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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Read Body Language??

Shyam's take...

Please show me a person, who doesn’t claim to be an expert in reading the body language. (Please don’t point at me, I know, I am not).
Many people claim to have this natural attribute, especially the sports commentators, when they claim to have read the body language of the players, their own displays an ignorance of the subject.
Some people do have this attribute. Reading this article will help improve this attribute, if you already have it, or will help you acquire it if you don’t have it.
I did not write this article, but I read it many times over. And most probably may have edited this article on wikiHow.
When you read this article and start understanding your loved ones better on the basis of their mannerism or body movement, you will find that unfound joy, completeness, and elation, that you probably might not have experienced before. You may probably even have the feeling of one-upmanship (or one up-womanship). Doesn’t matter, you deserve it.
And I hope this results in improvement in understanding the people all around you and creates a new bliss in the families.

How to Read Body Language

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit  

Understanding body language can lead to closer relationships since nonverbal communication constitutes up to 60% of meaning in interpersonal communication.[1] Noticing the signals that people send out with their body language and being able to effectively read those cues is thus a very useful skill. With a little extra attentiveness, you can learn to accurately read body language, and with enough practice it can become second nature.
1. Watch for crying. Crying is considered to be caused by an explosion of emotion in most cultures. Oftentimes crying is considered a sign of sadness or grief, but crying can also be an expression of happiness. Crying can also come about through laughter and humor. Thus, when assessing crying, you'll need to look for other signals to determine the appropriate context of the crying.[2]
Crying can also be forced or manipulated in order to gain sympathy or to deceive others. This practice is known as "crocodile tears", a colloquial expression that draws on the myth that crocodiles 'cry' when catching prey.[3]

2. Look for signs of anger and/or threat. Signs of threat include v-shaped brows, wide eyes, and an open or down-turned mouth.[4]

  • Arms tightly crossed over the other is a common sign that the person is angry and is closing himself off to you.[5]

3. Look for signals of anxiety. When people exhibit anxiety, they display increased blinking and facial movements, and their mouth stretches into a thin line.[6]

  • Individuals who are anxious may also fidget and fiddle with their hands, unable to keep them in one spot.[7]

  • Anxiety can also be conveyed when people seemingly unconsciously tap their feet or have jittery legs.[8]

4 .Look for expressions of embarrassment. Embarrassment can be signaled by averting the eyes or shifting them away, turning of the head, and controlled or even tense smiles.[9]

  • If someone looks down at the floor a lot, they are probably shy, timid, or embarrassed. People also tend to look down when they are upset, or trying to hide something emotional. People are often thinking and feeling unpleasant emotions when they are in the process of staring at the ground.

5. Notice any manifestations of pride. People show pride by displaying a small smile, tilting their head backward, and putting their hands on their hips.[10]

Method 2 Reading Relational Cues

1. Assess proxemics and haptics, or distancing and touching. This is one way to communicate the status of an interpersonal relationship. Physical closeness and touch signal liking, affection, and love.[11].

2. People in close relationships require less personal space than with strangers.[12]
3. It is worth noting that personal space is culturally fluid; keep in mind that what is considered close in one country is considered far away in another.

2. Read the person's eyes. Studies have found that when people are engaged in an interesting conversation, their eyes remain focused on their partner's face approximately 80% of the time. They don't only focus on the other person's eyes, however, but focus on the eyes for a few minutes, then move down to the nose or lips, then back up to the eyes. They may look down at table every once in a while, but they always return to meeting the other person's eyes.[13]

  • When people look up and to the right during a conversation, it usually means they're bored and have already dismissed the conversation.[14]

  • Dilated pupils mean that the person is interested in what is going on. Keep in mind, however, that many substances can cause the pupils to dilate, including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, and others.[15]

  • Eye contact is also frequently used as an indication of truthfulness. Overly persistent or even aggressive eye contact suggests that a person is very aware of what messages he is trying to send out. A person who tries to deceive someone, thus, may distort his eye contact so that he doesn't appear to be avoiding it, which is a widely recognized indicator of lying.[16] However, keep in mind, as noted above, that there is a lot of individual variation when it comes to evaluating eye contact and lying.

3. Look at the person's posture. If someone rests their arms behind their neck or head, the person is conveying that he is open to what is being discussed or may just laid back in general.

  • Tightly crossed limbs are usually a sign of resistance and low receptivity to another person. In general, when the body is arranged in such a manner, this is a sign that a person is mentally, emotionally, and physically closing themselves off from another person.[17]

  • In one study of 2,000 negotiations, which were videotaped to assess the negotiators' body language, there wasn't an agreement in any case where one of the participants had his or her legs crossed.[18]

Method 3 Reading Attraction Cues

1. Evaluate eye contact. Making eye contact is a sign of attraction, as is blinking more than the average 6-10 times per minute.[19][20]
Winking can also be a sign of flirting or attraction. However, keep in mind that this may be culturally-specific; some Asian cultures frown upon winking and consider it rude.[21]

  1. 2. Watch for certain facial expressions. Smiling is one of the clearest signs of attraction. Make sure you know how to decipher a forced smile from a real one. You can tell fake smiles from real ones because the smile doesn't reach all the way to their eyes. Genuine smiles usually result in tiny crinkles around a person's eyes (crow's feet). When people fake smile, you won't see the wrinkles.[22][23]

  • Raising the eyebrows has also been observed as a sign of flirting.[24]

  1. 3. Consider the person's posture, gestures, and stance. Generally people who are attracted to each other try to close the distance to one another. This may mean leaning forward towards the other person more but can also be more direct, in the form of touching. A light tap or stroking of the arm can be a signal of attraction.

