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Understanding Body Language

Updated on July 26, 2007

I'll never forget a scene from my sophomore year. A group of friends and I were part of a peer counseling group led by the school social worker. Two girls out of the five of us had serious problems--family issues, divorce, abuse, etc.--the remaining three (myself included) served as a support system during their once-a-week therapy talks. Anyway, one day out of nowhere the focus of the group turned towards me. Apparently, one of the girls thought I was spending too much time with her current boyfriend. In all honesty, nothing was going on (he and I were strictly friends.) But because I wasn't expecting this sudden detour in conversation, I closed up internally. My paranoid friend accused and berated me for several minutes before the counselor urged her to relent, pointing out, "Look at how Jaclyn's sitting. She's settled into a defensive stance. She's not going to let you through." She was absolutely right, but it wasn't until she said something that I realized I had closed up externally as well. I was sitting huddled in the corner of a large couch, my knees drawn up around my chest, hands balled into small fists. Every part of my body was angled away from the group and pointing towards the door.

Body language makes up 55% of our communication with others. The movements our bodies unknowingly and subconsciously create speak volumes about the way we're feeling mentally and emotionally. When a couple is in the midst of a heated argument and the woman folds her arms across her chest, she is sending a message that cannot be verbalized. Sentences are a logical construction, and sometimes they can only say so much. Where our words fall short, our natural reactions take over in the form of body language.


Just like it happens in the wild animal kingdom, humans give off subtle (and not-so-subtle) vibes to let a potential mate know they are interested in getting jiggy with it. The eyes are an important factor to look for when signaling from afar. The most common way of initially expressing interest is to catch the other person's eye for longer than a beat, look away, and then look back up. Once contact has been initiated, someone who is into you will do a lot of self-grooming: tossing her hair, smoothing her hair down with her hand, fixing her makeup, preening her clothing, smoothing out wrinkles in the fabric. If for some reason you are not close enough to communicate with words, the person may express her desire by stroking her arms or face. This motion is trying to tell you that either she wants you to mimic this motion on her skin once you are in close proximity, or that she wants to be doing this to you. She will lean in to you when you are standing together, letting you know she wants to be closer but always to see if you will return her gesture by leaning in closer yourself. Her feet, knees, arms and/or head will point directly at you, letting you know that she is interested, and that she wants to travel in your direction.

The 'attraction-rejection game' is a classic game of romantic pursuit played by humans and animals alike. You may know it as simply The Chase: we are attracted to that which we believe we cannot have. Sam is attracted to Julia so he moves towards her. She isn't interested so she moves away. Taking the hint, Sam backs off and stops pursuing her. As soon as Julia realizes he has stopped chasing her, she becomes suddenly attracted to him and begins her pursuit. If he responds positively and her interest remains, great! If not, the process will continue to repeat itself over and over again. It is a very delicate balance, however. If, for example, Sam didn't get the hint the first time and continued to pursue Julia despite her disinterest, Julia would begin to feel overwhelmed, possibly even threatened. At this point she would either disappear, or send him very blunt, animalistic "back the hell off" signals. You walk a fine line when it comes to courtship and dating. Chase too hard and you'll chase her away. Run too fast and he'll give up on following you.


Aggressive readiness, defiance


Defensive, opposition

Uncomfortable, dejected

Doubt, lying


Sincerity, frankness, openess

Negative evaluation


Trying to decide, indecision

MOVEMENT .....................................

Hands on hips

Legs crossed, kicking foot

Arms crossed on chest

Walking with hands in pockets

Slight touching/rubbing of the nose

Ankles locked

Open palms

Pinching bridge of nose

Playing with one's hair

Stroking chin

Pulling on ear


Lovers will hold each other's gaze for a much longer time period than they would with friends or strangers; during the "bedroom eyes" gaze, the head will be inclined slightly down. When two people are in love or are very attracted to one another, their pupils dilate (become larger) when they are in each other's presence. If you find him sitting on his hands during a fight, it means he is attempting to control what is coming out of his mouth. This does not necessarily mean he is lying; more likely, he knows he is treading on thin ice, so he's being extra careful not to misstep. If she is maintaining prolonged eye contact but has her arms folded across her chest at the same time, this could mean she wishes to speak to you about a sensitive topic that makes her uncomfortable, but is afraid to bring it up. Check to be sure her facial expressions match up with her verbal statements (she should be smiling when she says "I love you", not frowning.)


When someone is being open and honest with you, their physical characteristics will reflect their emotional traits. He or she will not have any part of the body crossed in any way. The hands will be relaxed, possibly motioning, or "talking with her hands", to underscore her sentiments. The legs are either resting side by side or perhaps even stretched open. Sitting "indian style" is a very open, trusting stance. If the person is interested in you, her feet may be pointed either to the side or directly at you. She will maintain direct eye contact. When someone is relaxed and open, he or she has no problem removing clothing. Now don't get any freaky ideas -- I'm not talking about removing clothes in order to get naked (although come to think of it, I'm not excluding the possibility) -- I mean removing a jacket or loosening a tie are all signs that the person is comfortable with you.


