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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Head

1. Head body language...................2


2. Face body language...................4
3. Cheek body language..................5
4. Chin body language...................6
5. Mouth body language..................6
6. Lips body language...................9
7. Teeth body language.................10
8. Tongue body language................11
9. Nose body language..................11
10. Eyes body language...............12
11. Eyebrow body language............17
12. Forehead body language..............17
13. Hair body language..................18

Arms

We often talk with our arms, windmilling as we


describe with arms and hands what we are
saying.

1. Arm body language..................19


2. Elbow body language................20
3. Hand body language.................21
4. Finger body language...............26

Torso

The torso, though often ignored, contains the


main mass of the body and can give important
signals.

1. Neck body language.................28


2. Shoulder body language.............28
3. Chest body language................29
4. Back body language.................30
5. Belly body language................30
6. Bottom body language...............31
7. Hips body language.................31

Legs

The legs often betray body language when the


person is trying to control their body (and
often forget the lower half). Particularly when
seated, if you can look down you may find
another story.

1. Leg body language..................32


2. Thigh body language................34
3. Knee body language.................35
4. Foot body language.................35

GENERAL..................................36

1
Tilting
1. HEAD
Tilting the head sideways can be a sign of
1. Head body language interest, which may be in what is said or
happening. It can also be a flirting signal as
it says 'I am interested in you!'
The head can send such a wide range of signals
that the face and other parts of the head are
covered in other pages. Here, we focus just on Tilting can similarly indicate curiosity,
movement of the head as affected by the neck uncertainty or query, particularly if the head
muscles. is pushed forward, as if the person was trying
to look at the subject in a different way in
the hope of seeing something new. The greater
Lowering the tilt, the greater the uncertainty or the
greater the intent to send this signal.
A lowered head covers the neck with the chin
and hence can be a defensive posture that can A tilted head pulled back tends to indicate
occur as a result of any perceived threat (not suspicion, as the uncertainty of the tilt is
just physical threat). combined with a defensive pulling back.

Lowering the head also lowers the eyes and The tilted head exposes the carotid artery on
hence can be a sign of submission, effectively the side of the neck and may be a sign of
saying 'I dare not even look at you'. The eyes submission and feelings of vulnerability.
are typically also lowered here. It can be
driven by affection ('you are so wonderful') or
fear ('you might hurt me if I look at you'). If the head is propped up by the hand, it may
be tiredness or an expectation of continued
interest ('This is so interesting!').
Lowering the head whilst maintaining eye
contact can also be a strong flirting signal,
typically by women. It says 'You are superior Oscillating (nodding and shaking)
and I just can't take my eyes off you'. It can
also be a sign of defiance or caution, for Nodding up and down signals agreement in most
example when showing respect to an enemy ('You cultures and may well be accompanied by smiling
are strong and I do not trust you'). and other signs of approval. A vigorous nodding
probably indicates strong agreement, whilst
Sometimes, lowering the head is just a sign of slow nodding may indicate conditional agreement
exhaustion. The head is rather heavy and a (and so may be questioned if you want full
tired person's head will sag. agreement).

Lowering the head can be a part of ducking as Turning the head from side to side usually
the person reflexively pulls the head down to indicates disagreement or disapproval and may
avoid a real or imagined hazard. This makes the originate in infant refusal of food. Again,
body smaller and protects the neck. speed of swinging indicates strength of
feeling. A head tilted down whilst swinging may
signal particular disapproval ('I don't even
A single short lowering of the head can be an want to look at you').
abbreviated nod. This is a common greeting,
perhaps as a small bow. It may also be a signal
of power ('I am so powerful people are paying Alternately tilting the head at an angle to
will notice even a small nod'). Again it may be each side can say 'I'm not sure', though in
a deliberate concealment, sending covert Southern India it means 'Yes'.
agreement to a colleague.
Nodding or shaking the head whilst talking is
Raising an encouragement for the other person to agree
(which works surprisingly often).

When the head is low, raising it may be a sign


of interest as the person moved to looking at Nodding whilst the other person is talking
the point of interest. This is typically sends approval signals and encourages them to
accompanied by other expressions of interest keep talking. Shaking the head shows
such as raised eyebrows. disagreement and they may either stop and seek
your view or redouble their attempts to
persuade you.
From a level position, a quick flick upwards
can be a sign of query ('What do you mean?').
A nod can be used when emphasizing a point. The
may range from a subtle encouragement to agree
Raising the head and looking at the ceiling may to a rapid and aggressive tilt.
signal boredom. It may also indicate a visual
thinker who is looking at internal images.
Another alternative is where a person wants to A short, sharp nod can symbolize a head-butt,
focus on the sound and is thus averting the indicating the desire to strike the other
eyes in order to concentrate on the sound. person (this may be in emphasis or for other
reasons).

2
Shaking the head when saying something positive We may touch the side of the nose or stroke the
is a negative signal and may indicate the chin when we are thinking, making decisions and
person does not believe what they are saying. judging others.

Rotating Tapping the head can be self-punishment and


hence signal regret, for example tapping the
forehead with the heel of the hand ('I'm
Rotation of the head in a circle is a stupid!'). Note that, depending on context,
relatively rare gesture and may just be the this can also be a signal that somebody else is
person exercising a stiff neck (if they should considered stupid.
be paying attention, this may thus indicate
boredom).
The head is heavy and when tired we may prop it
up, either under the chin or at the side.
Turning the head away removes attention and Boredom makes us tired so propping the head may
thus may say 'I do not want to communicate with indicate this. Propping up the head also
you'. This can be very insulting as it denies happens when a person is thinking or
the existence of the other person. evaluating.

Turning the head slightly to the side points In some cultures, the head is considered the
the ear at the other person, perhaps better to part of the body that is most spiritual.
hear them. This is usually accompanied by Touching the head can be considered wrong in
continued eye contact and the hand may be such contexts.
cupped behind the ear.

signal possible detailed explanation


A slight head turn also puts one eye in the meanings
middle of your head as the other person sees head agreement Head nodding can occur when
it. To make eye contact they thus have to focus noddin invited for a response, or
on one eye. This can be very disconcerting and g voluntarily while listening.
this 'one-eye' gaze may be used as an act of Nodding is confusingly and
dominance (It may also be used in the act of rather daftly also referred to
as ‘head shaking up and down’.
'giving the evil eye'). Head nodding when talking face-
to-face one-to-one is easy to
A slight rotation on top of oscillation may see, but do you always detect
tiny head nods when addressing
indicate incomplete agreement or disagreement, or observing a group?
for example where a nod has a slight additional slow attentive This can be a faked signal. As
side-to-side movement, indicating primary or head listening with all body language signals
external agreement but with a certain amount of noddin you must look for clusters of
disagreement too (which may be significant if g signals rather than relying on
they feel coerced into agreement). one alone. Look at the focus of
eyes to check the validity of
slow head nodding.
Pointer fast hurry up, Vigorous head nodding signifies
head impatienc that the listener feels the
noddin e speaker has made their point or
We tend to point at people and things in which g taken sufficient time. Fast head
we are interested in some way. Pointing the nodding is rather like the
head and face at another person shows interest ‘wind-up’ hand gesture given
off-camera or off-stage by a
in them.
producer to a performer,
indicating ‘time’s up - get
In groups and meetings, you can often see power off’.
people as others often look at them. Likewise, head neutralit High head position signifies
held y, attentive listening, usually
the less significant people are not looked at up alertness with an open or undecided mind,
often. or lack of bias.
head superiori Especially if exhibited with
held ty, jutting chin.
We can also point with a twitch of the head in
high fearlessn
any given direction. Pointing at a person in ess,
this way without looking can be insulting and arrogance
can be subtle, for example where you do not head non- A signal of interest, and/or
want the indicated person is being pointed at. tilted threateni vulnerability, which in turn
to one ng, suggests a level of trust. Head
side submissiv tilting is thought by some to
Touching e, relate to ’sizing up’ something,
thoughtfu since tilting the head changes
lness the perspective offered by the
We can touch the head in many places. Touching eyes, and a different view is
the face is a common sign of anxiety and people seen of the other person or
tend to have preferred places they touch or subject. Exposing the neck is
stroke when they are concerned. This is a also a sign of trust.
classic pattern that poker players look for in head interest, Head forward in the direction of
forwar positive a person or other subject
other players as signs of having good or bad
d, reaction indicates interest. The rule
hands. uprigh also applies to a forward
t leaning upper body, commonly
sitting, but also standing,
Covering eyes, ears or mouth may say we do not where the movement can be a
want to see, hear or say something. distinct and significant

3
advancement into a closer although at times might lower to
personal space zone of the other look at the mouth, especially in
person. Head forward and upright male-female engagements.
is different to head tilted
downward.
head criticism Head tilted downwards towards a
tilted , person is commonly a signal of
downwa admonishm criticism or reprimand or
rd ent disapproval, usually from a 2. Face body language
position of authority.
head disagreem Sideways shaking of the head
shakin ent generally indicates The face has around 90 muscles in it, with
g disagreement, but can also about 30 of these purely for expressing
signal feelings of disbelief, emotion. It can thus be used to send many non-
frustration or exasperation. verbal signals, using its various features in
Obvious of course, but often concert.
ignored or missed where the
movement is small, especially in
groups seemingly reacting in Color
silent acceptance.
pronou strong The strength of movement of the
nced disagreem head usually relates to strength Red
head ent of feeling, and often to the
shakin force by which the head-shaker
g seeks to send this message to A generally red face may indicate that the
the receiver. This is an person is hot as the blood come to the to
immensely powerful signal and is surface to be cooled. They may heat up either
used intentionally by some from exercise or emotional arousal, for example
people to dominate others. when they are excited and energized.
head negative, Head down is generally a signal
down disintere of rejection (of someone’s ideas
(in sted etc), unless the head is down A red face is typical of a person who is angry.
respon for a purpose like reading This is a clear danger signal, warning the
se to supporting notes, etc. Head down
a when responding to criticism is
other person that they may be harmed if they do
speake a signal of failure, not back down.
r or vulnerability (hence seeking
propos protection), or feeling ashamed.
ition) People blush with embarrassment in various
head defeat, Lowering the head is a sign of ways. Some people's neck goes red. With others
down tiredness loss, defeat, shame, etc. Hence it is mostly the cheeks. Sometimes the whole
(while the expressions such as ‘don’t face goes red.
perfor let your head drop’, and ‘don’t
ming let your head go down’,
an especially in sports and White
activi competitive activities. Head
ty) down also tends to cause
shoulders and upper back to to White skin may be a sign of coldness as the
slump, increasing the signs of blood goes deep to avoid cooling further.
weakness at that moment.
chin pride, Very similar to the ‘head held
up defiance, high’ signal. Holding the chin White skin is also an indication of fear, often
confidenc up naturally alters the angle of extreme. This happens as the blood abandons a
e the head backwards, exposing the surface that might be cut, going to muscles
neck, which is a signal of where its power is needed more.
strength, resilience, pride,
resistance, etc. A pronounced
raised chin does other Blue
interesting things to the body
too - it tends to lift the
sternum (breast-bone), which The skin can also take on a bluish tinge. This
draws in air, puffing out the can also indicate coldness or extreme fear.
chest, and it widens the
shoulders. These combined
effects make the person stand Moisture
bigger. An exposed neck is also
a sign of confidence. ‘Chin up’
is for these reasons a long- Sweating is the body's natural cooling
standing expression used to
mechanism when it gets hot, possibly from
encourage someone to be brave.
excitement and emotional arousal.
active attention When people are listening
listen , actively and responsively this
ing interest, shows in their facial expression Sweat is also associated with fear, perhaps to
attractio and their head movements. The
n head and face are seen to
make the skin slippery and hence prevent an
respond fittingly and opponent from taking a firm grasp.
appropriately to what is being
said by the speaker. Nodding is
relevant to what is being said.
Emotions
Smiles and other expressions are
relevant too. The head may tilt
sideways. Mirroring of Here are some of the facial signals that you
expressions may occur. Silences might see for different emotions. Do note that
are used to absorb meaning. The these are only possible indicators: not all
eyes remain sharply focused on signals are needed and not all signals
the eyes of the speaker,

4
indicated here necessarily indicate the slightly pulled together
associated emotion. in middle or downwards at
edges; mouth turned down
at corners; head tilted to
Emotion Facial signals
side.
Anxiety Eyes damp; eyebrows Calm Relaxed facial muscles and
slightly pushed together; steady gaze with eyes.
trembling lower lip; chin Perhaps mouth turned up
possibly wrinkled; head slightly at sides in
slightly tilted down. gentle smile.
Fear Eyes wide, closed or
pointing down; raised
eyebrows; mouth open or
corners turned down; chin
pulled in; head down,
white face. 3. Cheek body language
Anger Eyes wide and staring;
eyebrows pulled down
(especially in middle); Cheeks can speak body language, although
wrinkled forehead; flared admittedly not very much.
nostrils; mouth flattened
or clenched teeth bared; In-out
jutting chin, red face.
Happiness Mouth smiling (open or
closed); possible Cheeks can be drawn in or blown out. When
laughter; crows-feet pulled in and particularly when linked with
wrinkles at sides of pursed lips, it indicates disapproval.
sparkling eyes; slightly
raised eyebrows; head Cheeks sucked in to the extent that the lower
level. lips curl can indicate pensiveness which may be
Sadness Eyes cast down and uncomfortable (look also for a furrowed brow).
possibly damp or tearful;
head down; lips pinched;
head down or to the side. When cheeks are blown out, this can signify
Envy Eyes staring; mouth uncertainty as to what to do next (watch also
corners turned down; nose for raised eyebrows and rounded eyes). This may
turned in sneer; chin be exaggerated by the person actually blowing
jutting. air from their mouth ('Pfoof - what do I do
Desire Eyes wide open with now??').
dilated pupils; slightly
raised eyebrows; lips
Blown out cheeks can also be a sign of
slightly parted or
exhaustion. If the person has been exercising
puckered or smiling; head
the face may also be red and sweaty.
tilted forward.
Interest Steady gaze of eyes at
item of interest (may be Redness
squinting); slightly
raised eyebrows; lips
slightly pressed together; Red cheeks is a classic sign of embarrassment.
head erect or pushed Watch for them becoming red (some people just
forward. have natural red cheeks). Red cheeks may also
Boredom Eyes looking away; face be a sign of anger. Watch here for other anger
generally immobile; signs, such as enlarged and staring eyes.
corners of mouth turned
down or lips pulled to the Cheeks pale when blood drains from them. This
side; head propped up with typically happens when a person is frightened
hand. as the blood is moved to the muscles in
Surprise Eyes wide open; eyebrows readiness to flee. Pale cheeks can also be a
raised high; mouth dropped sign of coldness.
wide open with consequent
lowered chin; head held
back or tilted to side. Internal
Relief Eyebrows tilted outwards
(lowered outer edges);
Chewing the inside of the cheek or mouth can be
mouth either tilted down
a hidden sign of nervousness and may indicate
or smiling; head tilted.
lying.
Disgust Eyes and head turned away;
nostrils flared; nose
twisted in sneer; mouth Pushing the tongue into the cheek can show
closed, possibly with pensiveness as the person thinks about
tongue protruding; chin something and tries to come to a decision.
jutting.
Shame Eyes and head turned down;
eyebrows held low; skin
blushing red.
Pity Eyes in extended gaze and
possibly damp; eyebrows

