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Top 20 Body Language Indicators

Top 20 Body Language Indicators

Communication can be fascinating. For most, the exchange of information begins and ends with words. However, there are a lot of other factors to consider. The tone of voice that a phrase is said in can completely change the meaning of the phrase. It can turn insults into jokes and jokes into insults. Another way to tell the true intentions of what someone is saying or doing is to look for body language indicators.

Body language is an interesting concept. The human body makes a lot of unconscious motions depending on the situation. Sometimes, the body language indicators are blatant and obvious. If you see someone crying, chances are they’re upset about something. Other times, body language indicators aren’t so obvious. For instance, you may completely miss someone rolling their eyes at you in derision if they aren’t facing you.

There are so many ways to interpret body language and many, many more body language indicators. Below, we’ll show you 20 of the most popular indicators. These can be important in almost any communication setting, whether it’s business, relationships, or even meeting someone new.

1. How close are they?

Physical proximity is a frequently used body language indicator that many people don’t notice. If someone is comfortable with you, they won’t mind sitting or standing near you. So an interesting way to see if someone actually thinks you’re okay is to go brush shoulders with them. If they back away, you have your answer!

2. Downcast eyes

We’ll be mentioning a lot of head and eye body language indicators because those are among the most popular and most recognizable. One that has been a trend, especially with younger people, is downcast eyes. You’ve seen this, I’ve seen this, and everyone else has too. When someone is unhappy and they try to hide it by, say, smiling, they may betray their ruse by looking downward. This can also be a sign of being uncomfortable or feeling shameful.

3. Restless hands

Have you ever seen someone drumming on a desk or a chair with their fingers? What about people playing drums on their legs? This can be a sign of impatience, restlessness, and even sometimes anger. If you’re lecturing your kids and they’re drumming their fingers on the table, chances are you may not really be getting through to them. When you’re speaking with someone and they’re doing this, it’s time to switch tactics.

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4. Restless legs

This is almost exactly the same as restless hands, except it’s the legs. People may cross and uncross their legs over and over again, tap their foot, or even tap their heels. Have you ever seen someone pacing? Restless legs: they’re everywhere! Sometimes, people may have restless legs because of restless leg syndrome, and it may not be associated with a feeling. Or they may have to pee really badly.

5. Hands on the hips

Listen up guys, as this one is mostly for you. If someone has their hands on their hips, it shows they have lost all patience. They are likely also very mad. If you walk up to a boss at work or your significant other and they’re standing with their hands on their hips, you are in big trouble. In terms of body language indicators, this one is like a proverbial punch in the gut.

6. Cocking one’s head has more than one meaning

Generally, when someone cocks their head, people take that body language to mean confusion. This is not always the case. In areas where violence is prevalent, such as prison or UFC fights, people will get into each others’ faces and cock their heads as a challenge.

7. Holding your hands behind your back

Of all the body language indicators on this list, this one is the most ambiguous. People hold their hands behind their backs for a number of reasons. Watch any mafia movie and you’ll see the Don holding his hands behind his back as a sign of power. People in the military are taught to do it as a sign of respect. Sometimes, people will even do it to be cute. Usually, when this occurs, you must rely on other indicators to determine the the emotion being displayed. It is still quite popular.

8. Hands balled into fists

This is another really popular indicator. Unlike the last one, this one has pretty much one single meaning. People do it when they’re frustrated and angry. This is usually a precursor to violence, as balled up firsts often results in something getting punched or hit. If you are speaking with someone and their hands are balled up in fists, things could go very wrong very quickly.

9. Touching

This body language has a universal meaning but can be vastly different. When someone is touching you in a non-violent manner, it’s almost universally understood that they’re comfortable around you. However, it can manifest in different ways. Your boss may pat you on the shoulder. Your boyfriend or girlfriend may lay their head on your shoulder. If someone is touching you, it shows that they are comfortable with you.

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10. Arms crossed!

People often misconstrue what crossing arms actually means. People think it means that someone is angry. In fact, it’s actually used as a defensive stance. People who have their arms crossed are unconsciously defending themselves. They may not want to talk anymore or they may be hiding something they don’t want to talk about. But crossing the arms means a person is trying to comfort themselves, meaning they’re uncomfortable.

11. Look up for joy

When an athlete wins a match, scores a point, or does something great, what is the first thing they do? Usually, it’s look straight up. This is a sign of joy, happiness, and relief. It’s true that people can look upward when they’re frustrated, but there are often other indicators that happen before that to show they are frustrated. That said, there is a reason they say “chin up!”

