Decoding Body Language: How to Read People like a Book

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 behavior that can occur when we feel intimidated.  

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

body language squinting eyes
Image source

– 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.

– Staring someone may be an aggressive gesture or the one staring feels dominant.

The body language of the hands

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

– 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.

Palm displays are a sign of honesty and have a positive effect on people.

It communicates acceptance, openness, and trustworthiness.

When someone begins to open up or be truthful, they will likely expose their 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 about.

palms down body language

Chopping gestures show that you have made up your mind and are not likely to change it

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

Placing your hand in 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 Behaviors

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

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

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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, irritated, or concerned.

Men prefer to touch their faces while women prefer to touch their necks, clothing, or jewelry.

– 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.

The Leg Cleanser – This pacification behavior often goes unnoticed because it frequently occurs under a desk or a table.

In this case, the person places the hands on top of the legs and then slides them down toward the knee.

This is a good indicator that someone is under stress.

What shows extended blinking

extended blinking, gjuha e trupit
Gif source

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

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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.

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 if you don’t feel you can trust them.

You can’t fake mirroring or be in sync for too long.

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 behavior 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.

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 time passes.  

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.

How to spot a fake smile

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 cheeks 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 on 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, the same as when you say cheese when you take a picture.

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

The most common lying gestures

When someone is lying to you he/she will make some unconscious gestures. 

The mouth cover – The brain unconsciously instructs the hand to cover the mouth to suppress deceitful words.

Some people try to disguise the mouth cover by giving a fake cough.

The nose touch – Sometimes the nose touch can be quick below the nose.

Scientist shows that when you lie chemicals known as catecholamines are released. This causes tissue inside the nose to swell. 

They found that the nose expands blood flow during lying which is known as the “Pinocchio effect.”

The eye rub – It is the brain’s attempt to block out deceit or doubt.

Women are less likely to use eye rub because of makeup. Instead, they will use small gentle touching motions below the eye.

The ear rub – It includes rubbing the back of the ear. It also can be a sign that the person has heard enough or may want to speak.

The neck scratch – When the index finger scratches the side of the neck below the earlobe. 

It’s a gesture of doubt or uncertainty. It is characteristic of the person who says: “I am not sure I agree.”

It is very noticeable when the verbal language contradicts it. 

For example when the person says something like, “I can understand how you feel, ” but the neck scratch indicates they don’t.

The collar pull – Lie causes a tingling sensation in the facial and neck tissues, and a rub or scratch was required to please it. 

Increased blood pressure from the lie causes sweat to form on the neck. When the deceiver feels that you suspect he is not telling the truth. 

It also occurs when a person is feeling angry or frustrated and needs to pull the collar away from his neck in an attempt to let the fresh air circulate.

Confident Body Language

Your body language has a two-way connection with the brain.

First, your body language reflects your thoughts and feelings.

Second, your body language influences the messages your brain gets from the environment.

This means that adopting confident body language will make you feel more confident.

– Keeping your head still will show confidence. You have to keep your head facing forward.

People that aren’t confident tend to keep their chin low, to protect their vulnerable necks.

– Look people in the eye 70-80 percent of the time.  Eye contact gives the impression that you are truthful and approachable. It makes people feel good around you.

If you feel uncomfortable, you can look at their eyebrows and then gradually move to full eye contact.

– Keep your palms open because it subconsciously shows people that we have nothing to hide.

– Do not keep your hands in the pocket, crossed arms, or self-hug.

– Keep your hands at your sides relaxed, and use your hands to emphasize points when you are talking to someone.

– When you meet someone, you should be the one who initiates the handshake or a hug. Give a firm, neutral handshake, smile, and maintain eye contact.

– Stop fidgeting because it gives the message that we are feeling anxious.

– Pay attention to your posture.

body posture, incorrect posture, correct posture

Look out for the posture as you are reading this article. Are you slumped in your chair with your shoulders hunched? Then you need to sit with the back straight and with the feet flat on the floor.

It is a correct posture and it will also help you prevent back and neck pain.

Ask a family member to notice your posture, and if it’s bad you can fix it.

How to correct a bad posture?

1. Break the habit of slumping on the chair or using the laptop while you are in bed.

2. When using a computer for an hour, take a short break to make some stretches.

3. Dead-lifts-This exercise will make the back muscles strong.

How to speak with confidence?

Speaking with confidence will make you more attractive to a woman and command respect from others.

