Also - here are ten more quick tips:
Tip 1. - Eyes
Dilated pupils - the person is interested in the topic.
People say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. They can tell so much information about the person if you know what you are looking for. As in most situations, the same signal can be interpreted in a different way. It depends entirely on the circumstances at hand. The example above could also mean that the person is on drugs, or it could mean that they are focused.
Tip 2. - Hands
Open palm.- the person is relaxed and comfortable.
The hands have many expressions and are a good place to start when learning how to read body language. Generally when some ones hands are open it means that their defenses are relaxed.
Tip 3 - Mimicking
When you are talking to someone, if they are mimicking your body position and action it means that they are comfortable in the situation and most likely interested by you and what you are saying.
Tip 4 - Eyes
If someone's eyes are gazing to the side it is a trait that they are feeling guilty. Likewise if they are gazing down this express's shame. Remember the eyes have so many meanings and it's easy to make the wrong evaluation. Practice makes perfect.
Tip 5 - Arms
The main two expressions with arms is that they are either closed (folded) or open. When folded the person is possibly angry or disapproving. When their arms are open the person is in an honest position and is accepting of the situation.
Tip 6 - Rubbing of the Chin
If someone is rubbing their chin it generally means that they are thinking.
Tip 7 - Feet
When you are in conversation with someone you can tell if they are comfortable and interested by what you are saying by their feet position. When standing opposite one another the other persons feet are facing in your direction. This means that they are comfortable and their head and eyes will also be focused on you.
When standing opposite someone their feet are pointing away and their head and eyes are not focused on you. They will most likely be nodding and agreeing with a fake smile. This means that the person n question is not interested and might even feel uncomfortable in the situation.
Tip 8 - Legs
When stood up Legs are a good indicator of how confident someone is. If someone is standing with their legs shoulder width apart they are relaxed. If they are standing with a stance wider than that they are a confident and are in a grounded position to show they are in control.
When stood up with legs crossed the person is probably shy.
When sitting down if the legs are crossed it shows the person is in protective mode. This is very much used alongside crossed arm action.
If the legs are open when the person is seated then they are in a relaxed position. The same as when standing.
Tip 9 - Fingers
Fingers can create many gestures and are great for reading body language. A pointing finger can either be someone pointing to a item or place, it can also indicate anger. If someone is curling their fingers tightly they are usually pleading for some thing.
Drumming or tapping with the fingers indicates frustration. The faster the beating, the greater the frustration and tension inside the person.
Tip 10 - Eyebrows
The eyebrows have many uses. Listed below are some examples. When the eye brows are raised, normally the person is shocked or surprised. The greater the surprise the more raised they will be. When someone flicks their eye brow up and down quickly they are greeting someone else or are showing they have acknowledged them.
I hope you have enjoyed learning how to read body language tips. Remember reading body language is not a skill that can be learned over night. The more you practice the easier it will become and the more subtle you will be able to do it.
Read more about Body Language here.