5
Touching Holding the chin also prevents the head from
moving and can signal that the person wants to
send a head signal but simultaneously does not
The cheek is a wide area that can be touched want to send the signal, for example when they
without obscuring any of the functional organs. emotionally agree and want to nod, but
Touching the cheek is often done in surprise or intellectually want more information so they
horror. A light touch, along with an open mouth can have good reason before they say yes.
that says 'Oooh' indicate light surprise.
Touching both cheeks with the flat of the palm
is an exaggeration of this and may indicate Beard
horror.
Beards and moustaches are sometimes
4. Chin body language controversial items, particularly in cultures
where being clean-shaven is the norm. A beard
may thus be an indicator of a non-conformist.
The chin, as with other corners of the face,
has its own body language.
A full beard is more likely to indicate a
person who has no vanity needs and is confident
Protecting and relaxed as they are. When the beard is
shaped and neatly clipped, it may indicate a
more vain and fussy person who is particular
The chin is vulnerable when fists are flying as
about how they appear and what they do.
a good upper-cut punch can knock you out. Even
more vulnerable than the chin is the throat,
where a predator might try to asphyxiate you or An unkempt beard that is left to grow wild may
worse. Holding in the chin protects both it and indicate an untidy mind or simply that the
the throat, and hence is a naturally defensive person is lazy. It may also point to a person
move that people use when they feel threatened. for whom external appearance is unimportant,
such as a university intellectual.
Holding the chin in also lowers the head, which
is a submissive gesture. This is distinct from Stroking a beard can be a preening gesture,
the defensive move as the head tilts down more symbolically making oneself look beautiful and
and the eyes are often largely downcast. This hence sending 'I'm gorgeous' signals.
can similarly be a shy or flirting gesture.
5. Mouth body language
Jutting

Generally speaking body orifices are not


The chin can be used as a subtle pointing terribly desirable as they can cause problems
device and a small flick of the head may give a such as being entries for disease or can be
small signal that only people in the know are snagged on passing bushes. The mouth is perhaps
likely to notice. the ultimate multi-function orifice as we use
it for communicating, breathing and eating.
Jutting out the chin towards a person exposes
it and says 'Go on, I dare you, try to hit me Emoting
and see what happens!' This can thus be a
signal of defiance, if not towards the other
person then instead towards some situation or The mouth is involved in the expression of many
person in the conversation. different emotions, from happiness to sadness,
from fear to disgust. In emoting, the lips play
a major role in creating visible shapes, with
Jutting may also exposes the teeth and is a able backup from the teeth and tongue.
thus a threat to bite which may be added to an
aggressive display.
Breathing
Pointing at a person with the finger is a
threatening act. Doing it briefly with the chin We usually breath through the nose, but when we
is more covert and can thus be an insult. need more oxygen we use the mouth to gulp in
greater amounts of air.
Touching
A person who is frightened or angry by the
fight-or-flight reaction may well open their
Stroking the chin is often a signal that the mouth to get more oxygen in preparation for
person is thinking hard. They may well be combat or running away. This may also involve
judging or evaluating something, particularly breathing faster (panting).
if the conversation has offered them a choice
or decision to make.
A hot person also pants hard. With typical the
red face, this can be mistaken for anger (or
The head is a heavy object and is often propped vice versa).
up by holding the chin in a cupped hand,
particularly when the person is tired and it
may drop. Boredom can make you sleepy and a Yawning is a process of taking a deep gulp of
hand under the chin may be done to stop an air as a quick 'pick-me-up' and often indicate
embarrassing drop of the head. a person who is tired or bored.

6
A short, deep, exhaling sigh, can indicate People who chew for a longer time may be
sadness, frustration or boredom. chewing on ideas at the same time.

Short inhalation, particularly in a sequence, When people slide their jaw sideways when they
can be like silent sobs and hence be an eat are grinding the food. this may also be
indicator of deep and suppressed sadness. pensive.

Slow, deep breathing, sometimes with slightly Drinking


parted lips, may indicate someone who is
relaxing or meditating. With closed eyes, they
are seldom aware of what is going on around As with eating, drinking may be done in a
them and this may be done as an escape. polite way, sipping smaller amounts and
swallowing noiselessly. It may also be done
with loud glugging and followed by equally
Speaking distasteful burping -- although again, in some
cultures this is a desirable expression of
pleasure.
The mouth sends additional signals when it is
speaking.
Someone who is slooshing their drink around
their mouth may well be thinking and deciding.
If the mouth moves little, perhaps including
incoherent mumbling, this may indicate an
unwillingness to speak, for example from Covering
shyness or from a fear of betraying themselves.
Sometimes the hand is used to cover the mouth.
A mouth that moves a lot during speech can In polite society, exposing the inside of your
indicate excitement or dominance as it sends mouth may be considered rude, so the hand is
clear signals that 'I am speaking, do not used to politely cover a yawn.
interrupt!'
The hand is also used to conceal the mouth when
Careful shaping of words can also indicate a it will betray emotions that may be
person with auditory preferences or a concern undesirable. Thus we put our hands over
for precision and neatness. impolite giggles and smirks. This may also be a
reason for hiding a yawn. We also cover the
Fast speakers are often visual thinkers who are open mouth of surprise and the downturned mouth
trying to get out what they are seeing. They of sadness.
may also be looking upwards.
Smiling
Slow speakers may be deep thinkers who are
being careful about finding the right words. Smiling indicates pleasure, either that you are
They may also have an auditory preference as generally happy and are enjoying the other
they carefully enunciate each word. person's company or that you are amused by
something in particular, such as a joke.
Eating
A full smile engages the whole face,
The mouth is also used for eating, and the way particularly including the eyes, which crease
people eat can tell things about them. and 'twinkle'.

A well-mannered person opens their mouth the Smiling with lips only is often falsehood,
minimum to put in a moderate amount of food and where the smiler wants to convey pleasure or
keeps it closed whilst carefully chewing each approval but is actually feeling something
mouthful. They also do not speak when they else. This false smile is known as the Duchenne
have food in their mouth. smile, after the scientists who first described
it in 1862. False smiles also tend to last for
longer.
On the other hand, an uncouth person gobbles
large mouthfuls and opens their mouth as they
chew and talk at the same time. A genuine smile is often asymmetric and usually
larger on the right side of the face. A false
smile may be more symmetrical or larger on the
In a curious reversal, snobbish gourmands who left side of the face.
take great pleasure in eating may do it noisily
as an expression of pleasure. This may also be
a cultural variable and in some places noisy Lowering the jaw to show a D-shaped mouth can
eating is not only acceptable but also be a false smile as it is easy to do. It may
desirable. also be a deliberate signal of amusement and
and an invitation to laugh.

People who chew smaller amounts at the front of


their mouth are like children whose molars have Smiling without opening the mouth, and
not developed and may be timid. particularly with lips firmly pressed together,
may indicate embarrassment about unsightly
teeth. It may also be a suppression of words

7
('I can see the funny side, but I'm not going may yawn more, or at least take some bigger
to comment.'). breaths.

A half-smile, on one side of the face, may signal part possible detailed explanation
indicate cynicism, sarcasm or uncertainty of meaning(s
('Sorry, I don't buy that idea.'). body )
pasted mout faked A pasted smile is one
smile h smile which appears quickly, is
Smiling is also a sign of submission as the fixed for longer than a
person effectively says 'I am nice and not a natural smile, and seems
threat'. not to extend to the
eyes. This typically
indicates suppressed
Smiling in some cultures indicates a question displeasure or forced
or that you want the other person to speak. agreement of some sort.
tight- mout secrecy Stretched across face in
lipped h or a straight line, teeth
Laughing smile withheld concealed. The smiler has
feelings a secret they are not
going to share, possibly
Beyond smiling, laughter shows greater pleasure due to dislike or
and happiness. Whilst smiling may happen over a distrust. Can also be a
rejection signal.
longer period, laughter is a relatively brief
twiste mout mixed Shows opposite emotions
affair, happening for a few seconds. d h feelings on each side of the face.
smile or
sarcasm
There are many variants on laughter and we all
droppe mout faked More of a practised fake
laugh differently, from the suppressed titter d-jaw h smile smile than an instinctive
to the loud and uproarious belly-laugh. Louder smile one. The jaw is dropped
and less suppressed laughter may indicate lower than in a natural
someone who is less self-conscious. It may also smile, the act of which
be used by a person who is trying to gain creates a smile.
attention. smile mout playfulne Head tilted sideways and
- head h ss, downwards so as to part
tilted teasing, hide the face, from which
In general, women laugh at men they like whilst , coy the smile is directed via
men like women who laugh at them ('It's lookin the eyes at the intended
working! She likes me.'). This can lead to a g up target.
satisfying bonding mechanism. bottom mout upset Like rubbing eyes can be
lip h an adult version of
juttin crying, so jutting or
'Funny' often gets equated to 'nice' and g out pushing the bottom lip
'harmless' and the use of humor thus can a way forward is a part of the
crying face and impulse.
of sending friendship signals. Laughing at
Bear in mind that people
risqué jokes is a sign of acceptance of the cry for reasons of
other person (the alternative is to criticize genuine upset, or to
or otherwise censure them). avert attack and seek
sympathy or kind
treatment.
Laughing and smiling at the misfortune of laught mout relaxatio Laughter deserves a
others is often socially unacceptable although er h n section in its own right
we often find this funny (Germans call this because its such an
'schadenfreude'). In such cases you may see interesting area. In
suppressed grins and giggles as the person terms of body language
tries desperately to hide their feeling of genuine laughter is a
sign of relaxation and
amusement. Laughs, for example may get feeling at ease. Natural
disguised as coughs and the person may turn laughter can extend to
away to hide their expression. all the upper body or
whole body. The
physiology of laughter is
Yawning significant. Endorphins
are released. Pain and
stress reduces. Also
Yawning is opening the mouth wide and gulping vulnerabilities show and
in a large quantity of air. We do it when we can become more visible
are tired and blood oxygen is low. because people’s guard
drops when laughing.
forced mout nervousne Unnatural laughter is
Boredom can indicated by yawning, signalling laught h ss, often a signal of
that the other person is so uninteresting they er cooperati nervousness or stress, as
are sending us to sleep, which makes it often on an effort to dispel
impolite (also because it shows the inside of tension or change the
atmosphere. Artificial
the body). This results often in the yawn being
laughter is a signal of
covered with the hand or concealed such as by cooperation and a wish to
turning the head or holding the mouth more maintain empathy.
closed than it actually want to be. biting mout tension One of many signals
lip h suggesting tension or
stress, which can be due
The gulping of air in yawning can also be in to high concentration,
preparation for action and a stressed person but more likely to be
anxiousness.

8
teeth mout tension, Inwardly-directed
grindi h suppressi ‘displacement’ sign, due
ng on to suppression of natural
reaction due to fear or 6. Lips body language
other suppressant.
chewin mout tension, As above - an inwardly-
g gum h suppressi directed ‘displacement’ Lips can say a lot of things without words. Our
on sign, due to suppression muscles around them mean we can shape them with
of natural reaction. incredibly fine control. Lipstick is used to
Otherwise however can draw attention to the lips, thus exaggerating
simply be to freshen
breath, or as a smoking
further the signals sent by them.
replacement.
smokin mout self- Smoking obviously becomes Parted
g h comfortin habitual and addictive,
g but aside from this
people put things into Lips which are slightly parted can be a strong
their mouths because it’s
comforting like thumb-
flirting signal, particularly if the lips are
sucking is to a child, in then licked and even more so if done whilst
turn rooted in baby holding the gaze of another person.
experiences of feeding
and especially
breastfeeding. Parting lips is the first stage in speaking and
chewin mout self- Like smoking and infant may thus be a signal that the person wants to
g pen h comfortin thumbsucking. The pen is talk.
or g the teat. Remember that
pencil next time you chew the
end of your pen… Pursed
pursin mout thoughtfu As if holding the words
g lips h lness, or in the mouth until they
upset are ready to be released. Lips which are pulled inwards from all
Can also indicate directions are an indication of tension and may
anxiousness or impatience indicate frustration or disapproval.
at not being able to
speak. Or quite
differently can indicate Pursed lips are a classic sign of anger,
upset, as if suppressing including when it is suppressed. It is
crying. effectively holding the mouth shut to prevent
tongue mout disapprov The tongue extends the person saying what they feel like saying.
poke h / al, briefly and slightly at
tong rejection the centre of the mouth
ue as if tasting something Puckered
nasty. The gesture may be
extremely subtle. An
extreme version may be A light puckering of the lips into a kiss shape
accompanied by a typically indicates desire. It can also
wrinkling of the nose,
and a squint of the eyes.
indicate uncertainty, particularly if the lips
hand mout suppressi Often an unconscious
are touched with the fingers.
clampe h / on, gesture of self-
d over hand holding regulation - stopping
When you say 'oo', the lips form the kiss
mouth s back, speech for reasons of
shock shock, embarrassment, or shape. This is one reason that romantic songs
for more tactical often linger on words like 'you' and 'too'.
reasons. The gesture is
reminiscent of the ’speak
no evil’ wise monkey. The Flattened
action can be observed
very clearly in young
children when they Lips which are kept horizontal but squeezed
witness something flat are an exaggerated closing of the mouth
‘unspeakably’ naughty or and hence indicate a repressed desire to speak.
shocking. Extreme This indicate disapproval ('If I spoke I would
versions of the same be very critical, which I do not want to be').
effect would involve both It can also indicate frustration ('I want to
hands.
speak, but others are speaking and I feel I
nail mout frustrati Nail-biting is an
biting h / on, inwardly-redirected should wait').
hand suppressi aggression borne of fear,
s on or some other suppression
of behaviour. Later nail-
Flattened lips can also indicate a refusal to
biting becomes reinforced eat, either because of dislike of offered food
as a comforting habit, or some other motivation.
again typically prompted
by frustration or fear.
Stress in this context is Turned up
an outcome. Stress
doesn’t cause nail-
biting; nail-biting is When the corners of the mouth are turned
the outward demonstration upwards, this can be a grimace of disgust or a
of stress. The cause of smile of pleasure. In a grimace, the teeth are
the stress can be various unlikely to be shown (although toothless smiles
things (stressors). See are also common). Grimaces are often flatter
the stress article for
and tenser.
more detail about stress.

