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Top 20 Body Language Indicators

Top 20 Body Language Indicators
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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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