7 guidelines to know how to recognize body language

7 guidelines to know how to recognize body language

When we talk about body language we refer to the nonverbal cues we use to communicate. According to experts, these nonverbal cues constitute a large part of our daily communication. From our facial expressions and our body movements, the things we don't say can still convey a great deal of information.

According to several researchers, it is believed that the body language It represents between 50 and 70 percent of all communications. Understanding body language is important, but it is also essential to pay attention to other signs, such as context, for example. In many cases, we should look at the signals as if they were a united set, instead of focusing on a single action.

Here’s more information about some of the things you can look for when you’re trying to interpret the body language.


  • 1 facial expressions
  • 2 The eyes
  • 3 The mouth
  • 4 The gestures
  • 5 Arms and legs
  • 6 The posture
  • 7 The personal space

Facial expressions

Facial expressions can convey a large amount of nonverbal information.

Think for a moment about what a person is capable of transmitting with just one expression on his face. A smile can indicate approval or happiness, while a frown can signal disapproval or unhappiness. In some cases, our facial expressions may reveal our true feelings about a particular situation. While it is possible to say with words that you feel good, the expression on your face can tell people the opposite.

Here are some examples of emotions that can be expressed through facial expressions:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Surprise
  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Emotion
  • Wish
  • Contempt

Facial expressions are universal.

The facial expressions They are also among the most universal forms of body language. The expressions used to convey fear, anger, sadness and happiness are similar throughout the world. The researcher Paul Ekman found a wide variety of facial expressions linked to particular emotions such as joy, anger, fear, surprise and sadness.

The eyes

The eyes are often referred to as the "windows of the soul", since they are capable of revealing much about what a person has if the feeling or thought. As we engage in a conversation with another person, we take an unconscious note of the eye movements, this is a natural and important part of our communication process. Some basic things to keep in mind for reading body language is if the person maintains direct eye contact or avoids our gaze, also how much it blinks, or if its pupils dilate.

When evaluating body language, we can pay attention to the following eye signals:

  • The look: When a person looks directly into the eyes during a conversion, it indicates that they are interested and pay attention. However, excessively prolonged eye contact may feel like a threat. On the other hand, breaking eye contact and looking away often can indicate that the person is distracted, feels uncomfortable or tries to hide their true feelings.
  • Flicker: Intermittent blinking is natural, but we can pay attention to whether a person is blinking too much or too little. People often blink faster when they feel distressed or uncomfortable. Frequent blinking may indicate that a person is intentionally trying to control their eye movements. For example, a poker player may blink less frequently because he is deliberately trying to appear untrained on the hand of his cards.
  • Pupil size: One of the most subtle signals that the eyes provide is through the size of the pupils. While light levels in pupil dilation is an adaptive response, sometimes emotions can also cause small changes in pupil size. For example, pupillary dilation is also a sign that one person is attracted to the other.


The mouth and lips can transmit a large amount of nonverbal information.

Expressions and movements of the mouth can also be essential in reading body language. For example, biting the lower lip may indicate that the individual is experiencing worry, fear or insecurity.

Covering the mouth can be an effort to be kind if the person is yawning or coughing, but it can also be an attempt to cover up a gesture of disapproval. The smile is perhaps one of the biggest signs of body language, but smiles can also be interpreted in many ways. A smile can be genuine, or it can be used to express false happiness, sarcasm, or even cynicism.

When evaluating body language, pay attention to the following signs of the mouth and lips:

  • Purse your lips: pursing lips could be an indicator of disgust, disapproval or distrust.
  • Lip biting: People sometimes bite their lips when they are worried, anxious or stressed.
  • Cover mouth: When people want to hide an emotional reaction, they could cover their mouths in order to avoid showing a smile or smile.
  • Twist your lips up or down: Mild changes in the mouth can also be subtle indicators of what a person is feeling. When the mouth is slightly turned up, it could mean that the person feels happy or optimistic. On the other hand, a slightly decayed mouth can be an indicator of sadness, disapproval, or even a grimace of disgust.

