Body Language: What Are You Saying?

ntozake-shange-colored-girlsIt’s been shown that up to 90 percent of communication is nonverbal. You convey much of what you are feeling and thinking through the way you display and move your body. Without knowing, you are telling the world what sort of person you are and how you feel, both at the moment and in general. Interpretations of some body movements vary between cultures, but many are cross-cultural in meaning and portrayal. They send a clear, yet subtle message.

Forward leaning, tilting your head, and widening your eyes show that you are playing close attention to someone or something. But making your eyes too wide and bringing your eyebrows close together traditionally indicates fear or confrontation. If your eyebrows are raised, widening your eyes says you like what (or who) you’re seeing; it can be interpreted as flirtatious.

Your body movements give hints about your personality. Smooth, loose body movements show you are easygoing and light-hearted. Conversely, if you have rigid movements and constantly tense shoulders, you are likely a stressed and nervous personality — a natural worrier.

If you are an introvert your body shows your apprehension about engaging with the outside world. You may have a tense posture and dislike making eye contact. Your body tends to be directed away from people and activity. If you are extroverted, however, you lean in closer to people and keep eye contact for longer periods. You speak more enthusiastically and make more physical contact.

comfortable-girl-confident-dogYour facial expressions and upper body aren’t the only way you send signals. The way you sit shows how you’re feeling at the moment, and your feet can hint at your temperament and outlook on life.

Sitting with your legs wide apart normally indicates you feel safe in your environment. Both men and women use this sitting position when they feel comfortable. If this is your natural sitting position you are likely confident and a natural leader. If your feet are wound around each other or your chair you’re probably feeling anxious or nervous.

Dominant, secure people stand with their feet pointed outward. Their energy is directed out, towards the world. If you are less secure or feel inferior you stand with feet pointed inward, showing that you don’t want the spotlight.

Those are just some of the words that people “say” every day through the way they move and hold their bodies. There are countless ways that you make direct statements without saying a word. What message are you sending with your body language?

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33 thoughts on “Body Language: What Are You Saying?

  1. What message are you sending with your body language?

    According to people: nervous, quiet, strange, slightly cold and (slightly?) annoying.

    (My reaction to this: WTF?!?)

    That’s one of the reasons why I prefer written communication.

  2. Mira,

    “(slightly?) annoying.”

    Lol. Annoying… why?

    In written communication you come off as quiet and slightly cold too, though. But I know you’re not the latter. 🙂

  3. i am very aware of body language. it was brought to my attention in high school and that’s why i use it to the max. unfortunately, not always for good. for example, if i don’t like someone i’ll cross my arms and pout lol. some people might do the same without realizing it but i just get all dramatic with the extra slow arm crossing and the elongated pout hahaha.

  4. Hi Tayana, welcome. 🙂

    I sometimes cross my arms when I’m bored. But I’ve become more aware of it in the past few years since I’ve heard from a few people that I seem irritated when I do that.

    Well, if we ever meet in person, I’ll know right away if you don’t like me. 😉

  5. Lol. Annoying… why?
    Ok, that part might not be about body language.
    I’m one of those people who never know what’s appropriate thing to do, how to stand, what to do with my arms, etc. I also have a bad posture.

    I know this is an “IN” thing to say these days, but I did consult professionals and it seems I am somewhat (borderline) Asperger (as in: Asperger’s syndrome). I don’t suffer from it, but I do show some common traits associated with it. Part of it being unable to read other people’s body language, and I guess it also makes you make mixed signals/inappropriate body language. For example, people often think I’m bored with the conversation while I’m all excited to hear what they have to say.

    In written communication you come off as quiet and slightly cold too, though. But I know you’re not the latter.

    This is interesting. I don’t really mind, but I wonder: what makes me seem cold?

    In any case, I feel more comfortable in written communication and I feel I can express myself better that way (even if I can’t present myself better).

  6. Mira,

    Oh, I see. Being strongly introverted and having Aspie traits must be really hard.

    “I wonder: what makes me seem cold?”