9
A full smile engages the whole face, The bottom lip jutting out is often a part of a
particularly including the eyes. Smiling with sulky pout, where the person expresses child-
lips only is often falsehood, where the smiler like petulance at not getting their own way.
wants to convey pleasure or approval but is
actually feeling something else.
Both lips pressed together and pushed out
generally indicates doubt. If the finger
Turned down touches them, it may indicate internal thinking
or may say 'I am considering speaking but am
not quite ready to talk yet'.
Corners of the mouth turned down indicates
sadness or displeasure.
Biting
Some people are so miserable so often, this is
the natural state of rest of their mouths Biting the lip, centrally or at the side, is
(which is perhaps rather sad). often a sign of anxiety. Usually, this is the
bottom lip (especially if the person has
overhanging top teeth). This may be a habitual
Retracted
action and people who do this, will often
repeat the move in predictable situations.
When the lips are pulled back, they expose the
teeth. This may be in a broad smile or it may This is a fairly child-like action, especially
be a snarl of aggression. The eyes should tell if accompanied by wide eyes and eyebrows raised
you which is which. In a snarl, the eyes are in the middle and lowered at the sides, and
either narrowed or staring. In a full smile, thus may betray concern about being told off or
the corners of the eyes are creased. otherwise being censured in the manner of a
child.
Moving
Relaxed
Lips which are moving in the shape of words but
without making sounds means that the person is Finally, the lips will have a position of rest
thinking of saying the words. This when they are not pulled in any direction. This
subvocalization often happens with very small usually indicates that the person is also
movement and is often completely subconscious. feeling relaxed.
Stage mentalists use this when they ask their
'victims' to think hard of a word and then lip-
read as they silently sound the word. 7. Teeth body language

Up and down movement may indicate chewing. Some There's not a lot of body language with teeth,
people chew the insides of their mouths when but this is a complete section, so here's
they are nervous. details.

Rolling in the lips so they roll across one Biting


another can be a preening gesture for women,
evening out lipstick. It can also be a sign of
uncertainty or disapproval (look for Teeth are made to bite, tear and grind.
accompanying lowered eyebrows). Exposing the teeth in a snarl is saying 'I am
thinking of biting you' and is hence a
primitive and potentially scary threat.
Twitching

Actual biting is rare, but indicates the person


Small, lightning-fast movements of the mouth has been reduced to a base position and is
betray inner thoughts, for example a single probably not thinking rationally.
twitch of the corner of the mouth that
indicates cynicism or disbelief.
Biting can also be affectionate, for example
where lovers chew the other person's lip or
Liars in particular will often give themselves ear. This can create arousal from the basic
away with very brief grimaces as their fear instinct but the person knows from the
conscience expresses disapproval of the context that they are not in danger and hence
conscious lies. reframes the arousal as pleasure. Gentle biting
also stimulates nerve receptors and is thus
Protruding similar to touch.

Young animals at play pretend to bite one


When the top lip is over the bottom lip, this another as they prepare for adulthood. When
may be linked with biting of the bottom lip, a people play with friends they may also expose
common indicator that the person is feeling their teeth.
guilty about something.

The bottom lip extended over the top lip can


indicate uncertainty, as if the person is
saying 'umm'.

10
Smiling Lip-licking may indicate desire, perhaps for
another person and perhaps for food. Usually it
is for what is in front of the licker.
Exposing the teeth in smiling tends to indicate
extreme pleasure. People who are self-conscious
and particularly if their teeth are not that As a deliberate signal to others it can be
attractive may try not to show their teeth when sexually enticing, saying 'I would like to like
smiling. you'. As such, it can be very arousing,
particularly when done slowly and with other
flirting signals such as a slightly lowered
Noise head and steady gaze.

Teeth can make a noise when banged or slid Licking another person can be extremely
together. Chattering teeth may indicate extreme arousing and is typically done either as a part
fear and is usually accompanied by shaking of of foreplay or as a quick tease.
the body. This may also indicate extreme
coldness.
Biting it

Grinding teeth can indicate suppressed anger or


frustration as the person tensely tries not to Biting the tongue typically indicates that the
speak. biter wants to say something but somehow feels
unable or unwilling to say what they want,
perhaps for fear of offending or breaking
Light tapping of the teeth can be mild social rules.
frustration or thinking (it is similar in
effect to tapping of a finger).
Inside the mouth
As with other repetitive action, teeth noise
can also just be habit. With mouth closed and tongue inside the mouth,
you can still sometimes see what it is doing.
Pressed against the cheek it can indicate
Tapping
thinking and uncertainty. Pushed in front of
the teeth, pushing out the lips, can also
Sometimes people tap their teeth with their indicate uncertainty.
nails, making a noise that echoes in the mouth.
This can signal thinking or boredom. It may
also be a deliberate interruption or irritant,
9. Nose body language
although this is less likely.
The nose, which is right in the middle of the
face, can send a certain amount of body
8. Tongue body language language.

The tongue is normally important in spoken body Flared


language. In practice it can also send some
body language non-verbal signals.
When the nostrils are widened it allows more
air to be breathed in and out and readies the
Sticking out
person for combat. In a related sense, this can
indicate the person is experiencing extreme
A deliberate gesture of sticking out the tongue displeasure.
at a person is impolite, although considered
rather childish and thus reflects as much on Flared nostrils may also indicate that the
the person doing it. The gesture thus appears person is making an internal judgment about
petulant unless it is done in an amusingly something.
cheeky way. The rest of the face should
indicate more of the intent. Cheeky tongue-
poking is often followed by a smile or Wrinkled
laughter.
The nose can be wrinkled by pushing up from the
Sticking out the tongue also can happen when mouth. This happens when a bad smell is
the person is trying hard to do something. When detected. It can also appear with a metaphoric
this happens it traditionally appears at the bad smell is thought about, for example when
side of the mouth. somebody else suggests a distasteful idea (see:
even language uses bad-taste metaphor!).
Another variation is when the person is
When people are talking in romantic setting,
thinking about something but is not satisfied
sticking out the tongue can be a sign of lust.
with their own ideas.

Licking
Sniffing

The tongue can be used to lick. By oneself,


Aside from when a person has a cold, sniffing
pretty much the only thing the tongue can lick
can indicate displeasure or disgust. This may
is the lips (although a more hidden way of this
is licking the teeth).

11
also happen on one side, with the mouth judgemental, especially when combined with a
twitching up as well. frown.

Touching it Looking down

Touching the nose can indicate that the person Looking at a person can be an act of power and
has detected a bad smell. It is also common domination. Looking down involves not looking
signal from a person who is not telling the at the other person, which hence may be a sign
truth. of submission ('I am not a threat, really;
please do not hurt me. You are so glorious I
would be dazzled if I looked at you.')
When a person lies, blood vessels in their nose
may dilate, making the nose swell or appear
redder. This also may lead to them touching or Looking down can thus be a signal of
scratching the nose. submission. It can also indicate that the
person is feeling guilty.
Rubbing the finger alongside the nose can
indicate disagreement. A notable way that a lower person looks down at
a higher person is by tilting their head back.
Even taller people may do this.
Pinching the bridge of the nose can show the
person is evaluating something, usually
negatively and with some frustration. Looking down and to the left can indicate that
they are talking to themselves (look for slight
movement of the lips). Looking down and to the
Fiddling with the nose or pressing it down can
right can indicate that they are attending to
just be a habit when the person is thinking.
internal emotions.

10. Eyes body language In many cultures where eye contact is a rude or
dominant signal, people will look down when
talking with others in order to show respect.
A.
Looking sideways
The eyes are often called, with some
justification, 'the windows of the soul' as
they can send many different non-verbal Much of our field of vision is in the
signals. horizontal plane, so when a person looks
sideways, they are either looking away from
For reading body language this is quite useful what is in front of them or looking towards
as looking at people's eyes are a normal part something that has taken their interest.
of communication (whilst gazing at other parts
of the body can be seen as rather rude). A quick glance sideways can just be checking
the source of a distraction to assess for
Looking up threat or interest. It can also be done to show
irritation ('I didn't appreciate that
comment!').
When a person looks upwards they are often
thinking. In particular they are probably Looking to the left can indicate a person
making pictures in their head and thus may well recalling a sound. Looking to the right can
be an indicator of a visual thinker. indicate that they are imagining the sound. As
with visual and other movements, this can be
When they are delivering a speech or reversed and may need checking against known
presentation, looking up may be their recalling truth and fabrication.
their prepared words.
Lateral movement
Looking upwards and to the left can indicate
recalling a memory. Looking upwards and the
right can indicate imaginative construction of Eyes moving from side-to-side can indicate
a picture (which can hence betray a liar). Be shiftiness and lying, as if the person is
looking for an escape route in case they are
careful with this: sometimes the directions are
reversed -- if in doubt, test the person by found out.
asking them to recall known facts or imagine
something. Lateral movement can also happen when the
person is being conspiratorial, as if they are
Looking up may also be a signal of boredom as checking that nobody else is listening.
the person examines the surroundings in search
of something more interesting. Eyes may also move back and forth sideways (and
sometimes up and down) when the person is
visualizing a big picture and is literally
Head lowered and eyes looking back up at the
other person is a coy and suggestive action as looking it over.
it combines the head down of submission with
eye contact of attraction. It can also be

12
Gazing Making eye contact

Looking at something shows an interest in it, Looking at a person acknowledges them and shows
whether it is a painting, a table or a person. that you are interested in them, particularly
if you look in their eyes.
When looking at a person normally, the gaze is
usually at eye level or above (see eye contact, Looking at a person's eyes also lets you know
below). The gaze can also be a defocused where they are looking. We are amazingly good
looking at the general person. at detecting what they are looking at and can
detect even a brief glance at parts of our
body, for example.
Looking at a person's mouth can indicate that
you would like to kiss them. Looking at sexual
regions indicates a desire to have sexual If a person says something when you are looking
relations with them. away and then you make eye contact, then this
indicates they have grabbed your attention.
Looking up and down at a whole person is
usually sizing them up, either as a potential Breaking eye contact
threat or as a sexual partner (notice where the
gaze lingers). This can be quite insulting and
hence indicate a position of presumed Prolonged eye contact can be threatening, so in
dominance, as the person effectively says 'I am conversation we frequently look away and back
more powerful than you, your feelings are again.
unimportant to me and you will submit to my
gaze'. Breaking eye contact can indicate that
something that has just been said that makes
Looking at their forehead or not at them the person not want to sustain eye contact, for
indicates disinterest. This may also be shown example that they are insulted, they have been
by defocused eyes where the person is 'inside found out, they feel threatened, etc. This can
their head' thinking about other things. also happen when the person thinks something
that causes the same internal discomfort.

It is difficult to conceal a gaze as we are


particularly adept at identifying exactly where Looking at a person, breaking eye contact and
other people are looking. This is one reason then looking immediately back at them is a
why we have larger eye whites than animals, as classic flirting action, particularly with the
it aids complex communication. head held coyly low in suggested submission.

Eye contact in many cultures is considered Long eye contact


dominant or rude.
Eye contact longer than normal can have several
Glancing different meanings.

Glancing at something can betray a desire for Eye contact often increases significantly when
that thing, for example glancing at the door we are listening, and especially when we are
can indicate a desire to leave. paying close attention to what the other person
is saying. Less eye contact is used when
talking, particularly by people who are visual
Glancing at a person can indicate a desire to thinkers as they stare into the distance or
talk with them. It can also indicate a concern upwards as they 'see' what they are talking
for that person's feeling when something is about.
said that might upset them.
We also look more at people we like and like
Glancing may indicate a desire to gaze at people who look at us more. When done with doe
something or someone where it is forbidden to eyes and smiles, it is a sign of attraction.
look for a prolonged period. Lovers will stare into each others eyes for a
long period. Attraction is also indicated by
Eye contact looking back and forth between the two eyes, as
if we are desperately trying to determine if
they are interested in us too.
Doe eyes

An attraction signal that is more commonly used


A softening of the eyes, with relaxing of by women is to hold the other person's gaze for
muscles around the eye and a slight defocusing about three seconds, Then look down for a
as the person tries to take in the whole person second or two and then look back up again (to
is sometimes called doe eyes, as it often see if they have taken the bait). If the other
indicates sexual desire, particularly if the person is still looking at them, they are
gaze is prolonged and the pupils are dilated rewarded with a coy smile or a slight widening
(see below). The eyes may also appear shiny. of the eyes ('Yes, this message is for you!').

When done without blinking, contracted pupils


and an immobile face, this can indicate

13
domination, aggression and use of power. In It can similarly indicate uncertainty ('I
such circumstances a staring competition can cannot quite see what is meant here.')
ensue, with the first person to look away
admitting defeat.
Squinting can also be used by liars who do not
want the other person to detect their
Prolonged eye contact can be disconcerting. A deception.
trick to reduce stress from this is to look at
the bridge of their nose. They will think you
When a person thinks about something and does
are still looking in their eyes.
not want to look at the internal image, they
may involuntarily squint.
Sometimes liars, knowing that low eye contact
is a sign of lying, will over-compensate and
Squinting can also happen when lights or the
look at you for a longer than usual period.
sun are bright.
Often this is done without blinking as they
force themselves into this act. They may smile
with the mouth, but not with the eyes as this Lowering of eyelids is not really a squint but
is more difficult. can have a similar meaning. It can also
indicate tiredness.
Limited eye contact
Lowering eyelids whilst still looking at the
other person can be a part of a romantic and
When a person makes very little eye contact, suggestive cluster, and may be accompanied with
they may be feeling insecure. They may also be tossing back the head and slightly puckering
lying and not want to be detected. the lips in a kiss.

Staring Blinking

Staring is generally done with eyes wider than Blinking is a neat natural process whereby the
usual, prolonged attention to something and eyelids wipe the eyes clean, much as a
with reduced blinking. It generally indicates windscreen wiper on a car.
particular interest in something or someone.

