What your body language says about you

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“Your body language is more powerful than words”

Since 2019 when I started writing again, I always wanted to write a post about body language. For many years, I have been a keen observer of communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express, or convey the information subconsciously.

And this was way before I learnt about the 7-38-55 rule which indicates that only 7% of all communication is done through verbal communication, whereas the nonverbal component of our daily communication, such as the tonality of our voice and body language, make up 38% and 55% respectively!

It is not surprising that the use of body language goes back to prehistory and indeed pre-language times. After all, when we didn’t know how to communicate verbally, all we had was to communicate with non-verbal signals.

Learning to decode body language therefore is a powerful skill that will improve emotional intelligence skills and help individuals manage relationships with others effectively. People who are good at reading body language typically excel in their careers, have great relationships, and get “freebies” in life.

Did you know that;

  • There are over 20 muscles in the face that make up over 10,000 facial expressions?
  • We can only spot lies with 54% accuracy? – This is because no matter how hard you try to “fix your face,” it may still give you away — and it only takes a fraction of a second. Just a flash of a facial twitch, grimace, or raised brow leaves an impression that’s hard to shake. So if your unguarded reaction to something is disgust, chances are an observer may sense that in their gut, even if they can’t say why.

Enough of the trivia, let’s get into the juicy bit. Lets start with the ubiquitous handshake.

The Handshake

Handshakes are a breath of fresh air and signals mutual respect for both parties.

Handshakes and first impressions go, well, hand in hand. A nice, firm grip combined with a hearty (but not too hearty) shake can imply you’re outgoing and confident.

A limp and weak squeeze sets you up as unsure.

How long you hold your shaker’s hand matters, too: If you drop out too quickly, it can suggest shyness.

An equal handshake signals confidence, openness, and power during an interaction and leaves both interactants feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

A good rule of thumb is to only shake hands when you know the other person will warmly reciprocate it. Otherwise, a head nod is a good option—or wait for the other person to initiate first.

An equal handshake has these 7 elements:

  • good eye contact
  • a warm, genuine smile
  • an extended arm with a slight bend at the elbow
  • fingers pointing downward while approaching the other person’s hand
  • this one’s the big one—EQUAL pressure during the hand clasp
  • slight forward lean toward the other person
  • a slow release after 1–2 seconds

Although the COVID era put a pause on this age long tradition in the last two years, the fist bump has started to give way to warm handshakes and a genuine smile. Did you notice how uncomfortable it is bumping fist or is it knuckles with others?

Smiling

A smile is described as a facial expression in which the eyes brighten and the corners of the mouth curve slightly upward and which expresses especially amusement, pleasure, approval, or sometimes scorn.

Beyond the obvious description of a smile, have you heard of the Duchenne Smile?

The Duchenne smile is a smile characterized by the “crow’s feet” wrinkles around the corners of the eyes along with upturned corners of the mouth. This is a real smile. When you see a Duchenne smile, this likely indicates genuine happiness.

See image below.

A feel-good grin is contagious. When you smile at someone, it sends a signal to their mouth muscles to do the same. Their smile triggers the parts of their brain that deal with happiness, and they feel a greater sense of connection with you.

People also tend to smile more with others than when alone—in fact, when we see a smiling face, endorphins are released into our system. In most cases, we smile dozens of times in normal conversation, but many of these smiles are given out of politeness or formality

It is difficult, but not impossible, to fake a real smile.

When smiling, remember to “smile with your eyes,” instead of just your mouth. It also helps to smile widely enough to bring the cheeks up, helping activate the muscles around your eyes.

Remember to maintain the smile even after an encounter—in fake happiness encounters, you may often see an “on-off” smile that flashes and then vanishes quickly after 2 people go their separate ways.

When you flash a genuine smile, it’s an open invitation saying you’re friendly and willing to interact with others. You’re also perceived as more trustworthy and agreeable. A true smile shows you’re willing to cooperate and that you’re worthy of another person’s time and attention.

Some even add that a smile makes you look successful as it conveys confidence and professionalism.

Why not smile then?

Locking Eyes/eyes contact

You have doubtless had the experience when, across a noisy, crowded room, you lock gaze with another person perhaps of the opposite sex. It’s almost like a scene out of the movies – the rest of the world fades to grey while you and that other soul are momentarily connected in the mutual knowledge that they are looking at you and you at them.

On the flip side, some people will acknowledge that too much eye contact makes them uncomfortable and people who stare without letting go come across as creepy and irritating maybe even annoying.

