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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 April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

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Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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