Blink rate tends to increase when people are


Staring at a person can indicate shock and thinking more. This can be an indication of
disbeliefs, particularly after hearing lying as the liar has to keep thinking about
unexpected news. what they are saying. Realizing this, they may
also force their eyes open and appear to stare.
When the eyes are defocused, the person's
attention may be inside their head and what Blinking can also indicate rapport, and people
they are staring at may be of no significance. who are connected often blink at the same rate.
(Without care, this can become quite Someone who is listening carefully to you is
embarrassing for them). more likely to blink when you pause (keeping
eyes open to watch everything you say).
Prolonged eye contact can be aggressive,
affectionate or deceptive and is discussed Beyond natural random blinking, a single blink
further above. Staring at another's eyes is can signal surprise that the person does not
usually more associated with aggressive action. quite believe what they see ('I'll wipe my eyes
clean to better see').
Following
Rapid blinking blocks vision and can be an
The eyes will naturally follow movement of any arrogant signal, saying 'I am so important, I
kind. If the person is looking at something of do not need to see you'.
interest then they will naturally keep looking
at this. They also follow neutral or feared Rapid blinking also flutters the eyelashes and
things in case the movement turns into a can be a coy romantic invitation.
threat.
Winking
This is used when sales people move something
like a pen or finger up and down, guiding where
the customer looks, including to eye contact Closing one eye in a wink is a deliberate
and to parts of the product being sold. gesture that often suggests conspiratorial
('You and I both understand, though others do
not').
Squinting

Winking can also be a slightly suggestive


Narrowing of a person's eyes can indicate greeting and is reminiscent of a small wave of
evaluation, perhaps considering that something the hand ('Hello there, gorgeous!').
told to them is not true (or at least not fully
so).

14
Closing Pupils dilate also when it is darker to let in
more light (perhaps this is why clubs and bars
are so dingy!).
Closing the eyes shuts out the world. This can
mean 'I do not want to see what is in front of
me, it is so terrible'. The reverse of this is that pupils contract
when we do not like the other person, perhaps
in an echo of squint-like narrowing of the
Sometimes when people are talking they close eyes.
their eyes. This is an equivalent to turning
away so eye contact can be avoided and any
implied request for the other person to speak Rubbing
is effectively ignored.
When a person is feeling uncomfortable, the
Visual thinkers may also close their eyes, eyes may water a little. To cover this and try
sometimes when talking, so they can better see to restore an appropriate dryness, they person
the internal images without external may rub their eye and maybe even feign
distraction. tiredness or having something in the eye. This
also gives the opportunity to turn the head
away.
Damp

The rubbing may be with one finger, with a


The tear ducts provide moisture to the eyes, finger and thumb (for two eyes) or with both
both for washing them and for tears. hands. The more the coverage, the more the
person is trying to hide behind the hands.
Damp eyes can be suppressed weeping, indicating
anxiety, fear or sadness. It can also indicate
that the person has been crying recently.
B.

Dampness can also occur when the person is Our eyes are a very significant aspect of the
non-verbal signals we send to others.
tired (this may be accompanied by redness of
the eyes.
To a lesser or greater extent we all ‘read’
Tears people’s eyes without knowing how or why, and
this ability seems to be inborn.

Actual tears that roll down the cheeks are Eyes - and especially our highly developed
often a symptom of extreme fear or sadness, awareness of what we see in other people’s eyes
although paradoxically you can also weep tears - are incredible.
of joy.

Eyes tend to look right when the brain is


Weeping can be silent, with little expression imagining or creating, and left when the brain
other than the tears (indicating a certain is recalling or remembering. This relates to
amount of control). It also typically involves right and left sides of the brain - in this
screwing up of the face and, when emotions are context broadly the parts of the brain handling
extreme, can be accompanied by uncontrollable, creativity/feelings (right) and facts/memory
convulsive sobs. (left). This is analysed in greater detail
below. Under certain circumstances ‘creating’
Men in many culture are not expected to cry and can mean fabrication or lying, especially (but
learn to suppress this response, not even being not always - beware), when the person is
able to cry when alone. Even if their eyes feel supposed to be recalling facts. Looking right
damp they may turn away. when stating facts does not necessarily mean
lying - it could for example mean that the
person does not know the answer, and is talking
Tears and sadness may be transformed into hypothetically or speculating or guessing.
anger, which may be direct at whoever is
available.
signal possible detailed explanation
meaning(s)
Pupil size looking creating, Creating here is basically
right fabricatin making things up and saying
(general g, them. Depending on context
A subtle signal that is sometimes detected only ly) guessing, this can indicate lying, but
subconsciously and is seldom realized by the lying, in other circumstances, for
sender is where the pupil gets larger (dilates) storytelli example, storytelling to a
or contracts. ng child, this would be
perfectly normal. Looking
right and down indicates
Sexual desire is a common cause of pupil accessing feelings, which
dilation, and is sometimes called 'bedroom again can be a perfectly
genuine response or not,
eyes' (magazine pictures sometimes have
depending on the context, and
deliberately doctored eyes to make a model look to an extent the person.
more attractive). When another person's eyes looking recalling, Recalling and and then
dilate we may be attracted further to them and left rememberin stating ‘facts’ from memory
our eyes dilate in return. Likewise, when their (general g, in appropriate context often
pupils are small, ours may well contract also. ly) retrieving equates to telling the truth.

15
‘facts’ Whether the ‘facts’ upset, in which the action
(memories) are correct is relates to crying, or
another matter. Left downward tiredness, which can be due
looking indicates silent boredom, not necessarily a
self-conversation or self- need for sleep. If the signal
talk, typically in trying to is accompanied by a long
arrive at a view or decision. pronounced blink, this tends
looking visual Related to imagination and to support the tiredness
right imagining, creative (right-side) parts interpretation.
and up fabricatio of the brain, this upwards eye frustratio An upward roll of the eyes
n, lying right eye-movement can be a shrug n signals frustration or
warning sign of fabrication exasperation, as if looking
if a person is supposed to be to the heavens for help.
recalling and stating facts. pupils attraction The pupil is the black centre
looking imagining Sideways eye movements are dilated , desire of the eye which opens or
right sounds believed to indicate (enlarge closes to let in more or less
sideways imagining (right) or d) light. Darkness causes pupils
recalling (left) sounds, to dilate. So too, for some
which can include for example reason does seeing something
a person imagining or appealing or attractive. The
fabricating what another cause of the attraction
person has said or could say. depends on the situation. In
looking accessing This is a creative signal but the case of sexual attraction
right feelings not a fabrication - it can the effect can be mutual -
and down signal that the person is dilated pupils tend to be
self-questioning their more appealing sexually that
feelings about something. contracted ones, perhaps
Context particularly- and because of an instinctive
other signals - are important association with darkness,
for interpreting more night-time, bedtime, etc.,
specific meaning about this although the origins of this
signal. effect are unproven. Resist
looking recalling Related to accessing memory the temptation to imagine
left and images in the brain, rather than that everyone you see with
up truthfulne creating or imagining. A dilated pupils is sexually
ss reassuring sign if signalled attracted to you.
when the person is recalling blinking excitement Normal human blink rate is
and stating facts. frequent , pressure considered to be between six
looking recalling Looking sideways suggests ly and twenty times a minute,
left or sounds; looking left suggests depending on the expert.
sideways rememberin recalling or remembering - Significantly more than this
g sounds not fabricating or imagining. is a sign of excitement or
This therefore could indicate pressure. Blink rate can
recalling what has been said increase to up to a hundred
by another person. times a minute. Blink rate is
looking self- Thinking things through by not a reliable sign of lying.
left talking, self-talk - concerning an blinking various Infrequent blink rate can
down rationaliz outward view, rather than the infreque mean different things and so
ing inward feelings view ntly offers no single clue unless
indicated by downward right combined with other signals.
looking. An infrequent blink rate is
direct honesty - Direct eye contact is probably due to boredom if
eye or faked generally regarded as a sign the eyes are not focused, or
contact honesty of truthfulness, however can be the opposite -
(when practised liars know this and concentration - if
speaking will fake the signal. accompanied with a strongly
) focused gaze. Infrequent
blink rate can also be
direct attentiven Eyes which stay focused on
accompanied by signals of
eye ess, the speakers eyes, tend to
hostility or negativity, and
contact interest, indicate focused interested
is therefore not the most
(when attraction attention too, which is
revealing of body language
listenin normally a sign of attraction
signals.
g) to the person and/or the
subject. eyebrow greeting, Quickly raising and lowering
raising recognitio the eyebrows is called an
widening interest, Widening the eyes generally
(eyebrow n, ‘eyebrow flash’. It is a
eyes appeal, signals interest in something
‘flash’) acknowledg common signal of greeting and
invitation or someone, and often invites
ement acknowledgement, and is
positive response. Widened
perhaps genetically
eyes with raised eyebrows can
influenced since it is
otherwise be due to shock,
prevalent in monkeys (body
but aside from this, widening
language study does not sit
eyes represents an opening
entirely happily alongside
and welcoming expression. In
creationism). Fear and
women especially widened eyes
surprise are also signalled
tend to increase
by the eyebrow flash, in
attractiveness, which is
which case the eyebrows
believed by some body
normally remain raised for
language experts to relate to
longer, until the initial
the eye/face proportions of
shock subsides.
babies, and the associated
signals of attraction and winking friendly Much fuss was made in May
prompting urges to protect acknowledg 2007 when George W Bush
and offer love and care, etc. ement, winked at the Queen. The fuss
complicity was made because a wink is
rubbing disbelief, Rubbing eyes or one eye can
(e.g., quite an intimate signal,
eye or upset, or indicate disbelief, as if
sharing a directed exclusively from one
eyes tiredness checking the vision, or
secret or person to another, and is

16
joke) associated with male Middle-lowered
flirting. It is strange that
a non-contact wink can carry
more personal implications When the middle of the eyebrows are pulled down
than a physical handshake, so they slope inwards, this often shows that
and in many situations more the person is angry or frustrated. It can also
than a kiss on the cheek. A
indicate intense concentration.
wink is given additional
spice if accompanied by a
click of the tongue. Not many Oscillating
people can carry it off.
Additionally - and this was
partly the sense in which
When we see people we know, we often give a
Bush used it - a wink can
signal a shared joke or quick up-down flash of the eyebrows in
secret. recognition and greeting. This is a common
signal across all primates, including monkeys
and gorillas.

Rapid and repeated up and down movement may be


11. Eyebrow body language an exaggerated signal, meaning 'Well how about
that then!', in the way that Groucho Marx used
it.
Eyebrows can send body language. Being near the
eyes, which are the major senders of signals,
they are highly visible communicators, although 12. Forehead body language
the limited control of muscles around them can
limit what they say.
The forehead has its place in body language
communications, often as a part of a wider set
Lowered of signals. It is near the eyes and can be
looked at without sending other signals (for
example looking the mouth can say 'I want to
Lowering the eyebrows conceals the eyes to a
kiss you'), which can make even small movements
certain degree. Particularly with a lowered
with it reliably observed and hence
head, this can thus indicate deception or a
significant. Its main limitation is that it can
desire that eye signals are harder to see.
only make a few movements.

Lowered eyebrows may also indicate annoyance,


Wrinkling
perhaps effectively saying 'I am so displeased,
I do not want to look at you.' Related to this,
lowered eyebrows are a sign of a dominant Wrinkling the forehead is often connected with
person. movement of the eyebrows, particularly upwards,
and hence acts as an amplifier of these
Raised signals. Raised eyebrows (and wrinkled
forehead) indicates surprise or questioning.

When a person is surprised, their eyebrows are Sweating


often raised. This typically happens as a part
of opening the eyes wider, perhaps to see more
clearly what is going on. The more the We often sweat more from the forehead than
surprise. the higher the eyebrows are raised. other parts of the body, making it significant
in sending moisture-related signals.
Raising the eyebrows can also signal a
question. When as question is asked and the Sweating can occur when we are hot, which can
eyebrows raised afterwards, this is a clear come from external temperature, exercise and
invitation to answer the question. also inner energy and arousal.

Opposite to the dominant lowering of eyebrows, A cold sweat can indicate extreme fear and may
raising eyebrows is may be a submissive move or be accompanied by damp eyes.
indicate openness, as it lets the other person
see your eyes ('I am not looking where I should
not!'). Touching

Raising a single eyebrow is something that only Wiping the forehead can be to remove sweat. It
some people can do and can be a bit more wry in typically indicates relief and can be a
its meaning, for example asking 'Are you sure?' deliberate exaggeration. It can also indicate
when the other person appears to be talking fear, even when the person is not sweating.
with limited accuracy.
Touching the forehead happens in the greeting
Middle-raised of a salute. This is effectively shading the
eyes and says 'You are so wonderful I am
dazzled by your brilliance.'
By pushing together the eyebrows and pulling up
the forehead, the eyebrows can be made to slope
outwards. This can indicate relief ('Whew!').
It can also indicate anxiety ('Oh no!').

17
Slowly rubbing the forehead can indicate deep be a rebellion against womanhood, for example
thinking, as if the person was massaging their when they have been mistreated by other women
brain to get it going. when they were young.

Rubbing the temples either side can indicate Tossing


stress as the person tries to massage away the
actual or implicit headache.
Tossing the head throws the hair backwards
(actually or virtually), drawing attention to
The forehead may also be touched as a part of a it. It can thus be a romantic gesture ('Hey,
propping up the head, typically with the thumb guys, wouldn't you like to stroke my gorgeous
touching the side of the face. long, blonde hair!').

Tapping the forehead with an open palm or light Throwing long hair back also exposes the face,
fist says 'Gosh, how stupid I am!' which may be an invitation, opening the doors
to communication. It can also be an aggressive
act as the person now gives you more unwanted
13. Hair body language attention.

The hair is a part of the body and hence is Touching


used in various ways for communication.

Stroking the hair is a preening gesture, which


Appearance
can be deliberate checking that it is perfectly
coiffed or an invitation to stroke also.
Hair can be cut and shaped into a wide range of
styles which contributes to the overall image Playing with the hair is particularly
and hence sends non-verbal signals. flirtatious and invites the other person to do
this for you.
A conventional and tidy cut indicates a
conventional person who follows basic social
rules.

Well-styled hair can indicate a desire to be


attractive and so get the approval and
admiration of others.

Men

Conventionally, men usually have a very limited


social style, with hair cut reasonably short.

Very short hair may signal aggression, perhaps


echoing army crew cuts. It has also been used
by 'skinheads' and is popular with club
bouncers and other 'heavies'.