    You don’t tend to use a lot of emotion and you offer a clinical, detached analysis of situations. You’re also slightly mean (in a good way). 🙂

  7. I see. Yes, it could be true, now that I think of it. I think I might be highly analytical, and I sure don’t share much about my personal life online (but when I do, I go big, like that time when I responded to a relatively innocent TMI challenge with: “when I lost my virginity, the guy bled too”. )

    I think I might be rational and I value logic above many things, but when it comes to emotions, I am not rational at all. I need a constant emotional support. I’m actually one of those annoying women who use baby talk with their partners, and who are all about “hug me, hug me!”

  8. Mira,

    “I’m actually one of those annoying women who use baby talk with their partners, and who are all about “hug me, hug me!”

    Wow, me too. 😀

    Luckily AJ (and most of my exes) thinks it’s cute when I’m all “No, hold me NEOW.”

  9. Tayana, yup. If you are smiling with your arms uncrossed I’ll just take that as a sign that you really, really like me. 🙂

  10. I’ve been told I have a beautiful smile, but when I’m out and about, especially by myself, I don’t smile much. I don’t see a reason to, and it’s not like I’m unhappy. Most of the time, it’s because I’m in my own head, thinking or analyzing something. I’m pretty bad about analyzing everything – I’m the one standing in the produce aisle at the grocery store, deciding which apples I like best!

    Of course, when I’m with others, I’m more likely to smile. But a great way to get on my bad side is to cross paths with me and say something like, “Smile! It’s not that bad!” or “Put a smile on your face!” Men are notorious for this. When, if they got a clue, they would do or say something to *compel* me to genuinely smile, if they’re so concerned about it. But then, I have my own issues with the primarily American view of “positivity” and how that intersects with the need for women, in particular, to visually express it.

  11. Daphne,

    “when I’m out and about, especially by myself, I don’t smile much…Most of the time, it’s because I’m in my own head, thinking or analyzing something.”

    Most days I’m like that as well; I have a neutral expression. But some days I’m smiling. There’s usually not much of a difference in how I’m feeling internally, but people respond more positively to the latter.

    “I’m the one standing in the produce aisle at the grocery store, deciding which apples I like best!”

    Grocery shopping is serious business! I too analyze everything before buying. I spend an hour shopping, at the very least, every time.

    ‘a great way to get on my bad side is to cross paths with me and say something like, “Smile! It’s not that bad!” or “Put a smile on your face!” Men are notorious for this.’

    Ugh, I absolutely hate when people do that. I don’t know why they assume a person is unhappy simply because they’re not grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Personally, it just makes me feel (and look) annoyed even if I wasn’t already.

  12. “No, hold me NEOW.”

    Haha, Jasmin does this as well! In fact, whenever she feels the least bit cold, or sick, or hungry, or slightly perturbed… her inner-baby comes out like a diaper-commercial ; P

    I rarely act baby-ish because I’m already the “baby” in my family. I don’t need to act like a baby to get what I want, haha!

    But as for body-language, I’m one of those people who took their junior college sociology class to heart. I always try to carefully moderate how I present myself to the world, maybe sometimes even obsessively, so that I send the message I’m intending, while simultaneously controlling my own non-verbal cues from giving too much away.

  13. Hi Zek — haven’t seen you around in a long time.

    So Jasmin, Mira, and I are all babies with our partners? I feel so much less alone. 🙂

    I’m the baby of my family as well. I see it as even more of an excuse to play the part (outside of the family).

    It’s so funny when some people try to control how much they express via body language. They come off as stiff or their reactions don’t fit the situation. But you don’t come off that way, at least in pictures. Actually, I would think you don’t control your body language because you seem very expressive in the pictures I see. Or maybe you’ve just perfected the art of controlling body language.

  14. @alee and mira:

    Yeah, I am pretty dorky, geeky, nerdy, etc., but I’m unapologetic about it. (A trait I got in high school, instead of trying to fit in, after a while I decided to go the opposite way and be so outspoken I started to get a “reputation”.)

