Decoding body language

Albert Mehrabian, a researcher in the 1950s, found that the total impact of what we say is:

  • 7% verbal (words only),
  • 38% vocal (tone of voice)
  • 55% nonverbal.

Body language can reveal a lot about how the other person is feeling.

This can help you understand others and communicate effectively.


A person’s eyes dilate when they are very stimulated and in a situation when they are solving a problem.

An eyebrow rise is a sign that a person isn’t threatening.

When your eyebrow raises to someone, they will often smile.

Lowered eyebrows and squinted eyes illustrate a trying to understand what you are saying.

Squinting is a nonverbal behaviour that can occur when we feel intimidated.  

When you’re asking someone and he squints eyes as is giving the answer means he is not feeling comfortable. And probably he isn’t giving the complete information.

When someone avoids eye contact, they are feeling insecure or they could be lying.

Lowering of the eyes can convey fear, guilt or submission.

Avoiding eye contact is related to a fear of rejection.

When you don’t look someone in the eye, it may show a lack of confidence or understanding.

If you look into another’s person’s eyes, you are displaying self-assurance.  

Staring someone may be an aggressive gesture or that the one starring feels dominant. 

Eye movements 

1-Looking up to the left (Visual Construct)

This eye movement can or show that the person is creating a visual image in their mind.

It can also show that the individual is trying to imagine a story with the purpose of lying.

2-Looking up to the right (Visual recall)

It shows that the person is trying to remember a visual image that they have seen in the past.

The person may be telling the truth since they are trying to remember an experience.

3-Looking to the left (Auditory construct)

It shows that someone is conceiving a sound in their head. It also indicates a lie.

4-Looking to the right (Auditory recall)

The person is trying to remember a particular sound.

It indicates that the person is not lying since they remember the actual sound.

5-Looking down to the left (Kinesthetic)

It means that someone is trying to remember a smell, sensation or flavour.

6-Looking down to the right (Auditory internal)

It means that someone is speaking to themselves, that they are having deep thoughts.

Remember that with left-handed people eye movement patterns should be reversed.

The body language of Hands

There are more connections between the brain and the hands than between any other parts.

When shaking someone’s hand, if their hand is on top they are trying to dominate and vice versa.

If the hand is lightly on the chin, it shows interest and honesty.

Forced arms express feeling stressed or uncomfortable.

Rubbing in the neck is a sign of dishonesty.

Palm display

Palm displays is a sign of honesty.

They have a positive effect on people.

It communicates acceptance, openness, and trustworthiness.

When someone begins to open or be truthful, they will likely to expose palms to the other person.

It is an unconscious gesture, and it will give you an intuitive feeling that the other person is telling the truth.  

Palms down

When the palm is faced down, it will project direct authority. It also shows confidence and that you know what you are talking.

palms down body language

Chopping gestures

It is an authoritative gesture.

The person who is using has made up his mind and is not likely to change it.

It often can be used when you are presenting an idea when you want to divide your concept into two categories.

If you use this gesture, don’t be too aggressive. 

Hands on the heart

It means “I want you to believe me” even when he is not telling the truth.

sincere hand, hands in the hart body language

Hands behind the back

Show confidence because the front body and vital organs are exposed. 

Pacifying behaviours

When we’re stressed, we unconsciously do some little movements to be comfortable again.

Covering of the neck dimple pacifies insecurities, emotional discomfort or fear.

Playing with a necklace often serves the same purpose.

Rubbing of the forehead is a good signal that a person is undergoing slight to severe discomfort.

Exhaling with puffed out checks is a great way to release stress. Notice how often people do this after a near mishap.

Cheek or face touching is a way to pacify when nervous, irritating, or concerned.

Men prefer to touch their faces while women prefer to touch their neck, clothing, or jewellery.

Men tend to massage the neck to pacify distress. This area is rich with nerves, including the vagus nerve which when massaged will slow down the heart rate. Even a brief touch of the neck will ease anxiety or discomfort.

Neck touching or massaging is a powerful and universal stress reliever and a pacifier.

These actions don’t help us solve problems, but they help us stay calm as we try to solve them.

What shows extended blinking

A regular, relaxed blinking rate is six to eight blinks per minute, and the eyes are closed for about one-tenth of a second.

People under pressure, for instance, are more likely to increase their blinking rate.

Extended blinking is an unconscious attempt by the person’s brain to block you from their sight.

They may have become bored or disinterested, or feel that they are superior to you.

It is as if their brain can no longer tolerate dealing with you.

So their eyes shut for two or three seconds to wipe you from sight and remain closed as the person momentarily removes you from his mind.

When couples start to look alike

couples look alike

Couples who have a long, happy marriage often will look alike.

It is because they are continually mirroring each other’s facial expressions. Which over time, builds muscle definition in the same areas of the face.  

The opposite doesn’t always attract

Robert Zajonc is a psychologist at the University of Michigan.

He made a study checking the photos of first and 25-years married couples.

Results show that happy couples tend to look alike as the time pass.  

Couples who don’t look similar can appear similar in a photograph because they use the same smile.

They may have similar interests, habits, or the same style.

Couples mirror each other

The principle is that people tend to imitate other people who like and trust.  

Happy couples reflect each other’s facial expressions and body posture.

The reason is that you can’t mirror someone is you don’t feel you can trust.  

You can’t fake mirroring or be in sync for too long, it soon becomes true.  

Psychologist John Gottman discovered that marriages are more likely to fail when one partner does not mirror the other’s expressions of happiness.

He also found that couples mirroring the expressions of contempt are more likely to fail.

Contempt behaviour affects the smiling partner even when they are not consciously aware of what is happening.

It is essential for couples to mirror expressions of happiness. It is a reliable indicator that the marriage will last for years.

How to spot a fake smile

Some people smile even when they don’t feel happy.

Many people use fake smiles during a job interview, with a group of friends or on a date.

Some use it to seem more engaging, to camouflage real feelings or when they are lying.

In genuine smiles, the lips corners pull up, and two muscles contract.

Two sets of muscles control the smiles:

Orbicularis oculi muscles pull the eyes back.

The zygomaticus majors pull the mouth back to expose the teeth and enlarge the cheeks.

The muscles are essential to understanding fake smiles.

You can control the zygomatic muscles quickly and consciously. They are used to produce false smiles.

The unconscious brain generates smiles, which means they are automatic. 

When you feel pleasure, signals pass through the part of the brain that processes emotion.

It will make your mouth muscles move, your checks raise, and your eyebrows dip slightly.

A false smile often appears stronger on one side of the face than the other. Both sides of the brain try to make it seem genuine.

Facial emotions will pronounce more on the left side of the face than the right.

When somebody is lying, the left side of the smile will pronounce more than the right.

Both teeth are visible

When we do a fake smile, we tend to show both of our teeth, same as when you say cheese when you take a picture.

But, this is not 100% accurate because some people have a large mouth and may expose both teeth even with a genuine smile.


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