Long male hair is typical of young 'drop-outs'


(or those who would like to, but cannot afford
it :). When unkempt it can show a lack of care
and perhaps lower self-esteem. Longer hair can
also be a sign of rebellion and assertion of
identity.

Women

Women are socially permitted to wear a much


wider range of styles, probably to attract men
(and compete with other women in this).

Long hair frames the face and may partially


cover it, teasing about the beauty behind this
curtain. Particularly when covering the eyes,
long hair over the face provides a barrier
behind which the woman can hide, perhaps when
she has lower confidence or self-esteem.

When women cut their hair short, it can


indicate a desire to be male, like a man or
perhaps to be unattractive to men. It may also

18
Crossing
2. ARMS
Arms can act as the doorway to the body and the
1. Arm body language self. When they are crossed, they form a closed
defensive shield, blocking out the outside
The arm is an interesting appendages with a world. Shields act in two ways: one is to block
ball at the top, a hinge in the middle, and incoming attacks and the other is a place
with a rather complex toolset at the end. behind which the person can hide and perhaps
not be noticed.

Watch also for arms held still -- this is often


the first place the deceiver starts when trying Crossed arms may thus indicate anxiety which is
to control body language (they may even hold either driven by a lack of trust in the other
one arm with the other to keep them both person or an internal discomfort and sense of
still). vulnerability (that may, for example, be rooted
in childhood trauma).

Expanding
The extent of crossing indicates how firmly
closed the person is. This may range from a
Arms are clever expanding devices that can make light cross to arms folded to arms wrapped
us bigger or smaller, reaching out without around the person. An extreme version which may
having to move the rest of our body. indicate additional hostility is a tight close
with hands formed as fists. If legs are crossed
also then this adds to the signal.
They can extend towards the other person,
either in threat or a more friendly way. Moved
directly and quickly they threaten. Curved and The hands in an arm-cross may also be used to
moving more slowly they may offer comfort. hold the person in a reassuring self-hug, for
example holding upper arms in a folded-arms
position or wrapped around the torso, holding
The can also extend laterally, sometimes as a the sides. If the thumbs are up, this may
part of a body-expanding 'I am big' display indicate some approval or agreement with what
that can signify confidence or perhaps is being said.
aggression.

Crossed arms, especially when holding one


Shaping another can show the person to be trying to
keep themselves still. This can be to suppress
Arms are used as a part of shaping as we wave any signals. It may also indicate repressed
them around and carve out the world. They are anger (I have to hold myself to prevent myself
an adjunct to our words as we literally show hitting you). In some cultures it also signals
other people how big the fish was or how small that the person is holding themself still so
the child is. they can pay greater attention to you (and is
hence a compliment).

When we are excited or confident, we may wave


our arms about like windmills. When we are less When arms are not crossed, they expose the
confident, our shaping is smaller and closer to torso and the person, making them more
the body. vulnerable. This signifies comfort that often
indicates trust. It can also be power position
that dares the other person to attack whilst
This waving of arms needs control and a person knowing that the other person dare not.
who bangs their hand on something may indicate
clumsiness.
Crossed arms is a very obvious signal and if
you do it in front of other people they will
Raising likely feel rejected and respond accordingly
(including not agreeing with you).
Raising the arms lifts something up. Done
rapidly, it throws things into the air. With Note that not all crossed arms are defensive.
both arms, it exaggerates it further. A typical Sometimes folded arms, for example, are just a
two-arm-raising gesture is frustration, as relaxed position. Crossed arms are also used
everything that is weighing the person down when the person is cold (this is typically done
with confusion is thrown up into the air. with hands tucked under armpits to keep them
Coupled with a shrug it indicates confusion ('I warm).
don't know!!').
A common method sales people use to break a
Weapon crossed-arms closed position is to give the
person something to hold or otherwise ask
them to use their hands.
Arms can be like weapons. They can symbolize
clubs and spears as they strike out at
imaginary foes. They can also be defensive, Reaching forward
blocking and sweeping away attacks. In martial
arts arms can be used to block and strike and
Reaching forward to the other person can be
this is reflected in how they may be used in
quite scary for them as you could attack them,
communication.

19
and a sudden thrust forward can indeed be an across especially when arm
aggressive signal, especially if the hand is chest is across chest.
pointing or shaped as a fist. (mainly
male)
adjusti arms nervousness Another ‘barrier’
Reaching forward can also be an offer of ng protective signal.
support or affection, seeking to touch and join cuff,
with the other person. watchst
rap,
tie,
Pulling back etc.,
using
an arm
When arms are thrust forward, they are the across
the
first thing that may be grabbed or attacked.
body
When a person feels defensive they may pull arms/ha arms / nervousness Another ‘barrier’
back their arms out of harm's way. nds hands protective signal.
coverin
g
signal part of possible detailed
genital
body meaning(s) explanation
region
crossed arms defensivenes Crossed arms (male)
arms s, represent a holding arms / nervousness Another ‘barrier’
(folded reluctance protective or a drink hands protective signal.
arms) separating barrier. in
This can be due to front
various causes, of body
ranging from severe with
animosity or both
concern to mild hands
boredom or being
too tired to be seated, arms / nervousness One arm rests on
interested and holding hands the table across
drink the body, holding a
attentive. Crossed
on one drink (or pen,
arms is a commonly
side etc). Another
exhibited signal by
subordinates with ‘barrier’
hand protective signal.
feeling threatened
by bosses and from
figures of other
authority. N.B. side
People also cross touchin arms / nervousness Another ‘barrier’
arms when they are g or shoulde protective signal.
feeling cold, so be scratch r
careful not to ing
misread this shoulde
signal. r using
crossed arm
arms hostile Clenched fists
arms across
defensivenes reinforce
with s stubbornness, body
clenche aggression or the
d fists lack of empathy
indicated by
crossed arms.
grippin arms insecurity Gripping upper arms
g own while folded is
2. Elbow body language
upper effectively self-
arms hugging. Self-
hugging is an
When you think 'body language', the elbow is
attempt to reassure not usually the first thing you think of, and
unhappy or unsafe indeed there are less things they can say. The
feelings. lesser-noticed parts, however, should always be
one arm arms nervousness Women use this watched, both individually and as a part of a
across gesture. Men tend wider cluster.
body not to. It’s a
claspin ‘barrier’
g other protective signal, Size
arm by and also self-
side hugging.
(female Elbows are often used as a central part of a
) size display as we push them outwards as we
arms arms confidence, As demonstrated by puff ourselves up to appear bigger larger than
held authority members of the we are (much as birds stand their feathers on
behind royal family, armed
body forces officers, end).
with teachers,
hands policemen, etc.
clasped
Putting hands on the waist sends a stronger
handbag
signal. More subtle is simply to expand the
arms nervousness Another ‘barrier’
held in protective signal. chest and push elbows slightly out.
front
of body
(female This is usually done whilst standing and with
) the body stationery (it is difficult to run
holding arms nervousness Another ‘barrier’ with elbows sticking out).
papers protective signal,

20
This can signify aggression, but may also be a desire (the tighter the fist, the stronger the
more relaxed attention-getting pose (look at feeling).
me!). This often is accompanied by a relaxed S-
shaped body curve, with one foot pointing
Hands may also hold the self, such as when
forward at the target person.
people hold their own hands, typically for
comfort. Wringing the hands indicates more
Weapon extreme nervousness.

For those who have struggled in big January Holding the self can also be an act of
sales know (or any hurrying crowd for that restraint. This can be to let the other person
matter), elbows can make excellent weapons. talk. It can also be used when the person is
They are a pointed tool at the end of the angry, effectively stopping them from
powerful upper arm and a jab in the ribs can attacking.
wind even a somewhat larger opponent.
The two hands can show different desires, for
In everyday language a symbolic strike towards example with one forming a fist and the other
someone (without hitting them) says 'I feel holding it back, restraining the desire to
like hitting you' or 'I could hit you'. It thus punch the other person.
can be a suggestion to desist from some
undesirable behavior. Note also that people who are lying often try
to control their hands, and when they are kept
Prop still (often holding one another), you might
get suspicious. Another sign can be holding
them behind the back. As ever, these are only
When seated, putting elbows on the table may possible indicators and you should also look
indicate a relaxed state. The head may thus be for similar signs.
propped up by cupped hands.
Hands may also be used to hold items such as
Pointer pens or cups, which may be used as comfort
objects, for example where a person hugs a cup
(the cup represents the person, so they are
We tend to point at people and things in which
effectively hugging themself). Holding an item
we are interested in some way. The most obvious
with two hands effectively creates a closed
way is with the finger. We also do it with
position.
other parts of the body. One of the most subtle
and subconscious of these is the elbow.
Holding imaginary objects as they are talked
about can show importance. Things which are
3. Hand body language important (and perhaps with fear of loss) are
held close and tight. Things which are not
Hands have 27 bones and are a very expressive wanted are held further away (or even tossed
part of our anatomy. The give us enormous away).
capability as an evolved species in how we
handle our environment. Even ideas may be held. The bigger and more
important the idea, the wider the arms are
Reading palms is not just about the lines on held. A common size is as if they are holding a
your hand. After the face, hands probably the basketball -- this is useful as you can give it
richest source of body language. to other people. A wide-armed hold may indicate
the whole world or something massive.

It is also worth noting that gestures with the


hands vary significantly across cultures and an Items may also be for distracting activity that
'innocent' hand signal can get you arrested in releases nervous energy, such as fiddling with
another country. a pen, clicking it on and off, or doodling with
it.

A hand signal may be small, perhaps betraying


subconscious thinking. It may also be Control
exaggerated or done with both hands to
emphasize the point. A hand with palm down may figuratively hold or
restrain the other person. This can be an
Holding authoritative action ('Stop that now') or may
be a request ('Please calm down'). This also
appears in the dominant hand-on-top handshake.
Cupped hands form a container which can hold
gently. Gripping hands can hold tightly. Hands
can hold both individually or together (giving A palm facing outward towards others fends them
an exaggerated effect). off or pushes them away in a more obvious way
than the palms-down signal ('Stop. Do not come
any closer!').
Cupped hands can symbolize delicacy or hold a
fragile idea. They may also be used for giving.
Gripping can show possessiveness, ownership and A pointing finger or whole hand tells a person
where to go ('Leave now!').

21
Greeting Striking

Hands are often used in greetings. The most The hand can strike openly, with the palm or
common form of greeting is shaking hands, of closed as a fist. The fist can strike forwards,
which there are many different forms. sideways or downwards. One hand is often used
for symbols as two hands as fists can be an
invitation to fight (two hands held inwards can
This is one of the few times we are allowed to
also indicate extreme tension).
touch the other person and it may get used to
send various signals.
Fist shapes and movements are often symbols of
inner aggression. When moved towards a person,
Dominance is shown with hand on top, strength,
even a small amount, they signal aggression
prolonged holding ('I decide when to let go')
towards that person. A shaking fist signifies a
and holding the person with the other hand.
strong desire to strike someone. Punching the
air indicates triumphal excitement.
Affection is shown with speed and duration of
shake, touching with the other hand and Covering
enthusiastic smiles. The similarity between
dominant and affection handshakes leads to
tricky situations where a dominant person Hands can hide things. When people do not want
pretends to be friendly. to hear something, they put hands to ears. When
they do not want to look, they cover their
Submission is shown with a floppy hand, palm up eyes. When they want to say something but feel
and which is sometimes clammy and with a quick restrained, they put their hands to their
withdrawal. mouth. A hand may also cover a rudely open
mouth, which may be opened in such as surprise
or a yawn.
Most handshakes use vertical palms to show
equality, are firm without being crushing and
for a very exact period (so both know when to Hands covering the mouth when speaking may be
let go). an indicator of lying, although it may also
just indicate uncertainty.

Waving is also used for a greeting and may be


done at a distance. Hands can cover other things. A hand to heart
may seek to protect it from shocking harm. A
hand to the groin may protect from dangerous
Salutes are sometimes used, but mostly only in attack. Hands can also cover one another.
the military, where their style is strictly Sometimes a tense fist may be covered by the
prescribed. other hand.

Shaping Giving

Hands can carve the air, shaping what the Outstretched palms may offer something to
person is talking about or meaning. They can another person. Held with palms faced towards
thus create visual metaphors out of literally one another they might hold something large.
nothing. Held upwards they openly proffer an idea.

A man talking may shape a fish he caught. He They may also show that nothing is being
might also carve out the shape of his ideal concealed, giving what I have, which is
woman. Other gestures can shape more crudely, nothing.
indicating holding and moving sexually
significant body parts.
A single offered hand is the start of the
handshake.
Cutting
Asking
The side of a flat hand can appear as a knife,
cutting the air like a karate chop. The cutting
hand may strike the other palm, creating visual Palms offered upwards are a common plea
and aural impact. gesture, as if asking for alms. Palms downwards
may ask a person to calm down.

A side-swiped cut with palm down tells others


to stop what they are doing, for example when a Palms up or at 45 degrees and then pulled
person on stage asks the audience to stop towards the body seeks to bring others closer
clapping so they can speak. A short side swipe to you in an attenuated beckoning gesture.
may also signal 'no' in any conversation.
Hands with palms pressed together indicate a
Cuts can signal aggression, particularly when more anxious pleading. This gesture may be done
coupled with an aggressive face. They may also with fingers upwards in a clear prayer position
indicate decisiveness, chopping with each ('Please do not harm me!'), and possibly thrust
point. A side-swiped cut can chop away someone towards the other person. With fingers pointing
else's argument. down, this may be more concealed or a less

22
anxious desire for agreement. A variant of this Supporting
is to have fingers interleaved, but otherwise
making the same shape and movement.
Hands may be used to support the head or even
the body when leaning.
Rubbing
Hands wrapped around the cheeks with elbows on
Rubbing the hands together can mean that the the table indicates a heavy head and the person
person is cold. It also means the person is may be sleepy or bored. This may also be
feeling particularly gleeful about something. indicated with a single hand propping up the
This can be a shared benefit and be used in a chin or side of the head.
conspiratorial way.
The hands may also lightly support the head,
When they do this less obviously and more either as a single hand gently under the chin
slowly, they might thinking that they are going or with fingers intertwined with elbows on
to benefit at the expense of someone else. table and chin touching the fingers.
Watch also for small smiles and defocused eyes Particularly when looking at the other person,
as they imagine a rosy future (at least for this says 'look at my face, isn't it nice' and
them). may thus be an enticing position.