When someone is on their guard and feeling threatened, they jump into "fight or flight" mode. The body will naturally cover vital organs and areas of vulnerability. The chin may be lowered to protect the neck, the genitals are protected by crossed legs, the arms will be crossed across the chest, protecting the heart. Another defense mechanism is to make oneself become small. In this instance, the person may seem to shrink into himself, arms hugging chest, posture curling into a ball. We cannot achieve invisibility, but by making ourselves smaller we are hoping our predator will not notice us, or we will not be big enough for him to swallow during an attack. We will tense up, partially to prepare our muscles for a physical fight, partially to avoid any sudden, jerky movements that will bring attention.



If, during an argument or discussion, she isn't convinced you are telling the truth, she will show signs of disbelief by tugging on her ear, rubbing her eyes, or periodically looking away. If she is lying, on the other hand, she may lick her lips or place her hand over her mouth. The unconscious reasoning behind this reaction is that she is trying to cover her deceit, or stop the truth from leaking out, by phsically disguising the place where her words are coming from. As I mentioned above, when someone is being honest and forthcoming their hands usually reflect this by remaining open and visible; likewise, when people have something to hide they will often hide their hands, either by putting them in their pockets or pulling them up into long sleeves. Her body language will be pointed away from you, or she may place objects between the two of you wherever she can, like a coffee cup, a magazine, even a pet. Most importantly, always pay attention to your lover's eyes. We look down and to the left when we are fabricating, up and to the right when we are remembering.

He enjoys your company, but feels no romantic spark

He's interested

He likes you, but he is shy or doesn't want to reveal too much too soon

He's insecure

He wants to, um...mate

This unnaturally long stare indicates he's a player

Good communicator, attentive

Craves a close partnership with you

He feels VERY strongly about you

He is pulling away either physically, emotionally, or both


Smiling with top lip stretched tight, front teeth barely peeking through

Lifts his eyebrows

Closed mouth grin that turns slightly up at the corners

Toes pointed towards each other

Touches his belt

Holds a long gaze for more than five seconds

Talks with his hands

Holds your hand in public

Cups your face when he kisses you

Has a limp, dead fish kind of hand hold



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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'll definitely be looking more closely now! thanks:)

    • profile image

      specil k 

      7 years ago

      i like pie

    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      I'll definitely be looking more closely now! This is great stuff for fiction writers. I'll be putting it to good use. Thanks!

    • Stephdiva profile image


      8 years ago from New york

      This was gonna look more closely now.thanx

    • profile image

      Erik Young 

      9 years ago

      Just call The Royal Thai Police on 911 or 02 255 4934 for sex with children and ask for visitor services.

      According to one long time case-worker in Thailand in 2009, despite the trainings, many Thai policemen still consider sex with teen-age children “to be OK”. Only a handful of police officers across the Kingdom are trained on the proper treatment of children in police custody.

      This report will find its way to about 5000 key people in Thailand who can explain the content to local people in Thai.

      I have written to every city/town in Thailand during the past two months with reports confirming claims about child sexual abuse of The Royal Thai Police.

      I am delighted they have ordered the death sentence upon a very evil and corrupt Thai Police General who murdered a mother and son.

      There are two species of Homo Sapiens. Homo Sapiens Human and Homo Sapiens Satan.

      Unfortunately The Royal Thai Police are mainly Homo Sapiens Satan. This is why The Royal Thai Police have little or no regard for The Declaration Of Human Rights, they are not humans.

      It was my Uncle Harry S Young who advised former President Lee Kuan Yew, how to ensure Singapore would become free of corruption. The same can be applied to Thailand and bring a future free of corruption.

      Corruption is the world's biggest killer of children.


      Erik Young

      (Cousin of Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussn of NATO)

    • profile image

      Erik Young UN Human Rights Ambassadors 

      10 years ago

      How to break the Heroin Cartel......The next step to be taken by The International Criminal Court at The hague in The Netherlands is to put The Official receiver into Gibraltar on ALL Gibraltar registered companies.I nthink we'll find some spurious cashflow routes and some irregular accounting that will come to BILLIONS of EUROS... isn't that correct Mr Sophonpanich ?????? I guess there will be some Lawyers needing a can of deodorant when they hear this news.One of the most evil money laundering routes of the Sophonpanich Cartel is paying the preiums on life assurance policies then driving the insured to their death, the money then reinvested into some other interest bearing investments.

