Monday, February 14, 2011

Body Language: Wordless Communication

Valentine's Day. Sounds like the perfect day to talk about a little-discussed aspect of communication: Body Language.

Actions truly do speak louder than words. Body language is a form of non-verbal communication through body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals subconsciously. A person can literally be saying one thing, while their body says something else. Knowing how to read the signals people don't even know they're giving can provide you with clues into their personalities and moods, maybe even help you find love.
According to body language expert Patti Wood, we rely on sight, sounds, smell and touch during flirting to decipher availability, gender and approachability.

"You can send and receive up to 10,000 non-verbal cues in less than one minute of interaction," says Wood, author of Success Signals, adding that since these cues are under less conscious control, they more accurately indicate a person's emotions than what they say.

According to Wood, "one way we show attraction is to move towards what we like. We will point our feet towards a person, lean our upper bodies in, bring our heads forward and symbolically reach towards someone with our gestures."
This kind of silent language is universal. Nonverbal signals are somewhat instinctual and invoke more primitive parts of the brain. For example, a man standing with shoulders squared, chest puffed out, and head held high could signal confidence to a woman but could be interpreted by men as a warning to stay away.

Want a mini cheat-sheet on how to interpret the silent messages other people are communicating? Here are some positive body language signals worth noting:
  1. Hands on hips: Ready, confident
  2. Smoothing clothes, straightening collar: Wants to be noticed
  3. Fluffing or twirling her hair: Playful
  4. Prolonged eye-contact, facing you: Interested
  5. Stroking her throat, neck or upper chest: Sexual interest
  6. Hands in view on table: Nothing to hide
  7. Straightening collar: Wants to look good and attract your attention
  8. Fingers form a church steeple: Confident (Or he's a geriatric millionaire hatching a plot...)
  9. Touching own lips: Wants to kiss (If it's the pinky, this may actually indicate an evil mastermind)
  10. Uses hand gestures a lot: High energy
Negative body language signals:
  1. Hand on chin: Bored
  2. Foot and Finger Tapping: Stress, impatience, or frustration
  3. Hands deep in pockets: Secretive
  4. Chin stroking: Evaluating you
  5. Increased rate of blinking: Signals anxiety
  6. Avoiding eye contact: A sign of disinterest
  7. Crossed arms: A sign of defensive resistance
  8. Throat covered by hand: Offended physically or emotionally
  9. Tugging at earlobe: Wants to interrupt and say something
  10. Picking at nails or cuticles: Angry, stressed
Though body language is subconscious and instinctual, it doesn't necessarily translate the same across all cultures. For example, an American may be more comfortable standing closer to another person than a European individual may find comfortable. The best way to determine what's being said is to watch and observe, to listen to the words in addition to the subtle cues a speaker may be offering. Knowing how to read and interpret body language can definitely make a big difference when it comes to understanding others.


  1. Hey Sara, I like your blog. I stumbled on here because I'm giving a teaching presentation on the similarities of cave art and grafitti art. I liked your piece on that. Check on the blog site I just set up that's along the same lines as your site -

  2. Thanks so much for your comment! I'm glad you liked the post :) And nice blog! Thanks for sharing it :)

  3. thanks alot i m going to steal it ;)

  4. tanks to you for your Body language post.
    your stile is so beautiful.