Rubbing the face and particularly the chin can A simple rule is that the more that the head is
indicate thinking, evaluating and deciding. supported, the more the person is bored. When
they are interested in what others are saying,
support is light.
When a part of the body is sore, the person may
rub it. This also happens when that part of the
body is tense, for example the neck or abdomen, Hiding
and can thus be a signal of anxiety.
Hands are often used in communication and
Light stroking of the body can be a romantic hiding the hands may indicate a desire not to
invitation, particularly if the erogenous areas communicate or not to collaborate, saying 'I
(or nearby) are touched. This says 'I would don't want to talk with you' or 'I do not agree
like you to do this' and can be very arousing. with you'.

Thinking This may be done in a deliberate gesture of


defiance, such as stuffing hands in pockets.
Liars may hide their hands in fear that they
When the fingers are pressed together forming a
will give themselves away.
steepled shape, pointing upwards, the person
may well be thinking, evaluating or deciding.
This may also be done with just index fingers Hiding hands may also be a position of
pressed together and other fingers interlinked listening, sending the message 'I do not want
('the church'), with all finger-tips touching to talk because I want to listen to you.'
('the cage') or with fingers interlinked.
Putting hands in pockets or behind the back can
The steepled position forms a barrier against also be due to just feeling relaxed and not
the other person and may be held lower when the needing to talk.
person wants to connect more, such as when they
are listening.
Touching

A subtler version of the evaluative position is


with the hand supporting the head but with the The hand may touch any part of the body in a
index finger up the side the of the face. The whole range of situation.
middle finger may cover the mouth ('I'm not
ready to talk yet'). Perhaps the most common reason for touching
oneself is self-affirmation ('I am here. I am
These fingers-up positions may include touching real. I am ok.') and related anxiety. Anxiety
of the mouth or chin with the fingers, which can be related to concern for the outer world
may indicate the person is thinking about or the inner world of thoughts and forecasts.
saying something but is not yet ready to speak
out loud. Touching is also used in romantic situations,
where parts of the body may be lightly touched
The fingers may also be all intertwined and or stroked in simulation of desired or
typically held under the chin. Again, this is a suggested action by the other person. The more
thinking and evaluating signal. erotic the parts being touched, the stronger
the signal is sent.

Hands clenched can be a self-restraining act,


effectively holding the person back from Touching can also be a form of punishment, for
speaking until they are ready. example when a person slaps their head ('Bother
- I forgot!').

23
Touching the other person can be an act of up and answer weighing it. The signal
domination or of friendship, for example a hand down is one of ‘weighing’
on the shoulder whilst telling them off adds as if possibilities.
authority, whilst a gentle touch on the arm weighi
ng
when sympathizing demonstrates concern for
hand(s hands seeking to Although easy to fake,
them. ) on be the underlying meaning
heart believed is one of wanting to be
(left believed, whether being
Preening
side truthful or not. Hand
of on heart can be
chest) proactive, as when a
Preening is a common action as the person salesman tries to
brushes their hair and clothes, figuratively convince a buyer, or
making themselves look more attractive and reactive, as when
sending the signal 'Aren't I beautiful!' This claiming innocence or
is thus says 'Please like me' and may be a shock. Whatever, the
romantic invitation, a signal of superiority or sender of this signal
indicate feelings of vulnerability. typically feels the
need to emphasise their
position as if mortally
Picking at bits of fluff clothes often shows threatened, which is
rarely the case.
disapproval as the person figuratively picks
finger hands aggression Pointing at a person is
apart your argument. pointi , threat, very confrontational
ng (at emphasis and dictatorial.
Weighing a Commonly adults do this
person to young people. Adult
) to adult it is
generally unacceptable
Cupped hands may be used to indicate weight,
and tends to indicate a
which often is used as a metaphor for lack of social
importance. awareness or self-
control aside from
arrogance on the part
Single-handed weighting bounces the cupped hand of the finger pointer.
up and down, for example when an argument is The finger is thought
being proposed. to represent a gun, or
pointed weapon.
Strongly associated
Two hands are used to indicate discussion of A with anger, directed at
vs. B. Watch which hands seems to hold the another person. An
heavier weight -- this will be the one which exception to the
the person thinks is most significant. generally aggressive
meaning of finger
pointing is the finger
signal part of possible detailed explanation point and wink, below.
body meaning(s) finger hands/ acknowledg The subtle use of a
palm(s hands submissive Said to evolve from point eyes ement or winked eye with a
) up , when open upward palms and confirmati pointed finger changes
or truthful, showed no weapon was wink on the finger point into a
open honesty, held. A common gesture different signal, that
appealing with various meanings of acknowledging
around a main theme of something, often a
openness. Can also mean contribution or remark
“I don’t have the made by someone, in
answer,” or an appeal. which case the finger
In some situations this and wink are directed
can indicate confidence at the person
(such as to enable concerned, and can be a
openness), or signal of positive
trust/trustworthiness. appreciation, as if to
An easily faked gesture say, “You got it,” or
to convey innocence. “You understand it,
Outward open forearms well done”.
or whole arms are more finger hands emphasis Pointing in the air is
extreme versions of the pointi generally used to add
signal. ng (in emphasis, by a person
palm(s hands defensive, Relaxed hands are more the feeling in authority or
) up, instructio likely to be defensive air) power.
finger n to stop as if offered up in finger hands warning, Rather like the waving
s protection; rigid waggin refusal of a pistol as a
pointi fingers indicates a g threat. Stop it/do as
ng up more authoritative (side you are told, or else..
instruction or request to
to stop whatever side)
behaviour is promoting finger hands admonishme The action is like
the reaction. waggin nt, pressing a button on a
palm(s hands authority, Where the lower arm g (up emphasis keypad several times.
) down strength, moves across the body and Like when a computer or
dominance with palm down this is down) elevator won’t work, as
generally defiance or if pressing the button
firm disagreement. lots of times will make
palm hands striving The hand is empty, but any difference..
up and for or figuratively holds a hand hands emphasis - The hand is used like a
moving seeking an problem or idea as if chop especially guillotine, as if to

24
the last kill the discussion. of this suggesting
word on a something being ‘just
matter right’ as if the finger
finger hands thoughtful Very brainy folk use and thumb are making a
tips ness, this gesture since it fine adjustment with a
and looking reflects complex and/or pinch of spice or a
thumbs for or elevated thinking. In tiny turn of a control
touchi explaining this gesture only the knob. The circle formed
ng connection fingertips touch - each by the joined finger
each s or finger with the and thumb resembles the
other engagement corresponding digit of O from OK. The
on the other hand, remaining three fingers
opposi pointing upwards like are spread.
te the rafters of a tall thumb( hands positive In the Western world
hands church roof. Fingers s) up approval, this signal is so
(’stee are spread and may be agreement, commonly used and
pling’ rigidly straight or all well recognized it has
) relaxed and curved. become a language term
Alternating the in its own right:
positions (pushing ‘thumbs up’ means
fingers together then approved. It’s a very
relaxing again - like a positive signal. Two
spider doing press-ups hands is a bigger
on a mirror) enables statement of the same
the fascinating effect meaning.
(nothing to do with thumbs hands disapprova Logically the opposite
body language), which down l, failure of thumbs up. Rightly
after enough repetition or wrongly the thumbs
can produce a sensation up and down signals are
of having a greased associated with the
sheet of glass between gladiatorial contests
the fingers. Try it - of the ancient Roman
it’s very strange. Very arenas in which the
brainy people probably presiding dignitary
don’t do this because would signal the fate
they have more of the losing
important things to contestants.
think about. It’s their hand hands undecided, Signalling that a
loss. held in the decision or outcome,
steepl hands thoughtful The upwards-pointing horizo balance normally finely
ed ness and version tends to ntally balanced and difficult
finger barrier indicate high-minded or and to predict or control,
s connective/complex rocked could go one way or
pointi thinking, however when from another.
ng this hand shape is side
forwar directed forward it to
d also acts as a side
defensive or distancing rubbin hands anticipati A signal - often a
barrier between the g on, relish conscious gesture - of
thinker and other(s) hands positive expectation,
present. togeth and often related to
palms hands seeking or Seen often in rowdy er material or financial
down asking for meetings the gesture is reward, or an enjoyable
moving calm, loss typically a few inches activity and outcome.
up and of control above the table top, hand(s hands / suppressio See mouth/hand clamp
down, of a group but is also seen ) mouth n, shock entry in mouth section,
finger or standing up. The action clampe which is a subject in
s situation is one of suppressing d over its own right.
spread or holding down a mouth
rising pressure. touchi hands / lying or This is said to hide
Teachers use this ng nose exaggerati the reddening of the
gesture when trying to nose, on nose caused by
quieten a class. while increased blood flow.
cracki hands comforting Usually male. Machismo speaki Can also indicate mild
ng habit, or habit. Meaning ng embellishment or
knuckl attention- depends on context. No- fabrication. The
es seeking one knows still exactly children’s story about
how the noise is made, Pinocchio (the wooden
but the notion that the puppet boy whose nose
practice leads to grew when he told lies)
arthritis is now reflects long-standing
generally thought to be associations between
nonsense. the nose and telling
interw hands frustratio Usually hands would be lies.
oven n, on a table or held scratc hands / lying or Nose-scratching while
clench negativity across stomach or on hing nose exaggerati speaking is a warning
ed , lap. nose, on sign, unless the person
finger anxiousnes while genuinely has an itchy
s s speaki nose. Often exhibited
index hands satisfacti This is generally seen ng when recounting an
finger on, ‘OK’ to be the ‘OK’ signal, event or incident.
and similar to the ‘thumbs pinchi hands / thoughtful In many cases this is
thumb up’. The signal may be ng or nose ness, an unconscious
touchi to oneself quietly, or rubbin suppressin signalling of holding
ng at more pronounced g g comment back or delaying a
tips directed to others. nose, response or opinion.
There is also the sense

25
while Pinching the nose People who are angry tend to point more,
listen physically obstructs including at themselves (when they feel hurt or
ing breathing and speech, insulted) and at those who they feel are to
especially if the mouth blame.
is covered at the same
time. Rather like the
more obvious hand-clamp Pointing, especially at other people, can be
over the mouth, people
particularly rude in a number of cultures.
displaying this gesture
probably have something
to say but are choosing In some cultures the thumb is a phallic symbol
not to say it yet.
and giving a 'thumbs up' signal says 'I want to
pickin hands / day- Nose picking is
g nose nose dreaming, actually extremely
have sex with you.' or may just be a rude
inattentiv common among adults but insult. This can cause a lot of confusion
e, does not aid career between people from the Orient and the
socially development or social Occident.
disconnect acceptance and is
ed, stress therefore normally a
private affair. When Club
observed, nose-picking
can signify various
states of mind, none The wagging finger of admonition beats up and
particularly positive. down as if striking the culprit. This can be
pinchi hands / negative Usually accompanied with a stable hand and just a finger way. It
ng nose evaluation with a long single may also be done with the whole arm, giving an
bridge blink. exaggerated striking movement.
of
nose
hands hands / rejection Not surprisingly A more polite version points downwards as it
clampe ears of or gestures involving beats out an important point, perhaps tapping
d on resistance hands covering the ears
on something like a table.
ears to signify a reluctance to
something listen and/or to agree
with what is being said The forefinger held up and stationary means
or to the situation as
a whole. The gesture is
'wait' (perhaps as a threat of being used as a
occasionally seen by a club otherwise).
person doing the
talking, in which case
it tends to indicate
Prod
that other views and
opinions are not wanted
or will be ignored. The finger prod can act like a stiletto knife,
ear hands / indecision People fiddle with stabbing forward at the other person. This is
tuggin ears , self- their own bodies in usually the index finger, although the middle
g comforting various ways when finger is sometimes used. This is often very
seeking comfort, but threatening and felt as a personal attack.
ear-pulling or tugging
given suitable
supporting signs can The prod may also be used to prod downwards at
instead indicate an imaginary item in front. This is less
indecision and related threatening than pointing directly at the
pondering. person.

The prod can also be made less threatening by


bringing several fingers together and bending
the fingers. A disguised form of this is the
4. Finger body language finger-and-thumb pinch, where an imaginary idea
is delicately held and offered forward.
Fingers are very flexible and allow for subtle
gestures. Plate

Pointer
Fingers extended and closed join with the palm
to form a plate. The plate holds symbolic
A pointing finger indicates direction ('It's things, such as ideas, often gently. The plate
over there'). For a long distance, the finger may be proffered forwards, offering the held
may be pointed diagonally upwards, as if firing item to others. For large things both hands may
an arrow. The index finger is usually used, be held together.
though the middle finger or even all fingers
may be used. Held under the chin, it presents the face as an
object to be admired and is often used in
The thumb may be used to pointer to something flirting.
being as it is jerked over the shoulder.
Cup
Pointing at people is like using the prod (see
below) and is often considered to be rude and
Fingers held together and curled upwards form a
threatening.
cup that can contain things more securely than
the plate. Relaxed fingers form a loose cup,

26
whilst tense fingers form a more closed cup. indicate male masturbation (implying the other
Two hands together form a big cup (to hold person, a male, is unable to gain a female
bigger things). partner and thus has to masturbate to get
sexual relief). Yet with little finger facing
outwards it can also mean 'OK' or 'wonderful'.
Cups may be used to plead for something to be
given or offer something forward to others.
The index and little finger pointing upwards as
a gesture can say that the other man is a
Pinch
cuckold. It can also signify the 'evil eye'.

Fingers pinched together hold something small Thumb


and delicate. This may be finger and thumb or
may involve more fingers (finger and thumb is
less frequent as this forms an 'O' which can Thumbs-up signals approval and agreement.
have many different meanings). Thumbs-down signals disapproval. Held sideways
(and perhaps waggled) indicates uncertainty).
It may be used when saying 'you must grasp this
idea'. Held out towards others it offers them Roman amphitheater audiences reputedly used
the idea. Pushed down it holds the idea whilst this signal to suggest to the emperor that a
beating out the key points. defeated gladiator be spared or killed.