    However, if you were to psychoanalyze me, it’d probably be that I act confident and relaxed to hide my tendency towards being insecure and uncertain about things. But as Cary Grant pointed out, “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point.”

    So now I’m not sure if I’m an introvert pretending to be an extrovert, or an extrovert pretending to be secretly introverted.

    That said, I’m not stiff at all probably because I’m very comfortable physically, and all the martial-arts/activities I’ve done in my life have kinda enabled me to control my body pretty well — considering I’m so skinny =P

    @Jasmin: I’ve never thought of White girls as “perky” — though I do know the stereotype. Honestly, the contradiction inherent in that made me think it must’ve been an old stereotype from when my mom was a kid or something.

    That said, I think women are “supposed” to show positivity and happiness is due to objectification of women as objects of beauty for male consumption. I mean, nobody wants to look at an unhappy model, right? ; )

    (I’m kidding, of course.)

  15. zek,

    “I am pretty dorky, geeky, nerdy, etc., but I’m unapologetic about it.”

    As you should be. Geeks are the bestest. Sooner or later in life everyone (men and women alike) realizes that.

    Thin men rock too. Thin, geeky guy = drool. 🙂

    “if you were to psychoanalyze me, it’d probably be that I act confident and relaxed to hide my tendency towards being insecure”

    Hmmm… I’d have to see in real life.

    I don’t get the cool kid vibe from you. You come off as geek-y, chic-y to me. That may be because you’re from Cali. Most guys from Cali seem like geek, chic, or a combination of both.

  16. So Jasmin, Mira, and I are all babies with our partners? I feel so much less alone. 🙂

    Ha! And we try our best to present ourselves as quite mature people in our writings. 😉

    (Actually, it’s not a paradox- I firmly believe people don’t act the same way in all the situations. Some people hate to admit it (I don’t know why), but we do adjust our behavior in different situations. I mean, nobody acts the same way around their lover, their mother and their boss, I guess. There’s nothing wrong with it.)

    Zek,

    You seem really relaxed and confident in photos. Quite opposite than the self-proclaimed geek you claim to be! (Well, geeks and shy people can be confident and relaxed), but for some reason I got the feeling you don’t see yourself as “cool” as you seem in photos.

  17. Daphne,

    But then, I have my own issues with the primarily American view of “positivity” and how that intersects with the need for women, in particular, to visually express it.

    Great point! I was a member of a social club for Black women in college, and one time we had a discussion about how we were stereotyped on campus in comparison to “perky” White girls.

    Alee,

    I’m the oldest in the family (my 2 stepsisters are in their mid-30s, so they never lived with us), so all the more reason for me to play the baby role when I have the chance. 🙂

  18. “And we try our best to present ourselves as quite mature people in our writings. “

    That’s the most hilarious part about it.

    “I firmly believe people don’t act the same way in all the situations…nobody acts the same way around their lover, their mother and their boss, I guess.”

    I have three (or thirteen…) “behaviors” for those three situations alone.

    My personality is very malleable (yet structured). I think I absorb aspects from my environment, run it through a personal filter, and come up with a unique personality every time. 🙂

    Jasmin,

    I love our logic — the only person who doesn’t have a good reason to play the baby is the girl who is one of the middle children. 🙂

  19. LOL @ the Sassy! walk. I think some women can’t help it. When you have a certain measure of hips and boot-ay, there’s no stopping it!

    That said, I think women are “supposed” to show positivity and happiness is due to objectification of women as objects of beauty for male consumption. I mean, nobody wants to look at an unhappy model, right? ; )

    Well, of course!

  20. Daphne, you’re right about that. I’ve been accused of walking in a “sexy” manner, but that’s just due to my hips. Any way I walk will likely be perceived as such.

  21. I’ve been accused of walking in a “sexy” manner, but that’s just due to my hips. Any way I walk will likely be perceived as such

    Agreed! Though Zek hasn’t had any complaints. 😉

  22. “Thin men rock too. Thin, geeky guy = drool”.

    Oh goodness, YES! Drooling along with you………

    PS: late to the convo…..again!!!!

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