Good habits

Body language: what you need to be able to understand it

Knowing how to communicate with words is important, but even more, knowing how to use body language. Keep reading and learn more about this topic.

Human communication is complex. When we speak, we use more than words. The tone of voice and body language plays an important role since they can complement and even contradict what we affirm.

Body language can be defined as a set of non-verbal signs and cues that encompass facial expression, hand, leg, and foot movements, and body posture, among others.

We can better interpret and understand what others want to tell us from body language. It is also vital to communicate more effectively. Hence, it is important to learn it.

Importance of body language in communication

It is claimed that, in face-to-face communication, body language is much more important than words. 90% or more of what we transmit in a conversation are not words, exactly.

These estimates are based on one of the best-known studies in this regard, carried out by the American psychology professor, Albert Mehrabian.

For all this, during a conversation, it is frequent that we observe our interlocutor to see if he listens to us, if he likes what we say or if he agrees. Likewise, we can know and know what the other really thinks, what his intentions are, what he wants to say, and even what he is silent.

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And while it is true that we can lie with words, body language gives us away since these signals are often emitted unconsciously.

It is not strange, then, to know that body language between couples is the subject of disagreements, arguments, and disputes. Although mistakes are often made in communication when trying to guess what the other is feeling.

Placing ourselves in the professional field, those who evaluate personal consider this aspect of body language a lot. Likewise, students of behavior take into account non-verbal communication in the framework of psychotherapy, both from their patients and from themselves.

What can influence body language?

It is worth noting that, as with words, body language can be influenced by various factors . Let’s see what they are.


The culture or geographic origin of a person influences the way they use, perceive or interpret body language. Touching, shaking hands, approaching, or keeping a distance is part of a repertoire of non-verbal communicative behaviors that can vary from one town to another.

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However, somebody’s language signs can be more or less universal, such as nodding or nodding or a natural, sincere and beautiful smile, among others.

The context

A gesture can change the meaning depending on the context in which the communication takes place or in which it occurs. An impatient person looks at his watch many times, although it may be that the device is not working properly and needs to be fixed.

Mood and psychological differences

Depending on the mood, a person can interpret a gesture differently. A smile can be perceived as joy or teasing if someone is upset.

On the other hand, those who suffer from a disorder use and interpret body language differently. An Asperger patient does not pick up signals related to irony well.

What does body language mean?

As has been pointed out, body language encompasses all the signals that we emit with the body, consciously or unconsciously, from facial expression to posture and movement. Let’s see each one.

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1. Facial expressions

Facial expressions or gestures are the most reliable emotional indicator. We can express joy, anger, doubt, boredom, fear, surprise, confusion, dislike, and interest with them.

Each emotion imprints its own code on the eyes, mouth, or forehead. The research suggests that the judgments we make about people, including their intelligence, are based on expressions on their faces.

In another study, it was found that the confidence response is also determined from what we see in the gestures of the person speaking to us.

Attention should be paid to the pupils’ messages within body language since pupillary dilation denotes pleasure and vice versa. However, they can also vary due to the incidence of light.

For its part, with the nose we do not make so many gestures. However, sometimes we wrinkle it a bit in disgust .

The mouth has a broader repertoire of communicative possibilities in terms of gestures. Among these, we have the following:

  • Show teeth (fake smile): to hide dislike.
  • Biting the lower lip: worry, insecurity, doubt.
  • Cover your mouth: fright.
  • Mouth curved down: discouragement, sadness.

2. Other less obvious facial expressions

Frowning the forehead can indicate that attention is focused on something, especially when narrowed eyes accompany this gesture. Although also with the surprise and opening of eyes, the frontal wrinkles are marked.

Supporting the chin can have several readings, depending on the hand’s position. The open hand is boredom, and only the thumb and index finger is interest or gesture to evaluate.

On the other hand, the head was thrown back, and the chin forward is a derogatory gesture that denotes superiority. And scratching your neck or head is a sign of insecurity.

3. Body expressions of the upper limbs

As we see some teachers walking in the classroom, with their hands clasped behind their back, it is security. Pointing or pointing a finger is an aggressive or threatening gesture directed at the person you speak with.

Quite the opposite is showing palms; This denotes clarity and honesty. Who shows his hands has nothing to hide.

Interlacing the fingers can be read in various ways. Wringing your fingers and palms is a nerve, but joining or touching only the tips is confidence.

The movement of shrugging the shoulders can signify ignorance. If a facial gesture accompanies it, it can mean disinterest.

The crossed arms constitute a defensive body posture that denotes dislike, disagreement, or rejection with respect to what is being said. The posture of hands on the hips, with the elbows like a V pointing out (arms akimbo), is of authority, firmness, and even aggressiveness.

4. Body expressions of the lower limbs

Legs in constant motion can signify anxiety or restlessness. However, there is also a disorder known as restless leg syndrome.

A waiting person, constantly putting one foot forward, may indicate that they want to leave. Usually, the footpoints towards what the person is interested in.

The crossed legs and ankles, like the arms, are part of the defensive repertoire. It means that the person is closed. If your face is looking anywhere, you don’t even want to join the conversation.

5. Posture

The expansive stance is used when we want to cover more. It is done with the legs and arms open and palms facing forward. It is the gesture of the politician who wants to win an audience.

Inflating the chest is a gesture to denote power or superiority. Men do it when they want to get a woman’s attention.

If the person, when sitting or standing, shows a stooped posture looking at the floor, it denotes a low emotional state, as well as a vision of negativity.

However, a certain posture can also reveal ailments , such as in the case of abdominal pain or low back pain .

Deciphering body language isn’t always easy

Although verbal communication usually occurs consciously and body language flows from the unconscious, ideally, we should learn to control gestures and expressions. What we say should be in tune with what we show.

This will make it easier for us not only to communicate but from a professional and personal point of view, we will maintain a better relationship with others. Let’s not forget that gestures and emotions go hand in hand.

On the other hand, knowing how to interpret others’ body language is something positive since it will help us better understand what they want to say to us and even what is hidden.

But we must not fall into excessive suspicions since the gestures’ interpretation is subject to error. In fact, this should not be done with the intention of generating conflict, but quite the opposite.

Verbal-body language can be complex and difficult to understand. Ideally, always ask for clarifications when there may be doubts about the word-gesture emission interpretation. It never hurts to ask.



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