Claw Thumbs up when arms are crossed or a single


hand is held across the chest is a subtle sign
of approval. It can also be an invitation to
Curved and separated fingers form a claw. With others to show approval of what you are saying.
palm facing down, the claw may threaten to
reach forward and grab, scratch or tear.
Thumbs sticking out when hands are in pockets
is often a sign of confidence, feeling relaxed
If the fingers are held loosely, the shape is and in control. It can thus be both a sign of
more of an open cup and may thus hold authority and also of friendliness.
something. Held downwards it may gently
restrain.
And...
Drumming
Fingers crossed indicates hope (because they
form a rough crucifix).
Drumming or tapping the fingers can indicate
frustration, for example when another person is
speaking and the person wants to interrupt. It Inspecting fingernails indicates boredom and
may also mean that the person drumming wants to disinterest.
leave.
Fluttering fingers may indicate uncertainty
Non-verbal noise sends an audible interrupt ('I'm not sure') or may be a small wave (for
signal to the other person. The louder the example being child-like, indicating 'I am not
noise and faster the drumming, the greater the a threat' or 'protect me').
tension the person is feeling. Drumming with
the nails makes an even louder noise and hence Fidgeting fingers may indicate boredom or
sends a more urgent signal. tension.

Drumming can also indicate that the person is Sucking fingers is a regressive return to
thinking, and that the frustration is with childhood and breast feeding. This may well
internal thoughts and perhaps that an easy indicate timidity and feelings of inferiority.
solution cannot be found.

Rudeness

The middle finger pointing upwards says 'up


yours' and symbolizes a penis. The little
finger in this gesture indicates the other
person has a small penis (this is sometimes
used as a rude gesture from a woman to a man).

The first two fingers pointing upwards and with


the palm towards the self says 'f**k off'
(though curiously, with the palm facing the
other person indicates peace).

The finger and thumb together forming a circle


may symbolize the female genitalia (perhaps
likening the other person to this). It can also
indicate the anus. Moved up and down it may

27
Another reason for touching the neck is when
III. TORSO the person fears attack, as it reflects the
desire to cover their windpipe.
1. Neck body language
There are also major muscles at the side and
back of the neck and rubbing these indicates
The is used to support and rotate the head and
tension, which may well be anxiety.
hence controls some head body language. It also
may send a few signals of its own.
Suddenly grabbing the back of the neck can be a
displacement activity for anger, as if the
Hiding
person raises their hand to strike then has to
do something to restrain it.
The neck a classic position where a predator
attacks, either going for the jugular artery at No neck
the side or crushing or ripping out the
windpipe.
Having 'no neck' is often associated with
people who have done so much weight training
When people feel threatened they will thus
that their necks are almost as wide as their
naturally act to protect the neck, pulling the
heads. The appearance, coupled with a muscled
chin down to protect the throat and possibly
body, can be very threatening. If the person
also raising the shoulders to protect the sides
enjoys this effect on others, they may
of the neck.
exaggerate it with arms held wide, fierce
glares and other dominant body language.
Embarrassment or fear can lead to increased
swallowing. A hand on the throat may cover up
the signs of swallowing as the person seeks to 2. Shoulder body language
hide this signal.
The shoulders, although they have limited
Turning movement when compared with other parts of the
body, can be used to convey various signals.

The neck can be rotated, both horizontally and


Raised
vertically, thus giving our head several
degrees of freedom and the ability to look in
many directions. The eyes can also look without Holding the shoulders in a raised position
turning the head. Rotating the neck is useful requires that the whole weight of the arms are
for extending the range of vision. It can also lifted. This takes continued effort, which is
be used deliberately to send a signal that the supplied if the person is aroused in some way.
person is giving or removing attention.

Shoulders hunched up can be a sign that the


The neck can also become stiff from propping up person is cold (they may be shivering too).
the head and rotation of the neck may be done Often, this is a sign of tension, often from
to exercise it. Exercising the neck can be a anxiety or fear.
sign of tension. It may also indicate boredom.

Raising the shoulders and lowering the head


Touching protects the neck when the person fears attack
(actual or virtual).
Touching the front of the neck may indicate
concern about what the person is saying (via Curved forward
their windpipe). This may because they are
lying or otherwise are embarrassed or
uncomfortable with what they are actually curving the shoulders forward happens naturally
saying or are thinking of saying. when arms are folded. When curled forward with
the hands down this reduces the width of the
body and can thus be a defensive posture or a
When a person is uncomfortable with what they subconscious desire not to be seen, for example
are saying or where they are saying it, then when the person is feeling threatened or when
their neck muscles may tense, affecting their they want to stay 'under cover'.
voice through constriction of the windpipe or
tensing of the vocal chords. This can cause
discomfort in the neck and the hand thus acts Pushed back
to sooth this irritation.
Pushing the shoulders back forces the chest out
When a person is uncomfortable they may sweat. and exposes the torso to potential attack. This
If they are wearing a tight collar this will posture is thus used when the person does not
start to rub and irritate them. As a result fear attack and may be used as a taunt to
they may pull at their collar. demonstrate power.

The neck also contains the tubes going down to If the body is pulled back when the shoulders
the stomach and touching the neck may show a are pulled back, particularly when the person
concern about eating or drinking. is up against the wall, this can indicate a

28
desire to hide the body and not be seen, or want to leave (maybe because what you are
otherwise defensively move it out of harm's saying is uncomfortable for them).
way.
3. Chest body language
Circling

The chest can send a few non-verbal body


Circling the shoulders may be done forwards or language signals.
backwards, with one or both shoulders. This is
often done to exercise a stiff shoulder, which
may have been held tensely (and hence may Thrust out
indicate anxiety). This may also be accompanied
by rotating or leaning of the neck and other Pushing the chest forward draws attention to
muscle-exercising movements. it, and can be a part of a provocative romantic
display. Women, especially, know that men are
This exercising can signal that the person is programmed to be aroused by the sight of
readying themselves for action and perhaps breasts. When women push forward their chests
combat, and hence may be used as a sign of they may thus be inviting intimate relations
aggression. (or just teasing). This is a function of high
heels, which curves the spine to push out the
chest and buttocks.
When done whilst the other person is talking
and it would be polite to listen carefully,
this deliberate breaking of protocol can be an Men also thrust their chest out to display
insulting signal of power ('You are so their strong pectorals (and perhaps hide their
unimportant I do not need to bother listening bulging gut). Enlarged pectorals are, along
politely'). with biceps, the most common muscles that are
used to assess overall strength.
Shrug
A difference with men is that they do this both
to women ('Look at me - I'm strong and will
The classic shrug, with one-off raising and protect you and our babies') and also other men
lowering of shoulders usually means 'I don't ('I am strong, so you'd better not get in my
know!' and may be accompanied with raised way').
eyebrows, down-turned mouth, and hands held to
the side, with palms upwards or forwards
(showing nothing is being concealed). Profiled

A small and quick shrug may send the same When the person stands sideways or at 45
signal but be performed subconsciously and thus degrees, the effect of a thrust-out chest is
can indicate uncertainty or lack of exaggerated as the person is seen in profile.
understanding. Women may use this to display the curve of
their breasts. Likewise, men may show their
strong profiles.
A more prolonged and animated shrug can be
similar to the circling shoulders that indicate
readying for aggression and can thus signal a Withdrawn
threat. In a smaller form it may indicate
irritation or frustration.
The chest cavity, although protected to some
extent by the ribs, contains vital organs and
Relaxed thus is vulnerable in attack. When the chest is
pulled back, this may well indicate that the
person is trying to hide or appear inoffensive
We often carry tension in the shoulders and a ('I am weak - please don't hurt me!'). Curling
person who is truly relaxed will have their forward the shoulders may offer further
shoulders held low, with arms that can move protection.
naturally, without jerkiness and swinging free.
Breathing
Leaning

The chest expands and contracts with breath.


When the person leans against a wall, they When the person is breathing deeply, then the
often contact the wall with their shoulder. chest moves more.
This is usually a relaxed pose as galvanizing
into physical movement would take more than a
little effort, which puts the person in a Deep breath may be used to help thrust out the
position vulnerable to attack. chest, as above. It also increases the oxygen
intake and readies the person for action, thus
indicating such as fear or anger. We also
Turning breath deeply when we are experiencing intense
emotions such as love.
Turning shoulders is a key part of turning
away. If a person turns their shoulders whilst A person who is particularly anxious may
still looking at you, it probably means they breathe too fast and deep and so

29
hyperventilate, taking in so much oxygen they Protection
get giddy (and can even faint).
Whilst having the back facing someone makes you
When the body is held rigid, then breathing is unable to defend yourself, if you are about to
more difficult and short breaths are more be hit with something the back provides perhaps
likely and may indicate tension. the least sensitive area on the body. It is
broad and well-muscled, with ribs around the
When a person in a state of hopeful suspense organs.
they may hold their breath, as if breathing
would either cause what is feared or destroy When we face imminent impact we turn around,
what is being enjoyed. typically also putting our hands behind our
head to protect it and crouching down to make
Touching ourselves a smaller target. This is a reflexive
action for example when something is thrown at
us or someone tries to his us with a stick.
Touching the chest draws further attention to
it. When a woman does this in front of a man it
makes the man think of doing this and is thus a 5. Belly body language
highly suggestive and flirtatious act.
The belly (tummy, abdomen, venter, gut,
Rubbing the chest can also be a sign of pain of stomach, paunch) is, for this section, defined
discomfort, perhaps from tension and stress. as the area between the bottom of the ribs and
the top of the hips.

4. Back body language Pulling it in

The back, which includes the spine and the rear


of the torso, does not send much non-verbal In romantic and 'body beautiful' situations, a
body language and is probably the 'least flat tummy is considered desirable in both men
communicative' part of the body. and women as it indicates fitness and health.
In men, at least, the ultimate is a 'six pack'
where individual muscles can be seen.
Rejection
Most of us, particularly as we get older, fall
The face is on the front of the body and so we victim to excessive consumption of food and
present the front when talking to other people. drink, resulting in a convex belly.
If we do not want to talk to them, we can Fortunately, we do have muscles in our abdomen
indicate our desire not to talk with them in and we use these to pull in the belly walls so,
several stages: for at least whilst we are walking past that
desirable other person, we look good.

• Avert the gaze, not making eye contact.


For the determined, corsets may be used to
• Turn the head. apply constant inwards pressure. Whilst not as
• Twist the torso (feet not moving). popular as they once were, these may still be
found in surreptitious use.
• Twist further (one foot rotates).
• Turn at an angle (both feet move).
Pushing it out
• Turn around (so they can only see our
back).
Sticking out the tum does not indicate a desire
to be attractive and can be a counter-reactive
Each of these is an escalating signal, with move. Particularly in groups of men, 'letting
complete 180 degree rotation as the maximum it all hang out' without feeling judged can be
rejection. Even turning at a slight angle sends quite relieving and contribute to male bonding
a clear message (giving the 'cold shoulder'). (along with loud discussions and lewd jokes).
Turning fully around thus sends the loudest
possible non-verbal signal 'I do not want to
talk with you.' The tummy may stick out more as a
counterbalance when we want to pull our
vulnerable upper body and head away in a
Power situation where we feel uncomfortably close to
another person.
Turning around means you are potentially
vulnerable to attack as you cannot see anyone Touching
behind you make a move on you. This can thus be
a power move, usually between men, which says
'I do not have to look at you to decide if you The tummy area contains the stomach and the
are going to attack me because I am so powerful intestine, both of which are used to process
you do not dare.' food and which may be subject to assorted pains
as we over-eat or consume substances that
disagree with us. Rubbing the stomach can mean
the person simply has a digestive problem.

30
The abdomen walls contain significant muscles Touching
and we can carry tension here. Rubbing or
holding them can thus indicate tension, for
example from excessive worry. With hands behind, the person is more
vulnerable and cannot cover their front. This
may thus either be a relaxed and comfortable
The gut is particularly vulnerable to attack position or else a defiant power display.
and is a common area for punching and stabbing. Putting hands in rear pockets makes them
If the gut is pierced, this can cause internal slightly less difficult to retrieve in the
bleeding and a slow death. Holding hands across event of an attack and hence suggests the
the tum can thus be a defensive act when we person is even more relaxed.
actually or literally fear attack.
Stroking the bottom often suggests that the
Pregnancy person would like their bottom stroked and may
thus be a suggestive invitation.
When women become pregnant, they have little
opportunity but to let their ever-expanding Placing the hands on the buttocks also exposes
abdomens push forward. This can be a point of the chest and hence gives a combined suggestive
pride, perhaps for feminism, perhaps as a signal.
signal of fertility or maybe just delight at
impending motherhood.
The thigh may be slapped as a self-punishment
or 'gee up' self motivation.
6. Bottom body language
7. Hips body language
The bottom is a large padded area at the base
of the back. It has many alternative names
The hips are at the base of the body trunk and
(bum, ass, fanny, etc.), indicating its
are made up of the pelvis and covering tissue.
significance.

Thrust out
Pushing out

The hips contain the primary sexual organs and


The bottom has a strange combination of
thrusting them forward is a provocative and
meaning. It houses the smelly anus and hence
suggestive gesture. This may be exaggerated
can symbolize unpleasantness. Yet it also can
further if the legs are opened, exposing the
have a sexual significance and some people find
genitals further and inviting intercourse.
it particularly attractive in a partner.

Pushing the hips forwards is difficult without


Pushing the bottom towards someone may thus be
losing balance, so this is sometimes done by
an insult or an invitation, depending on the
leaning back against something like a wall to
situation. It can thus say 'kiss my ass' or
support the upper body whilst the hips are
'fondle my fanny' and may thus need careful
clearly foremost.
interpretation!

Men may use the hip thrust with other men as a


Exposing the bottom can range from a slight
signal of power ('my penis is bigger than
push towards the person or significant
yours' or 'I am so powerful you dare not attack
extension, such as from leaning on a table (to
my exposed and vulnerable parts').
retain balance) or bending over, such that the
upper body is hidden and the bottom is highly
visible. Held back

'Mooning' is a semi-serious insult and involves Holding the hips back is the opposite of
exposing the naked bottom. This is a bit thrusting them out. It defends and hides the
degrading and is often done with a certain genitals, seeking to protect them or avoid them
amount of humorous intent. being noticed.

Moving One way of holding them back is to sit down,


folding the body over them. This may be
compounded by crossing legs and covering the
Waving the bottom draws attention to it even
genitals with crossed hands.
more than pushing it out, although this tends
to be more enticing than insulting.
Pushed sideways
Wiggling the hips can cause loose muscle on the
buttocks to oscillate even more. This is highly Pushing the hips sideways makes the spine curve
visible and is used by women to attract men. It and rearranges the whole body to compensate.
is sometimes called 'shaking the booty' and is This can be a relaxed position as the person
a common feature in dancing. Wiggling hips may lets the body drop. The sagging can also come
also make the upper body move in compensation, from disappointment or tiredness.
making the move even more attractive.