We are subconsciously attracted to people who sound confident. It is an honest indicator and shows that you should follow them.

Start by talking more slowly. Speaking quickly can make you appear nervous or insecure. Try to speak in a more relaxed peace.

Eliminate filler words such as: “Uhh”, “Um”, “like”, “I mean”, “You know”, and “Ok, so”.

These words will make you seem uncertain about what you’re saying.

The tone of voice- Confident people low the pitch when finishing a sentence or a phrase.

Submissive people raise in pitch as soon they finish the sentence. It seems that they are trying too hard to build rapport.

Don’t be quick to respond- A confident man is not afraid to collect his thoughts.

Walk with confidence

confident body language
© Zed Jameson /

Walking with confidence will help you maintain a correct posture, grab attention from others and feel better about yourself.

How to walk down the street that makes people think: “He is confident”.

1. Do not look down. It shows that you are feeling bad and that you have low self-esteem.

2. Pull your shoulders back. If you look down and walk with your shoulder in front, you’ll seem bored or in a bad mood even if you aren’t. However, if you pull your shoulders back, and prop up your chest just a little bit, you’ll look great.

3. Let your arms move with your body.

4. As you move let the upper torso and your shoulders move a little bit. At first, you will move in an exaggerated way, but as you practice it will become more natural.

5. You may have noticed that confident people whether in movies or real life walk a little more slowly than others. It gives the impression that they’re in control and important.

How to see if you’re leaving a good impression

In a conversation, we need to know if we are accepted.

We want to see if we are leaving a good impression, well here are three signs on the face we need to look at:

1. A gentle smile – We have to see if the other person is practicing a fake smile.

2. Eyebrows slightly raised. It is a universal gesture of “I recognize you”!

Every time we see someone that we know our eyebrows rise very quickly.  

3. The head tilted slightly to one side

Tilting your head to one side feels very different from tilting it to the other.

When you tilt your head over to the left, it means that you’re paying attention.

You also tilt your head over to the left when you are about to have a question because it sparks up the cognitive brain.

When you tilt the head over to the right, it is a higher feeling of being more open.

A long-lasting or perhaps exaggerated tilt gives a strong sense of empathy from the communication.

Common handshakes and their meaning

The handshake is the most common social encounter, and it can convey useful information to someone.

Handshakes may tell a lot about someone’s character.

Confident people have a firm handshake, while shy people tend to shake hands softly.

Here are 4 types of handshakes you will see every day:

1. Dominant handshake

Turning your hand so that his palm faces down in the handshake shows dominance. The upper hand communicates that you want to take control of the encounter.

2. The submissive handshake

When you offer your hand with your palm facing upward.

3. Equal handshake

It is a handshake when both palms are in the vertical position. It creates a feeling of equality and mutual respect.

4. Double Handshake

Give direct eye contact, a smile, and say their name.

This handshake gives the impression he is trustworthy and honest. When you use a person you just met, it can have the reverse effect.

The double handshake is like a mini hug and is acceptable only in circumstances where a hug could also be acceptable.

Common types of the smile and their meaning

It is a summary, and an analysis of the common types of smiles, and their meaning.

1. The tight-lipped smile

It is the most common smile because is more natural to fake and be polite. Is a false smile because when we feel real joy, we show our teeth.

It also sends the message that the person who is smiling has a secret, is keeping an opinion, or attitude for themselves, and will not share it with you. It is a favorite of women who don’t want to reveal that they don’t like someone.

2. The twisted smile

The twisted smile is a kind of grin.

This smile shows different emotions on each side of the face.

It sends the message that what you are saying is foolish, or nonsense.

twisted smile , body language

3. The dropped-jaw smile

It is a practiced smile where the lower jaw is dropped down. It gives the impression that the person is laughing or playful.

It is a fake smile, but in a photograph gives a sense of joy and cheerfulness.

4. Sideways looking up

With the head turned down and while looking up with a tight-lipped smile. The person who is smiling looks playful and secretive.

sideways looking smile, body language
Source: Wikipedia

5. grin or smirk

The smirk shows smugness and arrogance. It is a tight-lipped smile with the addition of a degree of self-satisfaction.

Along with this smile, you may see dominant body language such as head back, shoulders back, and open postures showing pride.

grin or smirk, body language

Learn more about body language:

How to spot a liar by listening to the words

Types of arm-crossing and their meaning

10 Signs a girl gives you when she likes you


“What everybody is saying” by Joe Navarro

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