Check out Frank Lampard celebrating.

12. Surprise!

This one is pretty obvious but we are talking about popular body language indicators. When someone widens their eyes or raises their eye brows, they’re most often surprised or shocked at something. There really aren’t any other reasons why someone widens their eyes. So this one is not only really popular, but really obvious and easy to spot!

13. Looking around for something better to do

People can express boredom in a lot of ways. Many times they aren’t trying to but it just kind of slips out in various ways. One such way is looking around when they’re bored. If you’re talking to someone and they keep looking around, they’re looking for something else to do besides talk to you. This is almost always a bad sign, especially when you’re out talking to someone at the bar or, even worse, when you’re in a board meeting at the office and the people in the room are doing it.

Do note that since smartphones are now a popular thing, people may now grab their phone and check their social networking sites or email while you’re talking to them. This means pretty much the same thing.

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14. The Stomp

This one is mostly something kids do but adults are prone to stomping around too. It’s usually done as an expression of anger, and that’s how most people associate it. There is a second reason people stomp though and that is to be intimidating. Stomping toward someone can be used as a tool to frighten someone or even animals. How often have owners stomped near their dogs to scare them away?

15. Clearing your throat

People clear their throat for a variety of reasons. Sometimes you may be ill and you have some stuff stuck back there. However, in a perfectly normal social situation, people often clear their throats when they’re nervous or anxious. If you’re watching a stand up comic and no one is laughing at their jokes, you’ll often see them cough or clear their throat into the mic. It has a second use where people use it to show irritation. More often than not, though, they’re using it to show that they are uncomfortable in some capacity.

16. Jutting out your chest means something

This is one that human beings borrow from other animals on the Earth. Jutting out one’s chest is a sign of dominance and attraction. Men may jut out their chests when they’re trying to be intimidating or look strong. This is often used as body language when they meet a woman they like. Women, you’re guilty of this too, as you may jut out your chest to better show off your attributes.

In terms of frequency, they flip flop. Men often jut their chest more as an intimidation signal and less often when showing attraction. Women use it more frequently to show attraction and less frequently to show intimidation. Both genders do use it for both.

17. Watch how you walk

Body language doesn’t just take place when you’re sitting or standing still. Watching how people walk is often one of the most obvious, albeit lesser known, body language indicators. People who walk briskly and with a purpose look more confident. Someone who is running is obviously in a hurry to get somewhere (or get away from somewhere). Bad posture while walking can show depression, while over-dramatic use of your limbs can show that you’re furious.

18. Closing your eyes

Thanks to today’s sitcoms, closing your eyes have become a very popular body language indicator. People usually use it to show frustration, irritation, and impatience, much like they’re regrouping in their minds to try to deal with a problem again. Watch out, though! Due to its overuse in comedy scenarios, people may be trying to use it as a tool of comedy. Usually you can tell the difference.

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19. Rubbing your eyes can send mixed messages

If you’re speaking with someone and they remove their glasses, pinch the bridge of their nose, and rub their eyes, they are probably not happy with something you just said. In general use, this body language is used to convey feelings of being tired. This is usually done from a young age, as kids rub their eyes when they’re tired all the time. In adulthood, people who are not happy with something will often use that body language to show it.

20. Staring

So who remembers high school? In high school, most people were either staring or being stared at, so pretty much everyone is familiar with the stare. Believe it or not, there are two reasons why people stare. Attraction is the main one, as a man or woman may frequently gaze at someone they’re attracted to. However, a lesser known second reason people stare is for dominance. If you’re staring down someone and they’re staring back, the first to break the stare is considered to be the less dominant one.

Body language wrap up

Doing just 20 of these was difficult. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of body language indicators out there. The head, eyes, posture, torso, arms, legs, hands, and feet, as well as walking, talking with your hands, and pretty much every motion your body makes has the potential to convey an emotion. The biggest problem is that most people don’t know that body language can be so sensitive.

What’s even more amazing about body language is its use. You can use body language to see if someone you’re attracted to is attracted to you too. In many cases, especially at job interviews, potential employers can analyze your body language to see if you’re confident in yourself. At the risk of sounding cliché, everyone everywhere uses body language to show their true feelings. Once you learn what to look for, actions can literally speak louder than words.

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Joseph Hindy

A writer, editor, and YouTuber who likes to share about technology and lifestyle tips.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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