Every day we use our body language to communicate with people we interact with. It’s so important in our daily life that one should not go ignore it as a mere second hand skill. Body language is used to express the six universal expressions, happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise and anger (Darwin, 1872).
The fact is that everyone makes use body language (sometimes unintentionally!) and it’s important for us to know what they actually mean. Fortunately, this is still less confusing than other aspects of life such as, women's fascination with Russell Brand or why grunting is simply not banned in female tennis?
With a little bit of effort and lots of practice, soon you’ll be able to pick up on important body language indicators. Below is a list of the top fifteen indicators you should know about. These are further divided into sub categories of body indicators by proximity, arm movements/handshakes and legs and feet.
One of the most clear body language indicators includes proximity. The technical word for the personal space feature of body language is “proxemics”. Everyone can be said to have an imaginary circle around them, whose borders define a person’s personal space. The borders of this circle changes from person to person.
Depending on whom you are with and how close your relationship is with said person the circle will “change” in size.
- Close intimate - This region is 0-15 cm, typically defined for lovers or physical touching relations.
- Personal - This region is 15-45 cm, usually reserved for close family and friends.
- Public - This region is 12 ft+; it’s the no interaction zone.
A lot of people also exhibit body language using their arms and handshakes. It takes a keen eye to observe these because very frequently these are unintentional. A lot also depends on the context.
Sometimes there may be multiple meanings to a person’s movements!
- Crossed arms - Normally, this is a defensive position. The hands act as a barrier and seek to “protect” the person. However, a person may just be crossing their arms because they are feeling cold!
- Gripping own upper arms - This exhibits insecurity on part of the person.
- Arms held behind body with hands clasped - Typically this displays authority. You’ll see a lot of policemen using this posture.
- Scratching shoulder using arm across body - Another defensive position portraying nervousness.
- Handshake palm down - Usually a firm handshake, used to exhibit dominance over the other.
- Handshake both hands - A handshake such as this seeks to express trustworthiness and fidelity. However, in many cultures across the world it is also a sign of respect.
- Weak handshake - This has various meanings. Weak handshakes could display low confidence but they could also depend on the mood of a person. Young people unaccustomed to handshakes may also have weak handshakes. Potentially, this is a very ambiguous indicator.
Legs and feet are a lot more difficult to control hence they are more clear indicators when it comes to deciphering body language.
- Leg direction, sitting - This position exhibits attentiveness. Usually, a seated person directs their knee or knees towards the point of interest.
- Uncrossed legs, sitting - A posture like this represents an open attitude. You could see a person like this at a casual get-together or a meeting with friends.
- Figure-4 leg cross - The crossed legs represent a protective “barrier”. Typically, this posture represents confidence, resistance and stubbornness.
- Ankle lock, sitting - Although many people use this posture habitually. Universally, this is accepted as a defensive posture i.e. when a person is unsure with the people he is sitting with.
- Legs intertwined, sitting (female) - Again this has multiple meanings. It could display insecurity. However, this is also a mean to express attraction for the opposite sex.