12 Body Language Signals To Be Aware Of

Actions speak louder than words – what are you saying? One of the keys to command powerful presence is how you communicate through your body language. Think of powerful leaders, celebrities? Obama, Beckham, Oprah.

They display powerful body language skills to uphold the brand they need to uphold.


Another important reason why knowing the secrets of body language is crucial is – to be able to “read” what others are saying when their non-verbal messages and their verbal message are not in sync. If the messages communicated are incongruent a person’s credibility and trust factor plummets in an instant.

Body language is like any other language in the world… it’s made up of words – BL words are interpreted by “gestures, postures, facial expressions, eye movements”. We send and interpret these signals almost entirely subconsciously, hence the need to be able to recognize them and adapt accordingly.

Don’t drive yourself crazy analyzing every little gesture everyone demonstrates. Maybe fine-tune it to the most essential factors important in that specific situation. These are mine:
Is the person open or closed to my suggestions, ideas? Are they being false or sincere? Are they friendly or defensive? Committed or uncommitted?

Here are some typical gestures and their meanings:

1. Running fingers through hair – ladies we sometimes do this as a habit, when we are nervous. The signal we are sending out is one of being flirtatious. Not good when we are in a meeting or any business type situation.

2. Sitting forward, head nodding occasionally – this is active listening. You are attentive and interested in what the other person is saying. Leaning backwards with arms crossed could mean the person has switched off and you need to re-engage.

3. Supporting the head in the right hand with an elbow resting on the table – bored, disinterested.

4. Finger tapping on table, foot tapping – impatience, you need to fast forward start wrapping up.

5. Lack of eye contact – this can mean: lack of interest, no confidence, dislike. You heard the saying “He can’t look at me in the eye?” also shows that the person cannot be trusted. Be aware that in certain cultures little or no eye contact shows respect. If you are uncomfortable to look at other people in the eyes – practise to rather look at the whole face, so it’s gazing rather than staring.

6. Sitting with hands behind head – typically a male gesture. This is a “know-it-all”, arrogant gesture. Used to intimidate the other person. It’s important to take that person off his power perch. You could place something just out of his reach and ask, ‘Have you seen this?’ so he has to lean over to take it. You can stare at an invisible spot under the armpits – this will make the person feel uncomfortable and it’s almost an automatic reaction that they put their hands down.

7. Stroking the chin – decision- making, a very positive gesture. If you have asked a question and the person assumes this pose – give them time to answer or think about what you are saying before you proceed.

8. Hands on hips – typically a male gesture-it says “I’m ready for action.” A dominating type gesture, taking up territory – being in command. Normally demonstrated by people in higher positions, certainly not the new graduate at the office.

9. Picking imaginary fluff – a signal of disapproval, the person does not like what’s being said, even when he sounds as if he’s agreeing with everything.

10. Arms crossed across the chest – read other signals – are they looking down, leaning back? The person is blocking you off – he is not interested. Is she looking at you and nodding her head – the person is paying attention they just may feel comfortable with arms crossed. Try no to cross arms – it does sends the signal that you are blocking the other person off.

11. Steepling – normally a supervisor or manager giving instructions “It’s my way or the highway”. Common position taken by lawyers, politicians wanting to look powerful during negotiations. Shows arrogance – avoid if you want to gain someone’s trust.

12. Seated starters position – the person is sitting at the edge of the chair with one of the feet forward in a pose like a sprinter about to run out of the starting blocks. You need to start winding up as this signals a desire to conclude an interaction.


Question: “When someone is being difficult is it possible to use my own body language to help calm things down?”

Yes, of course quickest way is stare at them in the forehead – this disconcerts most people. Lower the volume of your voice and flatten the tone. This sends the signal that there is something wrong, but they are not sure what it is. If you are standing, try moving closer to the person this invades their personal space.

Body language can assist you in communicating your message in an authentic, clear manner thus increasing your chances of making a great impression, coming across as a credible and trustworthy individual or…not. Use it wisely.



For more information on our body language & business etiquette programmes click here or contact us on info@profimpressions.com