Body language has incredible power. As psychologist Amy Cuddy aptly puts it, “our nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us”.
Here we decode five major body language indicators, and explain what they mean. Try decoding the body language of people in your life, and you might be surprised what the information reveals!
1. Placement of the feet
Body language mostly analyses our faces and torsos, without considering the placement of our feet. However, as researcher Carol Kinsey Goman explains, there’s much more to feet than we think.
“When you approach 2 people talking, you will be acknowledged in one of two ways. If the feet of your two (friends) stay in place and they twist only their upper torsos in your direction, they don’t really want you to join the conversation”, Goman reveals.
“But if their feet open to include you then you know that you are truly invited to participate”. The same can be said when a friend angles their feet away from you during a conversation. This generally means the topic is closed, even if they don’t say so.
2. Power poses
Is the person sitting opposite you a confident person? Are they successful? To decode this, Amy Cuddy has identified three main power powers which are often seen in the boardroom, but can occur just as regularly around the kitchen table.
The first power pose involves standing upright with hands on hips, just like Superman. The second involves leaning with both arms extended over a table. The final power power involves shifting back in your seat, and relaxing to one side.
Cuddy’s research has indicated that people who use power poses are generally more successful and have enjoyed high-powered careers. Indeed, human brains are hardwired to equate power with the amount of space people take up.
3. Exaggerated gestures
Does someone you know have a tendency to gesticulate wildly with their hands, eyes or head? This may be a sign that they’re stretching the truth.
People who are more honest generally demonstrate small, controlled gestures. When someone speaks to you with their palms overturned, it’s a sign they have nothing to hide and are being genuine.
By the same token, inconsistencies in someone’s facial expression might reveal a lie. A nervous smile or shifting gaze might signal that something is amiss.
4. Nodding and fidgeting
Is someone you know eager to please? If you’re meeting someone new for the first time, and notice they nod excessively at your remarks, this may reveal they are anxious for your approval.
By the same token, fidgeting with hair, seeming distracted or over-energised can highlight anxiety or stress.
5. Mimicking stance
Next time you’re having a conversation with someone, shift your body to one side, or lean towards the table. After a time, you might notice your counterpart shifts their body in the same way.
Mimicking another person’s stance is a sign of respect, and genuine engagement. It shows this person is genuinely listening to you, and furthermore, that you are in control of the dialogue.
What does body language say about you? Will you be more mindful of your body language, and the indicators of people around you?