Which is probably why psychologists recently tried to establish the preferred length of eye contact. They concluded that, on average, it is three seconds long (and no one preferred gazes that lasted longer than nine seconds).

A steady gaze creates a mixed bag of emotion. If the person you’re talking to is comfortable with you, they’re more likely to find you trustworthy if you hold eye contact. If they’re unsure about you, a long look will make you seem more threatening. And no matter what someone thinks of you, everyone has an eye contact threshold where things start to feel … awkward. 9 seconds!

Increased eye contact also indicates the other person may be curious, as when people are more attentive to their surroundings, their blink rate will generally decrease.

Longer eye contact, especially from people who are high-status, makes us feel favored.

What is now becoming clear is that some of our eye movements may betray our thought process.

Research shows that pupil dilation is linked to the degree of uncertainty during decision-making: if somebody is less sure about their decision, they feel heightened arousal, which causes the pupils to dilate. This change in the eye may also reveal what a decision-maker is about to say.

Do not make 100% eye contact! That is actually a territorial signal and shows aggression. People often do it before a fight. Making eye contact just 30% of the time has been shown to significantly increase what people remember you say.

You can also give a boost to your perceived persuasiveness, truthfulness, sincerity, and credibility just by mutual eye gazing.

Posture

The term posture refers to how we hold our bodies as well as the overall physical form of an individual. Posture can convey a wealth of information about how a person is feeling as well as hints about personality characteristics, such as whether a person is confident, open, or submissive.

There’s a reason people say they’re “in a slump” when things aren’t going their way. Science says slouching your shoulders can make you hold on to stress and feel sad. Standing up straight can help you feel positive and come across as confident and focused.

Having trouble standing tall? Check in with your doctor to see if there’s an underlying medical cause like osteoporosis.

The Head tilt

A head tilt is a sign of openness. Your neck is one of your most vulnerable areas. Neck skin is much thinner and requires protection. And exposing your neck and throat opens you up.

When someone tilts their head, they are showing that they’re comfortable enough to let their neck be exposed. You can often see the head tilt (especially from women) when others are attracted to someone, although this can also be used to indicate platonic interest.

It can also show that someone is curious about what you’re saying, especially if you get the head tilt and head nod cluster:

The head tilt is a very warm cue—it softens you. You want to be careful not to use it too much during sales pitches or meetings.

Mirroring

Copying the way someone’s standing, their expressions, or even their accent often builds trust and understanding between you. But this doesn’t always work. If you’re in a position of power over the person you’re mirroring, it can weird them out. Another barrier: Botox. When you can’t furrow your brow alongside someone else, for example, you won’t be able to relate to their feelings as deeply — and vice versa

Mirroring is a highly rapport-building cue that signals a desire to connect with someone else. People tend to mirror only those they like, and seeing someone else mirror our own body language creates a feeling of similarity and likeness.

Mirroring others is literally hardwired into our brains. Professor Joseph Heinrich from the University of Michigan explains that mirroring others helps us cooperate—which leads to more food, better health, and economic growth for communities.

Others;

Licking Your Lips

Maybe you’re just daydreaming about lunch, but to a conversation partner, licking your lips can read as sexual attraction. You may also wet them when talking about a romantic partner — which can be a sign you’re sexually satisfied and deeply in love.

Nodding

Bobbing your head up and down during a conversation can make you seem agreeable and interested. Nods are catching, so if you nod while you speak, you might convince others to go along with what you’re saying.

Touching Your Face and Hair

Twirling a lock, brushing back your bangs, or bringing your hands to your face can come across as flirty. “Self-grooming” behaviors like these may make it seem like you’re hoping for attention from someone you fancy.

Hand Gestures

Want to be memorable? Talk with your hands. When you gesture as you gab, it’s more likely that your words will linger in someone’s mind. But don’t overdo it. Big movements may make you seem out of control and excitable.

Tense Lips

If you tend to press your lips together, you should know: Liars are more likely to have this habit than people who tell the truth. Being (literally) tight-lipped could make you come across as untrustworthy.

Distance

It’s good to respect personal space, but when you lean away from someone, they’re more likely to suspect your motives. Same goes for fidgeting or crossing your arms. Leaning forward suggests partnership and that they can rely on you.

Stance

Standing wide with uncrossed legs or arms tends to give off an “open and available” vibe. Staring at the ground or keeping your arms across your chest are more likely to send the signal that you’re closed off and out of reach.

There are a lot more others, but lets stick to these ones for starters.

I hope I provided some clarity.

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