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The Essential Guide To Body Language

Apr 30, 2008
The Essential Body Language Guide - How to read your colleagues and friends without them saying a word.

Ever wanted to know what someone is really thinking when you ask them a question? With the Essential Body Language Guide, you can be one step ahead by reading body signals during interviews, sales pitches, meetings, romantic dates and 'honest' heart-to-hearts!

The eyes have it

The eyes can give a lot of information away when it comes to what and how a person is thinking.

Did you know that the eyes act as a sort of search engine; accessing data, words and memories which are stored in various parts of the brain?

When you are asked a question, your eyes receive the message and move it the part of the brain that the answer is stored in. You will sometimes find that you move your eyes more when trying hard to remember something or don't know the correct answer to a difficult question.

But it is the direction of the eye movement that can indicate what someone is REALLY thinking when you ask them a question.

In most right-handed people, the more logical, sequential and recollection side of the brain is on the left; with visually remembered images stored in the upper left brain, remembered sounds stored in the mid-left part of the brain and the lower left brain is active when we are talking to ourselves.

If you are asked "What colour was your first car?" (Visual Recall), your eyes would move up to the left; if you were asked "What does the theme tune for Coronation Street sound like?" (Audio Recall), your eyes would move across to the left, and if you were having a brief chat with yourself (Internal Dialogue), your eyes would move down to the left.

The more creative, simultaneous and constructing side of the brain is on the right; with visually constructed images created in the upper right brain, constructed sounds created in the mid-right brain and in the lower right brain, feelings and emotions are stored.

So, if you were asked to "Try to imagine what you would look like with wings" (Visual Construction), your eyes would move up to the right; if you were asked to "Create a brand new tune to the Happy Birthday song" (Audio Construction), your eyes would move across to the right, and if you were asked to "Recall what your first kiss felt like" (Feeling/Emotion Recall), your eyes would move down to the right.

Next time you ask a colleague an analytical, work related question, check out his/her eyes - the question should require a movement of their eyes up to the left to retrieve the answer. However, a movement of their eyes to the right could mean you're about to hear a porky pie or that the person is accessing an emotion about you or your question!

What's in hug?

A person who gives you a pat on the back while they are hugging you is indicating that they are very uneasy or uncomfortable with what they're doing. The bigger the pat, the more discomfort they feel.

Contact during a hug is also an indication on how a person may be feeling; full frontal contact shows the person likes you, the bottom-stuck-out hug shows that the person is not interested in getting to know you anymore than they already do and a side-on hug or one-shoulder hug means that the person may not be all that fond of you or that they would prefer to keep you at a distance.

Let's shake hands

The way an individual shakes hands with another provides endless clues about their character and demeanour.

An overly hard, knuckle crunching handshake is an indication that the person is domineering and lacks sensitivity, but interestingly, also lacks a bit of confidence. A man that delivers this kind of handshake will also squeeze the hand of a woman in this way.

The double-clasped handshake (or a handshake accompanied by an elbow or arm grab) indicates that the person is desperate for the other individual to like him/her. In doing this, the opposite can occur as this handshake is generally seen to be over-familiar, leaving the recipient feeling uncomfortable.

A limp, lifeless handshake is usually given by those with very low self-esteem and not much personality.

The fingertip hand-shakers (the ones who only give you the tips of 3 or 4 fingers to shake) are generally cold, often timid, closed-off individuals that keep themselves to themselves. Of all the handshakes, this one comes across as the most negative.

Showing an open hand with the palm up as you go to shake somebody's hand suggests honesty and sincerity, while shaking hands with your palm down conveys that person's need to dominate over the other.

Tongue and cheek

Mouth, lip and tongue movement is also something you can analyse to reveal what a person is thinking or feeling.

The showing of ones tongue is a dead giveaway when someone has just lied, just about to lie or is rejecting what is being said.

When you see a tongue show before a statement, it's usually an indicator that whatever the person is about to say is not completely factual.

When the tongue is stuck out and run from one side of the mouth to the other after a statement, it suggests that a lie has just been told and the tongue is trying to sweep the lie away in order to conceal it.

Lips that are pursed show anxiety and nerves and if both lips are sucked part way in, the person is attempting to withhold their anger.

What's the point?

Pointing is an extremely potent gesture of power. It is unconsciously used as a symbolic weapon; when you make a fist and thrust your finger at a person, you are symbolically shooting him/her.

It is mainly used in aggressive situations, and it is mostly used by men to show their dominance.

To point with the whole hand toward someone is a signal that what is being said is official and non-negotiable.


Did you know that there are over 20 different types of smile, all with different meanings? Unfortunately, the smile is most commonly used to hide various emotions that we are feeling, rather than to make yourself or others around you feel happy.

You can always tell if someone's smile is sincere. A real smile changes the entire face whereas with a masking smile used to hide disapproval, contempt or jealousy etc, nothing moves but the mouth - the eyes remain emotionless.

But it's not just movement that is important in determining whether someone is truly happy or not; timing is also important.

The smile occurring with the person's words and emotions tells you if it is heartfelt. Typically, a person will feel happy, smile and then say something happy. Feel - show - say. If a smile comes after something is said, it is not genuine.

Kind gestures

Hands and arms symbolically express the emotions of the heart. Love, anger, frustration, honesty - they are all reflected in the gestures that we make.

A seasoned liar or someone who prefers to hide their true feelings will control their gestures or will not gesticulate at all. You can spot these types as they usually have their hands in their pockets or behind their backs whilst they are talking to you.

More open and honest individuals will gesticulate often. The more outward and upward hand motions, the more positive or happy the person is feeling.

We make many different gestures and body movements everyday and they all mean something different. Here are 10 of the most common gestures and movements performed during conversations and meetings:

Steepling (putting the finger tips of one hand against the finger tips of the other) - this indicates confidence and authority

Clasping hands on the back of the head - indicates an arrogant confidence

Unbuttoning a suit jacket - shows that the individual is open willing to talk and ready to negotiate.

Hand/finger to the cheek - indicates deep thought and evaluation

Kicking foot while sitting cross-legged - shows boredom and a desire to be somewhere else

Tilted head - Shows interest

Folded arms - shows defensiveness

Mirroring (when an individual is mirroring your movements during a conversation or meeting) - suggests that you are communicating and connecting perfectly with the other person

Nose touching - Indicates the individual is lying or doubtful of what they are hearing

Touching a palm of the hand to the chest - shows honesty and sincerity
About the Author
Maryse Mignott is a communication executive and features writer for http://www.exclusivelondon.co.uk, a luxury London entertainment and lifestyle booking guide.
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