      Sophonpanich-Shinawatra-Heroin -ThaiCIA-Hamas-Secret.Police.I raq-Taliban-Habyarimana-Shinaw atra-Sophonpanich-Drugs CartelIt was the hotest summer on record of 1976 when I noticed a privateexecutive HS125 or HS 800 jet flying into Shoreham Airport near BrightonWest Sussex UK. There were frequent regular sightings of this jet and Ihad heard it had flown in from Barcelona Catalina Spain.I recall the Hawker Siddley Private Executive Jet that probably flew in fromBarcelona Spain .. 0.arp.750pix.jpgMy father had been WW2 Spitfire Fighter Pilot so I had some interest inwhat was above in the sky above me. He was murdered by the Sophonpanich mafia in 2006 they poured acid down his throat and he choked to death over a three weekperiod. They murdered my baby daughter Rosie young on December 24th 1997 and my son christian Young on december 23rd 1998It was at "The Amsterdam" a meeting happened between S..hamas andrepresentatives of the Heroin Cartel who flew the "Chocolate" supplies infrom Barcelona Spain.They has their usual consignment of "Chocolate" for the Brighton andLondon Heroin addicts to deliver for distribution.I had heard about the plan to front our the Heroin Distribution point ofpresence that became known as Hamas to supply The Middle East. Infact I may have been in the "Amsterdam" minding my own business (Iwas only about 16 at the time) when I overheard the conversation and thesound of a mild Irish accent.They would set up the "loss of face" facade as Political Activists in thedispute between Israel and Palestine. For this loss of face factor isnothing to do with the Chinese it is the Sophonpanich family and theirsatanic heroin drugs game.Beirut was already in ruins from their schedule of causing conflictbetween communities then going in and looting the target for all theycould get their filthy satanic thieves hands upon. The King David Hotelwas blown up by theseHeroin dealing bastards who then spread rumoursthat it was the work of a group headed by a man called BEGIN, who laterbecame the leader of Israel.

      GET OFF OUR LAND YOU BASTARDSIn fact I would go as far as saying the underlying the entire problemthroughout The Middle east has been the Sophonpanich-Shinawatra-ThaiCIA Mafia-Hamas-Secret.Police-Iraq -Drugs Cartel.It was this Sophonpanich Cartel that planned and caused the Lockerbiepan-Am Flight 103 disaster and the missile attack at The Excelsior HotelHeathrow Airport. They are satanists and have caused conflictsthroughout history going right back to the Ancient Egyptians. It was theirgroup that slaughtered babies circa Moses and the bull-rushes killing allthe boys and keeping the girls to be used elsewhere for prostitution. Totalf.ucking bastards, the men of catalina were absolute monsters totallyuntrustworthy two faced bastards.My advice to Spain and the rest of Europe and beyond is cancel ALL yourholiday bookings to Barcelona and Catalina (home of the Cat burglar)province and go to The Algarve instead.The Mafia of Sophonpanich works by stealing the ID of others and thenpointing fingers at innocent parties.Their assets in Barcelona should be frozen as too should the assets ofany Gibralter registered companies around 1976 registration date until weassess which are the offending companies laundering and cashflowingHeroin money.Barcelona is the only place in the world where I had my credit cardcloned. PLEASE DO NOT VISIT Barcelona Spain until we have removedtheir Satanic Mafia and seized all their assets.I suspect they were connected to the disappearance of the little Englishgirl from The Algarve.My wife Netnapa Taenjamras and our daughter Panadta Mercedes NYoung disappeared about three years ago. So too did my subsequentgirlfriend who was a daughter of The Sultan of Brunei who I met inBangkok, she had an English mother. So to safeguard your children keep away from the Catalina element whoare part of the Heroin-ThaiCIA-Hamas-Secret.Po lice.Iraq-Taliban-Habyarimana-Shinawatra-Sophonp anich-Drugs CartelTaliban (Yaa si Ban = House 4 Drugs)Hamas =(named after Shamas formerly an Irish gangster they asked torun the Heroin trade in Ireland)Habyarimna (Harim for drugs Nana Plaza Bangkok)Sophonpanich = A can of worms -deceit,torture,satanism,poisoi ngtheft,child abuse....Mr Winn-Pope is a name that needs investigating.he spread lies aboutme and my family that ruined my life and caused the death of my father.Erik YoungThe United NationsHuman Rights AmbassadorPattayaThailand

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Wow this stuff is great and honeslty I have known what I have been missing, so I gona change for the better with her

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I never thought about it, but you are totally right... at least regarding me!

    • my-hair-tools profile image


      11 years ago from Ohio

      very insightfull, never really thought about all of the non verbal communication that we really do, but its helpful stuff!

    • privateye2500 profile image


      11 years ago from Canada, USA, London

      pretty good stuff!!!

    • topstuff profile image


      11 years ago


    • massagetherapy profile image


      12 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Wow becauseilive, another great hub. Really informative!

      Tomorrow I'm going to try and observe the body language of the people I come in contact with and see what happens.



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