Body Language: What It Is & How To Read It

Body Language is jam packed with interesting science. In this comprehensive introduction we’ll show you the basics of body language, how to read other’s body language, and how to improve your own.

What is Body Language?

When we talk about body language we look at the subtle cues we send and receive to each other nonverbally. Many people want to know how to read body language. To get started, body language can be broken down into a few different channels:

Facial Expressions: Researcher Dr. Paul Ekman discovered 7 universal microexpressions — or short facial gestures every human makes when they feel an intense emotion. We are very drawn to looking at and observing the face to understand someone’s hidden emotions. They are an essential part of body language.

Body Proxemics: Proxemics is a term for how our body moves in space. We are constantly looking at how someone is moving — are they gesturing? Leaning? Moving towards or away from us? Body movements tell us a lot about preferences and nervousness. They are instrumental body language cues.

Ornaments: Clothes, jewelry, sunglasses, hairstyles, are all extensions of our body language. Not only do certain colors and styles send signals to others, how we interact with our ornaments is also telling. Is someone a fidgeter with their watch or ring? Do they constantly self-preen or touch their hair? These are all body language cues.

Body Language Principles

How To Read People’s Body Language

There are actually two sides to reading body language in others.

Decoding is your ability to read people’s cues. It is how you interpret hidden emotions, information and personality from someone’s nonverbal.

Encoding is your ability to send cues to other people. This is how you control your personal branding, what first impression you give and how you make people feel when they are with you.

How good are your body language decoding and encoding skills. Take our free quiz right now to find out!

Male vs Female Body Language

Ever wondered what the difference is between male body language and female body language? I love talking about the natural differences and this can help you decode certain nonverbal cues as well.

Confident Body Language

We all know someone who has a natural magnetism. Someone who walks into a room and people look. Someone who speaks and people listen. Someone who was born to lead. Or maybe that someone is you?

Alphas have a very specific set of nonverbal behaviors that signify to others in the group and to the outside world that they are the top dog.

Body Language That Demonstrates Attraction

To understand modern day body language signals of attraction it is helpful to look at the history of where our body language comes from. Our caveman ancestors used the same body language we use today. Here are the messages we are trying to send with our body language to potential mates, and what is seen as attractive.

Aggressive Body Language

Whether you’re dealing with a drunken bar mate, playing an intense sport or dating a stranger, you have to know how to recognize nonverbal behavior of aggression.

Further Reading On Body Language

A new universal facial expression? Enter the Not Face

A new universal facial expression? Enter the Not Face

One of the easiest ways to avoid miscommunication is to know when people disagree with you. In the past, this was nearly impossible to achieve because many people avoided sharing their negative opinions directly but recently, researchers discovered a new...

Advanced Body Language Resources

Advanced Body Language Resources

Do you love body language science as much as me? Great! I get asked all the time about advanced body language resources and textbooks on nonverbal science. Here are our Science of People resources and advanced textbooks you might like. Textbooks and...

The Surprising Power of Touch and Physical Contact

The Surprising Power of Touch and Physical Contact

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How to Take a Selfie with Glasses

How to Take a Selfie with Glasses

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Do They Really Like Your Gift?

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What Your Halloween Costume Says About Your Personality

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20 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using

20 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using

The best, most charismatic speakers and influencers know the importance of using hand gestures. Leaders use specific hand gesture patterns. Holler and Beattie found that gestures increase the value of our message by 60 percent! In our human behavior research lab, we...

10 Ways Body Language Can Help Women Be More Powerful

10 Ways Body Language Can Help Women Be More Powerful

In the dating scene, the business world and in social situations women need ways to show their confidence. Body language is a great way to assert control and communicate strength and power. What should and shouldn’t women do with their body...

Look For These 8 Signs of Aggressive Body Language

Look For These 8 Signs of Aggressive Body Language

Let me tell you a story…it might or might not end with a punch in the face. You should read this post if you are: A frequent bar and night club goer An athlete who plays full contact sports A woman who wants to protect yourself Have a face people just want to punch:...

Putin’s Body Language

Putin’s Body Language

Vladimir Putin is a bit of an enigma. His actions are often unpredictable and no one in the world quite knows what he is thinking or what he is planning on doing next. One of our body language trainers, Michiel Andreae analyzed the body...

How to Take a Good Selfie: 10 Ideas For Your Profile Photo

How to Take a Good Selfie: 10 Ideas For Your Profile Photo

Do you know how to take a good selfie? Often times your selfie or profile picture becomes your first impression. But there is nothing worse than trying to look natural in an unnatural photo shoot. I want to give you some great ideas on how to take a good selfie that...

The Art of Rejection: Body Language Tricks for Anti-Dating

The Art of Rejection: Body Language Tricks for Anti-Dating

Imagine standing outside a popular bar on a Saturday night with a clipboard and pen. As each drunken patron stumbles out the door, you ask them: "Did anyone hit on you?" That's exactly what 140 trained researchers from the University of Toronto did. They...

Different Types of Lies

Different Types of Lies

“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Did you know that this little sentence covers the most important lies we use daily? Let’s delve into it! “I swear to tell the truth” – Lies of commission If someone tells you something that is not...

8 Body Language Acting Tips

8 Body Language Acting Tips

As an actor, body language plays a crucial role in your overall success in auditions, roleplay and performance. Mastering your nonverbal communication can set you apart from the sea of competition and give you an advantage with:DirectorsCasting...

Gestures You Shouldn’t Be Making Abroad

Gestures You Shouldn’t Be Making Abroad

Are you about to travel somewhere exotic this summer? Some body language gestures are different across the globe! Although body language is mostly universal, there are certain aspects that are culture based. Gestures, especially, is a tricky...

Best TV Shows to Practice Lie Detection

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The art and science of human lie detection is a craft that must be honed. Accurately reading body language is also a tremendous skill that needs practice and mental attention. In my body language and human lie detection courses I recommend students...

How to Read People Like a Book

How to Read People Like a Book

I joined the awesome Jordan Harbinger for the Art of Charm podcast on How to Read People Like a Book. Check out some details and give it a listen! The finer details of this show include: Can you tell someone’s success or power based just on their face?...

7 Body Language Secrets from the Internet’s Greatest Experts

7 Body Language Secrets from the Internet’s Greatest Experts

I have a confession. I’m an expert junkie. I could care less about reality TV stars or movie actors. I heart bloggers, social media personalities and web experts. Nothing gets me going more than a killer social media profile, a hot blog or an...

Body Language Tells in Poker

Body Language Tells in Poker

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5 Benefits to Learning Body Language

5 Benefits to Learning Body Language

This guest post is by one of our body language experts in training: Michiel Andreae from The Netherlands. He loves to teach people how to improve their communication skills through body language and to coach people to make better use of their nonverbal skills. Find...

Body Language for Teachers: 5 Tips

Body Language for Teachers: 5 Tips

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Take the Body Language Quiz

At Science of People we’re working on collecting the largest data set on body language skills and nonverbal communication.

Take this 5 minute quiz and see how your body language ranks!

Take Your Body Language To the Next Level

Science of People can help you take your passion for body language to a new level. Check out our professional training options.

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