How to read Body Language - Basics

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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.


Pay attention to how close someone is to you. The closer they are, the warmer they are thinking of you. The farther away that someone is, the less they actually care of the situation or person. 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.

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. (Note that people with vision problems such as amblyopia will also have a tilted head.)
  • 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.
  • On the other hand when coupled with a smile, a tilted head will mean they genuinely like you and are engaged in playful conversation.


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 drugs cause pupils to dilate, including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, LSD and others. Don't mistake having a few drinks for attraction. Also, some people have permanently dilated pupils (a condition known as mydriasis).
  • If their eyes seem far away, that usually indicates that a person is in deep thought or not listening. (Note: Unfocused eyes may also be a sign of binocular vision problems.)

See if they're mirroring you. Mirroring is another common gesture. If someone mirrors, or mimics your appearance, this is a very genuine sign that they are interested in you and 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.

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 (IE: 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 them selves in a way to comfort themselves it means they are trying to comfort themselves and are most likely thinking "it will be over soon"
  • 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.

Read more about body language HERE