The gestures

Gestures are often easy to understand, but their meaning may differ depending on the culture.

Gestures may be some of the most direct and obvious body language cues. Shake, point and use your fingers to indicate numerical quantities are very common and easy to understand. Some gestures can be cultural, however, so giving a thumbs up or a peace sign could have a completely different meaning depending on the country.

The following examples are just some common gestures and their possible meanings:

  • A clenched fist It can indicate anger or solidarity.
  • One thumb up and thumb down They are often used as gestures of approval and disapproval.
  • The "Ok" gesture, done by touching the thumb and index finger together in a circle while extending to the other three fingers can be used to mean well. In some parts of Europe, however, the same signal is used to imply you are nothing. In some countries of South America, the symbol is actually a vulgar gesture.
  • The V sign, created by raising the index and middle finger and separating them to create a V-shape, means peace or victory in some countries. In the United Kingdom and Australia, the symbol acquires an offensive meaning when the back of the hand facing outward.

The arms and the legs

Arms and legs can also be useful in the transmission of nonverbal information. Crossing your arms may indicate a defensive attitude. Crossing the legs "away" from another person may indicate displeasure or discomfort with that individual. Other subtle cues such as opening the arms widely can be an attempt to appear larger or more imposing, keeping the arms close to the body can be an effort to minimize oneself or withdraw from attention.

When you are evaluating the body languagePay attention to some of the following signals that the arms and legs can transmit:

  • Arms crossed They can indicate that a person feels defensive, self-protective or closed.
  • Standing with the hands placed on the hips It can be an indication that a person is ready and ready to act, also that he is angry.
  • Touch your fingers quickly Shows concern and can be a sign that a person is bored, impatient or frustrated.
  • Legs crossed They may indicate that a person feels closed or needs privacy.

The posture

The posture can say a lot about how a person may be feeling.

How we perform our bodies can also serve as an important part of body language. The way we have our body, as well as the general physical form of an individual says a lot about us. The posture can convey a great deal of information about how a person feels, as well as clues about personality characteristics, as if a person is safe, open or submissive.

Sitting with your back straight, for example, may indicate that a person focuses and pays attention to what is happening. Sitting with the body tilted forward, on the contrary, may imply that the person is bored or indifferent.

When you try to read body language, you can observe some of the signals that a person's posture can send.

  • Open posture It consists of keeping the trunk of the body open and exposed. This type of posture indicates kindness, openness and good disposition.
  • Closed posture it consists of keeping as concealment, as bending forward and keeping arms and legs crossed. This type of posture can be an indicator of hostility and anxiety.

Personal space

Have you ever heard someone refer to their need for "personal space"? Have you ever begun to feel uncomfortable when someone is too close to you? The term proxemic refers to the distance between people as they interact. In the same way as body movements and facial expressions, they can communicate a large amount of nonverbal information, so that this physical space can be between individuals.

The anthropologist Edward T. Hall described four levels of social distance that occur in different situations:

  • Distance intimate- 15 to 20 centimeters: This level of physical distance indicates a close relationship and comfort between individuals. It often occurs during intimate contact, such as hugging, whispering or touching.
  • Personal distance - 0.5 to 1.5 meters: Physical distance at this level usually occurs between people who are family members or close friends. The closer you can be because you are comfortable while the interaction can be an indicator of the intimacy of the relationship.
  • Social distance - from 1.5 to 3.5 meters: This level of physical distance is often used with individuals who are known. With someone you know is quite good, such as a co-worker who sees each other several times a week, they may feel more comfortable interacting at a smaller distance.
  • Public distance - 3.5 to 7.5 meters: is the physical distance that is often used in public speaking situations. Speaking in front of a class full of students or giving a presentation at work are good examples of such situations.

It is also important to keep in mind that the level of personal distance that individuals need to feel comfortable can vary from one culture to another. A very cited example is the different between people from Latin cultures and those from North America. People in Latin American countries tend to feel more comfortable standing closer to each other as they interact, while those in North America use personal distance.

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