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How to Read Body Language, and Good Books to teach you the Art of Reading Body Language by Priyanka ,  Mar 1, 2013
Read Body Language

Noticing the signals that people send out with their body language is a very useful social skill. Some of us can read it naturally and some of us are notoriously oblivious. Fortunately, with a little extra attentiveness, you can learn to read body language, and with enough practice it'll become second nature.


  1. 1
    Pay attention to how physically close someone is to you. The closer they are, the warmer they are thinking of you. If you move slightly closer to them, do they move slightly further away? That means they don't want your interaction to be any more personal than it already is. If they don't move further away, then they are receptive. And if they respond by getting even closer to you, they probably really like you or are very comfortable around/by you.

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    • It is worth noting that personal space is culturally fluid; keep in mind that what is considered close in one country is far away in another.
  2. 2
    Watch their head position.
    • Overly tilted heads are either a potential sign of sympathy, or if a person smiles while tilting their head, they are being playful and maybe even flirting.
    • Lowered heads indicate a reason to hide something. Take note if someone lowers their head. If it is when he is complimented, he may be shy, ashamed, timid, keeping distance from the other person, in disbelief, or thinking to himself or herself. If it is after an explanation, then he may be unsure if what he said was correct, or could be reflecting.
      • It should be noted that some cultures see this as a sign of respect.
    • Cocked heads mean that they are confused or challenging you, depending on eye, eyebrow, and mouth gestures. Think of how a dog slightly cocks its head when you make a funny noise.
  3. 3
    Look into their eyes.
    • People who look to the sides a lot are nervous, lying, or distracted. However, if a person looks away from the speaker, it very well could be a comfort display or indicate submissiveness. Looking askance generally means the person is distrustful or unconvinced.
    • If someone looks down at the floor a lot, they are probably shy or timid. People also tend to look down when they are upset, or trying to hide something emotional. People are often thinking and feeling unpleasant emotions when they are in the process of staring at the ground.
    • Some cultures believe that looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of disrespect, or is only done with intimate friends or family, so this could explain why someone is avoiding eye contact with you.
    • Dilated pupils mean that the person is interested. Keep in mind, however, that many substances cause pupils to dilate, including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, LSD and others. Don't mistake having a few drinks for attraction.
    • If their eyes seem focused far away, that usually indicates that a person is in deep thought or not listening.
  4. 4
    See if they're mirroring you. If someone mimics your body language this is a very genuine sign that they are trying to establish rapport with you. Try changing your body position here and there. If you find that they change theirs similarly, they are mirroring.
  5. 5
    Check their arms.
    • People with crossed arms are closing themselves to social influence. Though some people just cross their arms as a habit, it may indicate that the person is (slightly) reserved, uncomfortable with their appearance (self conscious and trying to cover it), or just trying to hide something on their shirt. If their arms are crossed while their feet are shoulder width or wider apart, this is a position of toughness or authority.
    • If they are rubbing their hands together or somehow touching their own body, they might be comforting themselves (which means they aren't enjoying the current situation).
    • If someone rests their arms behind their neck or head, they are open to what is being discussed or just laid back in general.
    • If their hands are on their hips, they might be waiting, impatient or just tired.
    • If their hands are closed or clenched, they may be irritated, angry, or nervous.
  6. 6
    Be aware of nervous gestures:
    • If someone brushes their hair back with their fingers, this may be preening, a common gesture if the person likes you, or their thoughts about something conflict with yours. They might not voice this. If you see raised eyebrows during this time, you can be pretty sure that they disagree with you.
    • If the person wears glasses, and is constantly pushing them up onto their nose again, with a slight frown, that may also indicate they disagree with what you are saying. Look to make sure they push up their glasses with an intent, not casually adjusting them. Look for pushing on the rim with two fingers, or an extra motion of wiggling the side of their glasses. The frown or raised eyebrows should tip you off. (Note: A frown may also indicate eyestrain, and constant re-adjusting of glasses could be the result of an improper fit. The distinguishing feature is whether they are looking directly at you while doing it.)
    • Lowered eyebrows and squinted eyes illustrate an attempt at understanding what is being said or going on. It's usually skeptical. This is presuming they are not trying to observe something that's far away.
  7. 7
    Watch their feet:
    • A fast tapping, shifting of weight, laughing, or movement of the foot will most often mean that the person is impatient, excited, nervous, scared, or intimidated.
      • The meaning of feet tapping can usually be discerned depending on the context; if you are currently talking and they are tapping their feet, that is an indication of a desire to leave (though usually this behavior manifests when the person is anxious to get somewhere specific, such as a meeting, rather than because of what you're doing specifically). Slow shuffling indicates boredom with the current situation. If during flirtation your legs/feet touch, tapping can generally be interpreted as nervous excitement. This is because if they were uncomfortable, they would discreetly move away from the contact, a much more subtle escape than indirectly trying to tell you to move away.
      • Note though that some people with ADHD will constantly jiggle their legs. It doesn't mean anything, it's entirely subconscious and, while eccentric, it is difficult to stop. Some people also do it out of habit.
    • If the person is sitting, feet crossed at the ankles means they're generally at ease.
    • If while standing, a person seems to always keep their feet very close together, it probably means they are trying to be "proper" in some way. Sometimes feet together means that they are feeling more submissive or passive.
    • If they purposely touch their feet to yours, they are flirting!
    • Some people may point their feet to the direction of where they want to go or sometimes their interest. So if it's pointing at you, he/she may be interested in you.

If you are interested in reading further about body language, here are several books to consider:

· "Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You" (Fireside), by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Mark Mazzarella.

· "Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior -- Anytime, Anyplace" (Ballantine). Same authors as above.

The Definitive Book of Body Language is a great resource for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of body language. Learn more about how to interpret the nonverbal behavior of other people as well as how to use body language to send the right signals.


  • Helps the reader understand and interpret different types of body language.
  • Offers practical tips and suggestions for improving your own body language.
  • Covers a wide range of nonverbal behaviors, from eye signals to arm positioning.
  • Provides numerous visual examples of body language and nonverbal signals.


  • Few in-text citations to identify research, studies, and sources.


  • Information about the background and history of research on body language.
  • Tips for how to become better at interpreting body language.
  • Cultural similarities and differences in the use of body language.
  • Common body signals that indicate lying or deceit.
  • Techniques for making a great first impression.
  • Practical advice and suggestions for improving your own body language.

Guide Review - The Definitive Book of Body Language

The Definitive Book of Body Language offers an intriguing look at how people use body language to communicate. Unlike many other books on body language, this book emphasizes the fact that “clusters” of behaviors are far more telling than just a solitary gesture viewed in isolation. While other body language books tend to focus on the interpretation of lying or deceitful behavior, this book offers tips for how you can use body language in positive ways. Early chapters offer background information on body language research and how to interpret nonverbal signals. Later chapters offer a wealth of information on topics such as mirroring, eye signals, and micro-expressions. Most importantly, The Definitive Book of Body Language provides useful practical applications for reading signals and using body language to communicate. Valuable tips for making first impressions and coping with the nonverbal behaviors of others make this book a valuable resource for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of nonverbal communication.

Book Details

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Whether you're presenting an idea, delivering a speech, managing a team, or negotiating a deal, your body language plays a key role in your overall success.

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