31
The hips may be used as a subtle pointer,
indicating what the person really wants.
IV. LEGS
Pointing at a person it may indicate they are
found to be attractive. Pointing at the door
can mean the person wants to leave.
1. Leg body language

Moving Legs are interesting in the field of non-verbal


body language as the may say a lot without us
really realizing.
Swaying the hips from side to side is a common
dance move and can indicate the person would In particular when a person is trying to
like to dance. It also draws attention to that control their body language, they typically
part of the body and hence can be a flirtatious concentrate on the upper body. The legs may
action. thus tell what they are thinking. If the legs
and upper body are in conflict, then there is a
Moving the hips back and forth is a simulation possible of deliberate control.
of sexual intercourse and can be highly
arousing. Open

Touching Standing

Hands on hips pushes the elbows sideways, Legs which are held apart when standing provide
making the body look larger and thus may be a a stable base for the person. Standing with
signal of power or aggression. feet about the width of the shoulders is a
normal, relaxed pose. Slightly wider indicates
Stroking the hips in a romantic setting is that the person feels grounded and confident.
suggesting that the other person may want to do
this and is thus rather flirtatious, A wider stance makes the body wider and hence
particularly if accompanied by swaying hips and appear bigger and is a signal of power and
prolonged eye contact. dominance. This also takes up more territory
and shows domination.
Fingering genitals is extremely arousing and is
only usually used as a direct invitation to Taking a stable position is readying the body
intercourse. in case the other person attacks and can be a
cautious position.
Hands held over the genitals, covering them, is
a sign of embarrassment or fear. Open legs displays and makes vulnerable the
genitals. This can be a sexual display
Holding hands with yourself is a comforting (especially men to women) or a show of power
(especially between men).
move for someone who is anxious. The natural
position of rest for this is at hip level and
thus may not be sexual in nature. When one foot is forward and the other behind,
this can be taking a extra stable position in
The male penis can become uncomfortable in his case of frontal attack (as with martial
artists). It can also be a frozen walk,
underpants and he may surreptitiously rearrange
it. If he does this overtly, it may be a signal indicating that the person wants to go
somewhere (which way are they pointing?).
of power or a sexual signal.

Sitting

Sitting with slightly open legs is a relaxed


position, showing the person is comfortable.
One or both legs may be flopped down sideways
as far as they can go.

Sitting allows a wider opening of the legs and


can thus be even more of a sexual 'crotch
display'. If the person is a bit worried about
this, then their hands may cover the genitals.

Closed

Standing

When the person is standing with feet together


(or less that a relaxed shoulder-width) then
this may display anxiety as it makes them
smaller as a target and gives some protection
to the genitals.

32
A fully-closed standing position has knees used as a sexual signal by women, particularly
touching. Increased desire for protection may if they have exposed legs.
be indicated by the person turning slightly to
the side, leaning forwards a little or pulling
The figure-four cross occurs where one ankle is
the hips back.
placed on top of the other legs' knee, with top
leg's knee pointing sideways. This can be a
Note that a closed position also happens when surreptitious crotch display, and is more
the person is cold. common amongst men as it invites females and
challenges other males. This may be covered
with hands that hold the shin or ankle of the
Sitting
top leg.

When sitting, the knees may be held gently or Pointing


tightly together, depending on the anxiety
level.
Legs may be used to point to things of
interest, as with other parts of the body. The
Crossed
reverse is also true and pulling a leg back may
show disinterest.
As with arms, crossing legs can protective and
negative, shielding the person from other Standing
people and their ideas.

When standing, one leg may point at an angle


Tension may be seen in crossed legs and greater
with both foot and knee, for example in a
anxiety leads to legs held more rigidly and
conversation where a person who wants to leave
which move more jerkily.
points at the door. Pointing anywhere away from
the other person means 'I want to be
Crossed legs can also mean that the person elsewhere'.
wants to visit the toilet!
Sometimes, when the genitals are exposed in a
Standing crotch display the legs do point to the side,
but this is not the real message that is being
sent.
Crossing legs when standing can be an
indication of shyness or being coy and may be
accompanied by such as hands held behind the Sitting
back and a lowered head.
When sitting, legs do not have to support the
This is an unstable position and the person may body but they are more visible and so send more
sway a little. Being so easy to be pushed over obvious messages (unless they are under a
and slow to unwind and run away, this is seldom table, where they still may subconsciously
a defensive stance, although it can be point in a direction of interest).
submissive.
Sitting legs may point with knees or feet at
Sitting interesting other people, as well as desired
direction of travel.

Crossing legs is much easier when sitting and


can take several different forms. Sitting forward with one foot pointing away and
the other back is preparation to stand up and
is a common signal that the person wants to
Crossing ankles is a minimal cross and can be leave or go somewhere.
fairly relaxed, especially when the legs are
stretched forward and the person is leaning
back (and more so if the hands are behind the Moving
head). When more tension is seen, for example
in clenched hands, then this may be a signal of
Moving legs sometimes is just exercising them
self-restraint.
to get the circulation moving more and loosen
cramped muscles. Sometimes also this sends a
An ankle cross with legs tucked under the chair signal.
can indicate concealed anxiety. The concern may
be more obvious if the person is leaning Standing
forward.

Crossing knees may indicate greater anxiety or Swinging a leg when standing can act as a
defensiveness, particularly if the legs appear pointer. Bouncing the leg can indicate
tense and even more so if one leg is wrapped impatience.
firmly around the other.
Moving a leg is one way of getting closer to
A relaxed cross with lower legs falling close another person without full body movement.
together needs a wider pelvis and hence may be Pulling it back shows disinterest. When the leg
moves back and fore towards and away from a
person it may be a subtle 'Attraction-

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rejection' game that invites the other person 2. Thigh body language
to chase after you.

Thighs are the upper legs, containing the femur


If done in time to music, especially if it and a lot of muscle. They have a ball joint at
bounces the upper body, it can be an invitation the top that allows full rotation and a hinge
to dance (females sometimes deliberately do at the knee at the bottom.
this to make their breasts bounce and so entice
a male).
Opening
Sitting
When the thighs are rotated apart, they expose
the genitals and thus send a very inviting
A crossed leg may bounce up and down. This can message. In intercourse, a woman's thighs are
be a sign of impatience (particularly if rapid) open and thus this is a particularly strong
or attraction, as with standing movement. It suggestion, particularly when wearing a short
may also be rather obvious pointing. When skirt or dress.
sitting, a knee waving sideways can also
indicate impatience or point sideways.
For men it says something along the lines 'Hey,
look at my great big penis!' For other men,
The leg may also swing in time to music, this can mean 'My penis is bigger than yours!'
indicating that the person is relaxed and
enjoying the vibe (and perhaps inviting others
to join in). Opening the thighs also expose the genitals to
attack and this move may also be a power
display, saying 'You dare not attack me because
Striking I am so powerful.'

Legs can also be weapons, as all martial In a relaxed pose, the thighs are typically
artists know. Legs are longer than arms and slightly open, with legs running in parallel
have much bigger muscles. This can make a kick from the hips.
very powerful.
Closing
The legs can hit with thigh or knee (such as in
the groin strike), the shin (a nice hard bone)
or the top, ball or side of the foot. In an opposite of opening, thighs that are
pulled tight together send a signal of
rejection that says something like 'No way
Actual striking is rare, but moving as if to you're getting in here!'
kick someone can come from a desire to actually
do so. A slight twitch in the right direction
can thus signal aggression and cause Knees together can be quite a prim move,
embarrassment. Swinging the leg may simulate particularly when sitting. When wearing a short
kicking. skirt, it can also be a pragmatic position to
prevent embarrassing and socially undesirable
exposure of the genitals.
Touching

Crossing
Standing

Crossing the thighs, standing or sitting, takes


When standing, not much of the leg can be
the defensiveness of closing further. It is
touched. The bottom or thighs may be stroked
often a strong 'closed' signal very much like
seductively. They may also be slapped. A single
crossing the arms right across the body. When
slap can say 'Right, let's go' and signal that
the upper body is open and the thighs are
the person is about to make a suggestion. A
closed, this may be a symptom of the person
slapped side of leg may also indicate
applying deliberate control to their upper body
irritation, saying 'Dang! What a nuisance!'
but forgetting (and over-compensating with)
their legs.
Sitting
This can also be a relaxed position,
When sitting, more of the leg may be reached, particularly when the muscles seem loose.
particularly in the figure-four cross-leg
position, and in a more visible manner. Lifting
Seductive stroking can thus be a strong sexual
invitation.
Lifting the thigh is a basic element of walking
and may be a signal of a desire to walk away.
Preening may also be used, brushing real or
imagined bits of fluff off crossed legs.
The weight of the body rests on the legs and
the thigh has the largest muscles to manage
The leg may also be tapped, perhaps in time to
this precarious balance. Lifting the thigh may
music and perhaps impatiently.
simply be a stretching exercise.

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Bouncing the thigh up and down may be a signal Touching
of impatience.
Touching and stroking the knee, particularly
Touching when done by women, may signal a desire that a
nearby man does the same and is hence a sexual
invitation or tease.
When people are about to stand up, they may put
both hands on the thighs to push themselves up.
This may also be a signal of readiness ('I'm The knees are vulnerable in an attack, and a
ready to go!'). good kick will disable the person for a long
time. Holding the knees may thus be a defensive
act when the person is feeling anxious.
Putting both hands on the thighs with the
elbows out sideways can be a sitting version of
hands-on-hips, widening the body and showing Women may also hold their knees when they feel
displeasure or threatening action. the attention of men that they would rather not
have. Sometimes they dress in attractive ways
more from social convention than from a desire
Touching the thighs draws attention to them. As
to be picked up.
the thighs are near the genitals, touching can
be very suggestive. The nearer the genitals the
hands move, the more inviting it is. Touching 4. Foot body language
the inside of the leg is more suggestive than
touching the outside of the leg.
After eons of using our feet mostly for erect
walking, we have lost most of the ability that
The thigh may be slapped as a self-punishment our primate cousins still have to pick things
or 'gee up' self motivation. up and manipulate things as if our feet were
another pair of hands.
3. Knee body language
Pointing
The knee is made up of the kneecap (patela) and
the joint between the upper and lower legs. Feet are elongated as walking and stable
Whilst other areas may offer greater platforms and so can be used for pointing, as
communication, the knee does its bit. with other parts of the body. We point at
things that are of interest to us and feet,
Pointing being down on the ground are often not noticed.
They thus may send a very subtle and
subconscious signal about people we like or
The knee can act as a subtle pointer, just like places we would like to go (like away from a
the elbow. When pointing towards something or current conversationalist).
somebody, the knee can indicate desire.
Pointing away, it indicates the opposite.
In some cultures the feet are the lowest part
of the body and exposing them to others is an
Thus a knee in a crossed leg (standing or insult, particularly the sole of the foot (so
sitting) in a conversation can indicate who the be careful when crossing your legs).
person is really thinking about. Alternatively
the person may point their knee at such as the Curling
bar or the door to show their inner wishes.

Weapon We cannot move the foot a great deal and pretty


much all we can do is curl the toes up or down.
Curling the feet can be a sign of extreme
The knee, again like the elbow, can act as a pleasure (or extreme pain).
weapon, with perhaps the most well known (if
not the most common) use being an attack on the Kicking
(usually male) groin of another person. Another
attack is in the side of the thigh, temporarily
disabling them with a 'dead leg'. The feet can be used for kicking and hurting
others. We can kick with the toes (not always
Twitching of the knee towards a person may be a good as this may break them), with the ball of
desirable pointing and it may also be a desire the foot (popular in martial arts), with the
to hit them. side of the foot, the bottom of the foot, the
heel or with the top of the foot.

Attracting
Stamping

Knees are often considered to be sexually


attractive and exposing them below the hemline We can stamp with the whole flat of the foot or
in short skirts and dresses can be a deliberate the heel. Stamping makes a noise and can be an
female ploy to create attention. attention-getting signal 'Hey! Listen to me!'
It can often be signal of anger and aggression,
particularly when used with other noise-making
devices such as shouting, perhaps to frighten
the other person into submission or flight.

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Moving
Gesture: Rubbing hands
Meaning: Anticipation
Tapping the foot can be a sign of impatience as
the person gets into a kind of tense repetitive Gesture: Sitting with hands clasped behind
state. The foot becomes literally a like a head, legs crossed
clock's pendulum, marking and moving on time. Meaning: Confidence, superiority

Moving the feet is also a common indicator of a Gesture: Open palm


person lying, particularly if they are sitting Meaning: Sincerity, openness, innocence
down and their feet are hidden under a table.
Gesture: Pinching bridge of nose, eyes closed
Meaning: Negative evaluation
Anxiety brings energy and presenters at
conferences and teachers may walk up and down, Gesture: Tapping or drumming fingers
even when they know they should really stay in Meaning: Impatience
one place. This is sometimes called 'happy
feet'. Gesture: Steepling fingers
Meaning: Authoritative
Swinging the foot can be a form of pointing.
Gesture: Patting/fondling hair
Meaning: Lack of self-confidence; insecurity
Touching
Gesture: Quickly tilted head
Meaning: Interest
The foot can be an erotic object and stroking
it can be mildly suggestive. Gesture: Stroking chin
Meaning: Trying to make a decision
When legs are crossed, the foot may be massaged
or squeezed, perhaps to relieve tension or as a Gesture: Looking down, face turned away
substitute for massaging tension elsewhere in Meaning: Disbelief
the body.
Gesture: Biting nails
Meaning: Insecurity, nervousness

Gesture: Pulling or tugging at ear


Meaning: Indecision
GENERAL
Gesture: Prolonged tilted head
Meaning: Boredom
Gesture: Brisk, erect walk
Meaning: Confidence

Gesture: Standing with hands on hips


Meaning: Readiness, aggression

Gesture: Sitting with legs crossed, foot


kicking slightly
Meaning: Boredom

Gesture: Sitting, legs apart


Meaning: Open, relaxed

Gesture: Arms crossed on chest


Meaning: Defensiveness

Gesture: Walking with hands in pockets,


shoulders hunched
Meaning: Dejection

Gesture: Hand to cheek


Meaning: Evaluation, thinking

Gesture: Touching, slightly rubbing nose


Meaning: Rejection, doubt, lying

Gesture: Rubbing the eye


Meaning: Doubt, disbelief

Gesture: Hands clasped behind back


Meaning: Anger, frustration, apprehension

Gesture: Locked ankles


Meaning: Apprehension

Gesture: Head resting in hand, eyes downcast


Meaning: Boredom

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