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 impressionyou 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.

Power 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 Shows If They Like You

To understand modern day nonverbal 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

How to Know If Someone Likes You

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What Our Faces Reveal About Our Personality

Can you truly know someone's personality just by looking at their face? Yes, it's called Facial Profiling. A new Israeli startup will blow your mind. Faception, a private company founded in 2014, is a facial personality profiling company. They are a team...

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

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

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Be A Better Liar With This One Sneaky Tip

Here at the Science of People, we love studying deception and human lie detection. We've discussed the different types of lies, debated if Bill Cosby is lying or not and have even taken a deep dive into the dark, yet oh so interesting science of...

How Your Face Will Age

Have you thought about retirement? Or how about your face at retirement? Merrill Edge, a Bank of America Corporation, has a virtual tool to show you. This virtual clock called "Face Retirement” promises that “preparing for retirement is easier when it’s...

How to Take a Selfie with Glasses

Do you know to take a selfie with glasses? In the 6th grade, I sat behind a girl named Rebecca with perfect handwriting. Each time she brought out her planner to write down homework or her notebook to record notes, I followed suit by looking over her...

What To Do About Amy Cuddy?

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Do They Really Like Your Gift?

Christmas is almost here. You’ve spent a lot of time and thought to make sure you have the perfect gift for your loved ones. I’m sure they’ll SAY they like it. But do they really? Or are they just going to regift it? Do you want to know how to...

What Your Halloween Costume Says About Your Personality

What does your Halloween costume say about you? Based on no science at all, zero case studies and purely personal experience, I have put together this post for your enjoyment. Answer the following questions: What did you dress up as for...

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

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

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:...

What Do You See? Coffee Shop Edition

This article is by Michiel Andreae, a body language expert in training from The Netherlands. He helps you explore and develop your own people superpower. Have a picture you want him to blog about? Send it to [email protected] and you’ll see it on Science of...

5 Amazing Videos of People Terrified Out of Their Minds

If you’ve ever been to a rollercoaster park, a fear fest or another adrenaline evoking event you know that there is all sorts of body language to be seen. Let’s have a look at some fun videos and look at the body language that is happening! Be...

The Body Language of Rob Ford

Rob Ford was the Mayor of Toronto between 2010 and 2014. In that period he has a lot of explaining to do. The former mayor was accused of using drugs and denied having ever used them. Later on he changed his statement. Can you spot his lying cues as he denies the...

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...

What Do you See? Hostage Edition

This article is by Michiel Andreae, who is a body language expert in training from The Netherlands. He helps you explore and develop your own people superpower. Have a picture you want him to blog about? Send it to [email protected] and you’ll see it on...

How to Take the Perfect Selfie

Your selfie is your first impression. Do you know how to take a good selfie that optimizes and highlights your best impression?  It might sound silly, but the pictures you put on your profiles, your website and your social media send cues to others about...

What Do You See? Wedding Edition

In the series “What do you see?” we’re going to look at pictures from a number of situations you may encounter every day. Let’s see what body language we can observe! A wedding is an ideal event to spot body language! You can see whether people...

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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