  • Attraction can also be signaled by the person's feet staying pointed toward or facing the object of his interest.[25]

  • Palms turned up is another sign of romantic interest because it suggests openness.[26]

4. Be aware of gender differences in showing attraction. Men and women can show differences in demonstrating attraction via their body language.
    • A man is likely to lead forward and turn his torso toward the person of his interest, whereas a woman reciprocating attraction turns her torso away and leans back.[27]

    • An interested man may lift his hands above his head, angled at 90 degrees.[28]

    • When a woman shows attraction, both arms may be open, and the hands may touch the body in the area between the hips and the chin.[29]

Method 4 Reading Power Cues 

  1. 1. Notice eye contact. Eye contact, a channel of kinesics, is the primary way that people communicate dominance. People establishing dominance will take the liberty of staring at and surveying others while making direct eye contact. They will also be the last person to break eye contact.[30]

  • If you're looking to assert your power, keep in mind that constant eye contact can be intimidating.[31]

  1. 2. Assess facial expressions. A person asserting dominance will also refrain from smiling in order to communicate seriousness and may instead frown or purse his lips.[32]

Evaluate gestures and stance. Gestures can display dominance; pointing at others and using large gestures is a way to show others your status. In addition, when someone takes a wider and taller stance while also being relaxed, this is another show of dominance.[33]
  • Dominant individuals will also have a firm handshake. They will usually place their hand on top with their palm facing downwards; the grip will be firm and sustained in order to demonstrate control.[34]

  1. Consider how the person manages their personal space. Those with high status will generally enable more physical space to exist between themselves and lower status people. High-status individuals will also take up more physical space to show their dominance and mastery of the situation.[35] In other words, an expansive pose signals power and achievement.[36]

  • Power is also displayed through standing versus sitting. Standing - and particularly in the foreground - is seen as a more powerful pose.[37]

  • A straight back and strong shoulders kept back, rather than hunching forward, further conveys confidence. Slouching and slumping, by contrast, convey a lack of confidence.[38]

  • Dominant individuals will also lead from the front and walk ahead of the group or go through the doors first. They like to be up front.[39]

  1. Watch how and when the person touches. People asserting their status will have more options when it comes to touch because they feel more confident in their position. Generally, in an unequal situation where one person has a higher status, he will touch the lower-status person with greater frequency.[40]
  • In social situations where both communicators have equal status, both people will reciprocate touch in similar ways.[41]

Method 5 Understanding Body Language 

Know that reading body language is a complex task. Nonverbal behavior is itself complex since all people are different and present themselves differently.[42] Reading body language can be challenging because when interpreting the signs people are sending you, you need to take into account the whole picture. For example, did that person already mention to you today that he had a fight with his wife or didn't a get a promotion at work? Or was he visibly anxious over lunch?

  • When interpreting others’ body language, it’s important wherever possible to take into account their personality, social factors, verbal behavior, and the setting. While this information is not always available, it can be helpful to read body language. People are complex, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that how they convey themselves with their bodies is complex too!

  • You could compare reading body language to watching your favorite TV show; after all, you wouldn't just watch one scene in your favorite TV show, but the whole episode in order to properly understand the meaning of that one scene. You'd also probably keep in mind past episodes, a character’s history, and the plot as a whole. You need to look at this bigger picture also when it comes to reading body language!

2. Remember to consider individual differences. There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to body language. If you are invested in being able to read a person's body language accurately, you may have to 'study' that person for some time. What is true for one person may not always be true for another.
  • For example, when lying, some people break eye contact, while others attempt to maintain even more eye contact than usual so that they won't be suspected of lying.

Be aware that body language can differ according to culture.

For some emotions and expressions of body language, the meaning of the messages is culturally-specific.
  • For instance, in Finnish culture, when a person makes eye contact, it is a sign of approachability. By contrast, when a person makes eye contact, it is considered to be an expression of anger for the Japanese.[43]

  • To give another example, in western culture, a person who feels comfortable with you will lean forward toward you and square their face and body directly toward you.[44]

  • People with certain disabilities may have unique body language. For example, autistic people often avoid eye contact while listening, and fidget frequently.

  • Note that while some physical expressions of emotion vary from culture to culture, some research suggests that certain expressions of body language are universal across cultures. This is especially true for the communication of dominance and submission. For example, across different cultures, a lowered posture indicates submission.[45]

  1. Note that understanding differs according to nonverbal channel. The nonverbal channel is the means by which a message or sign is conveyed without words. Important nonverbal channels include those of kinesics (eye contact, facial expressions, and body language), haptics (touch), and proxemics (personal space). In other words, the medium determines the message.[46]
  • As a general rule, people are best at reading facial expressions, and then body language, and, finally, personal space and touch.[47]

  • Even within each channel, there can be great variation. For instance, not all facial expressions are equally easy to understand. People are generally better at reading facial expressions that are pleasant rather than unpleasant. One study found that individuals are better at accurately interpreting happiness, contentment, and excitement, compared to anger, sadness, fear, and disgust. [48]

View Shyam's contributions on wikiHow

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Read Body Language. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Interesting stuff - what I personally would like to add is that it can also be very helpful not just to observe visually, but to really experience bodily what effect one notices from someone else's body language. The awareness of this experience sometimes leads more directly to insights than the detour of visual analysis...

  2. Interesting and very informative... Not to be taken in islation, but totally sheds much useful light. I for one learned a lot about body language/perception by self-analysis - analysing my own behaviour, and seeking to understand the basis of why I did/said/felt what i did; It definitely helped me in understanding others...

  3. Very interesting. This is certainly something I can use in my field. It helps to know how a person can react to different situations. Thank you for this article!