Body Language - 10 Tips for Reading People and Interpreting Gestures

Gestures of the body can often reveal more about a person’s feelings than their actual words. Reading people and their body language is a little used skill that can give you great insights into people’s true thoughts. Here are 10 tips for reading people and helping you interpret body language and gestures.

By Lynda Goldman

Reading people and their body language can give you great insights into their true feelings.

We use our head, arms, hands, shoulders and even legs and feet to make gestures, and emphasise what we are saying, but the majority of gestures are made with the hands and arms. Here are some things to look for to help you interpret body language and gestures.

  1. Nodding or tilting the head to the side shows interest, active listening, and concern.
  2. A head held up indicates confidence, but if it is held too high, it can indicate aloofness or a patronising attitude - looking down your nose at someone.
  3. Shrugging the shoulders with a palms-up gesture indicates that the person doesn't know or care, or is bored or uninterested.
  4. People sometimes reveal their real feelings through body language that contradicts their words. For example, if someone says he agrees with you, but his head moves slightly from side to side, he is really signalling disagreement. He may be showing his real feelings, but does not want to be bothered arguing with you.
  5. Some people pick lint from their clothing. Whether this is conscious or unconscious, it can indicate that they disagree with you, but can't be bothered to argue.
  6. Nervousness often shows in your hands. People who are anxious may rub or wring their hands together, or clasp and unclasp them.
  7. When we aren't comfortable with our hands, we hide them in our pockets or behind our backs. Hands in the pocket convey a hidden agenda or secretiveness.
  8. An open palm suggests honest and sincerity. A closed fist can be considered menacing.
  9. Hands on the hips can be seen as defiant.
  10. The fig leaf position, with your hands clasped together over your crotch, or folded tightly over your chest (the female fig leaf) can make you seem aloof or defensive.

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From Lynda Goldman, author of 30 books including How to Make a Million Dollar First Impression

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