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 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.

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.

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. 

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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.

Men adjust their tie when they’re feeling insecure.

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

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.

Feet and Legs

Feet and legs are the most honest part of the body.

Happy feet

It occurs when someone is experiencing a strong positive emotion. It also shows that the person is feeling confident or has an advantageous position to gain something valuable from someone.

Feet direction

Often our feet reveal when we really want to go.

When two people talk to each other, they normally speak toe to toe. If, one of the individuals turns his feet slightly away in the exit direction (in a L formation), you can be sure he wants to be somewhere else.

What shows extended blinking

extended blinking, gjuha e trupit
Gif source

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 the deceitful words.

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

If the person is speaking uses this gesture, almost imperceptible indicates that they could be lying.

The nose touch

Sometimes the nose touch can be quick below the nose.

The scientist shows that when you lie chemicals known as catecholamines are released. This cause tissue inside the nose to swell. 

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

The eye rub

The eye rub is brains attempt to block out the deceit or doubt.

Women are less likely to use the 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 a 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 to circulate.

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:

1. A gentle smile

We have to see if the other person is practicing a fake smile.

2. Eyebrows

Eyebrows slightly raised.

It is a universal gesture of “I recognize you”!

Every time we see someone that we know our eyebrows “flash,” they rise very quickly.  

3. The head tilted slightly to one side

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

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

We also tilt the head over to the left when we are about to have a question because it sparks up 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 it 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 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 upwards.

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, their meaning and you are likely to see every day:

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 or is keeping an opinion, attitude for themselves and they will not share 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 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 is nonsense, sends the message of sarcasm.

It gives the impression you are thinking about something evil.

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.

People use it to engenders happy reactions in their audiences or to win more votes. It is a fake smile, but in a photograph gives a sense of joy and cheerful.

4. Sideways looking up smile

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

This smile is men’s favorite everywhere. When the woman who does it, it engenders parental male feelings. Making men want to protect and care for females.

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 self-satisfaction.

Along with this smile, you may see dominant body language such as head back, shoulders back, 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 girls gives you when she likes you


“What everybody is saying” by Joe Navarro

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