Communication Skills

A Simple Guide To Understanding Body Language

Body language

Understanding (and using) body language is very important non-verbal communication skill.


Eight most important behavior and the body languages behind them:




Dominance, Power: Feet on desk, Piercing eye contact, Hands behind head or on hips, Palm-down handshake, 'Steepling' of the finger, Standing while other is seated


Confidence, Cooperation, Honesty: Leaning forward, Opening arms and palms, Maintaining great eye contact, Keeping feet flat on floor, Smiling, Moving with counterpart’s rhythm




Evaluation: Nodding , Squinting, Putting index finger to lips, Tilting head slightly, Stroking chin




Submission, Nervousness: Fidgeting, Minimum eye contact, Hands to face, hair, etc. Palm-up handshake, Throat clearing


Disagreement, Anger, Skepticism: Red skin , Finger pointing, Squinting eyes, Frowning, Turning away, Crossing arms or legs


Boredom, Lack of Interest: Avoiding eye contact, Playing with objects on desk, Staring blankly, Drumming on table, Picking at clothes, Looking at watch, door, etc.


Uncertainty, Indecision: Cleaning glasses, Looking puzzled, Putting fingers to mouth, Biting lip, Pacing back and forth, Tilting head


Suspicion, Dishonesty: Touching nose while speaking, Covering mouth, Avoiding eye contact, Moving away, Crossing arms or legs


(Source: Adapted from a guide by Peter Barron Stark & Associates)


Examples of body language:


Nonverbal behavior: Interpretation


Brisk, erect walk: Confidence

Standing with hands on hips: Readiness, aggression

Sitting with legs crossed, foot kicking slightly: Boredom

Sitting, legs apart: Open, relaxed

Arms crossed on chest: Defensiveness

Walking with hands in pockets, shoulders hunched: Dejection

Hand to cheek: Evaluation, thinking

Touching, slightly rubbing nose: Rejection, doubt, lying

Rubbing the eye: Doubt, disbelief

Hands clasped behind back: Anger, frustration, apprehension

Locked ankles: Apprehension

Head resting in hand, eyes downcast: Boredom

Rubbing hands: Anticipation

Sitting with hands clasped behind head, legs crossed: Confidence, superiority

Open palm: Sincerity, openness, innocence

Pinching bridge of nose, eyes closed: Negative evaluation

Tapping or drumming fingers: Impatience

Steepling fingers: Authoritative

Patting/fondling hair: Lack of self-confidence; insecurity

Tilted head: Interest

Stroking chin: Trying to make a decision

Looking down, face turned away: Disbelief

Biting nails: Insecurity, nervousness

Pulling or tugging at ear: Indecision

No eye contact: Lying

Hands touching their face, throat & mouth: Lying

A person may look at you for slightly longer than normal, then look away, then look back up at you, again for a longer period: Romantic interest?

Leaning your body towards another person: Showing interest



Body Language Do's and Dont's


1. Eyes

Don't do this: Taking your eyes off of listeners.

Do this: Keeping your eyes on your audience most of the time.


2. Hands

Don't do this: When not using them - Keeping your hands in your pockets or clasped together makes you seem stiff, stilted, and formal. It makes you look insecure.

Do this: Engage both hands above the waist, or both hands on your hip make you look confident.


3. Posture

Don't do this: Slouching, leaning back, or being hunched over. It betrays a lack of confidence, or interest.

Do this: Keep your head up and back straight. Lean forward when seated. When you sit toward the front of your chair and lean forward slightly, you will come off as interested, engaged, and enthusiastic.


4. Blocking

Don't do this: Putting something between you and your listener(s) - Crossing your arms, standing behind a podium, standing behind a chair, and talking to someone from behind a computer monitor are all examples of blocking.

Do this: Staying 'open.' Keep your hands apart and your palms up, pointed toward the ceiling. Remove physical barriers between you and your listeners.


5. Animation

Don't do this: Standing or sitting perfectly still - Ineffective speakers barely move, staying in one spot during a presentation.

Do this: Get up and move. If your role demands it, move around. Good presenters mingle with the audience.


Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life.  Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.