How to Read Body Language

Everyone instinctively knows about body language. People constantly evaluate the body movements and facial gestures of those around them. They might have even heard some tips about identifying certain body language signals. However, it may not be that simple.

If you are trying to determine what a person’s body language is telling you, consider everything. Try to get an overall picture, not just a snapshot. If you focus on groups of behaviors you are more likely to get an accurate read.

Notice their posture first to see if they are sitting in a confident upright position. Or, they could be slouching, showing with their body language that they have little self confidence. Be aware of whether they are leaning toward you in a gesture of intimacy or leaning back reservedly.

Take a look at the angle they have set up between the two of you. If it is not side by side or across, it probably means they are uncomfortable with you. Note the position of their head. If it is tilted as you speak, they are showing interest by their body language. If they are looking down, they care little for what you have to say.

Pay attention to what they are doing with their limbs. If they are crossing their arms in front of their chest, they might be feeling defensive. If they stand or sit with open palms, their body language displays openness.

This feeling can also be presented by sitting with legs apart. The legs can show boredom in their body language when the person crosses the legs and kicks with the foot. If they are apprehensive, the ankles might be locked together.

Take in the movements of their eyes. Observe if they are looking at you overly long. This could indicate hostility or flirting, depending on other body language that accompanies it.

Notice whether they have trouble maintaining eye contact. This could mean that they are nervous, insecure, or don’t like what you’re saying. Their body language, in this case, can help you to problem-solve about what the person needs from you.

Make yourself aware, through body language, when someone is showing dominance over you. They may do this by standing while you are in a position where you must sit. They may do this by sitting back with their hands clasped behind their head. They may simply do it by the way they shake your hand. Palm down means dominance.

If any of these individual body language signals is present, look for more that denote the same. For instance, if a person is touching or rubbing his/her nose, don’t assume dishonesty. Instead, look for other clues to back it up. The person might look up and to the right. They might also have micro-gestures that give them away, such as a nose wrinkle.

Looks can be deceiving. It’s an old saying, and it can be true for those who try to decipher the body language of others. Reading body language is more complex than identifying a single behavior. It involves thought and consideration.