Body language experts take our unconscious movements and decode them to understand what we are really saying.

But the great thing is that you don’t need to be as knowledgeable as they are. This is because we’ve picked the minds of some of the best body language experts.

We know that 7% of all communication is what we actually say and 38% is the tone of what we say. However, a whopping 55% is body language. Therefore, if you want to know what a person is actually saying, you need to understand their body language. And this is where body language experts come in.

So if you want to read people like a book, here are 12 secrets from body language experts:

1. Raised eyebrows indicate signs of discomfort

We often raise our eyebrows as a sign of surprise. For example, when we meet someone we were not expecting to see our eyebrows automatically rise. Alongside surprise, studies show that fear and worry can also cause eyebrows to rise.

Don’t believe me? Next time you’re in a comfortable, casual setting, chatting to a friend, raise your eyebrows and see what they say. They’ll automatically assume something is wrong.

So in the future, whenever you see raised eyebrows, pay attention. The person talking is not happy about something. One other thing to remember is that raised eyebrows coupled with other gestures can mean submission.

2. They also show sadness but watch if they don’t move inwards

If you are genuinely sad, your eyebrows will move inwards and upwards. Body language experts say this is one of those facial movements you cannot fake.

Research proves that it relies on a set of ‘reliable muscles’ that you can’t knowingly move. So be careful if someone expresses sadness but their eyebrows don’t move. They won’t be able to contract these muscles voluntarily, so it’s more than likely they’re lying.

3. Staring directly into your eyes is a sign of attraction

Eyes really are the windows of the soul. I knew a friend who, when he listened to you, would fix his gaze on you. It made you feel like the most important person in the world.

Research backs this up. Prolonged eye contact is an indication of a person’s interest. It means they are paying attention to what you are saying. There are no distractions, they are fully focused on you.

Conversely, frequently breaking eye contact or looking away is a sign they’re not interested. Another thing to look out for is dilated pupils. You’ve heard of ‘bedroom eyes’? This is because our pupils dilate when we are aroused.

4. However, if they stare for too long, they might be lying

There’s a fine line between attraction and lying. People that fix you with a steely stare are probably trying to cover up the fact they are lying. Liars frequently hold eye contact for longer. This is because they know it is harder for someone telling a lie to look another person in the eyes.

The problem is, they often overcompensate and hold eye contact for too long. The average person will hold eye contact in a conversation for 7 to 10 seconds. This time gets longer when we listen. However, studies show that if a person stares at you relentlessly, particularly if they are unblinking as well, it’s likely that they’re lying.

5. The science behind real smiles

Genuine smiles reach the eyes and you’ll see real crinkles. Fake smiles only use the mouth. You might not think this is important but many people use a smile to hide what they’re really feeling. Being able to spot a real or fake smile allows you to see if a person is happy, or troubled.

A genuine smile is impossible to fake. Real smiles are called Duchenne smiles as they raise the cheek muscle responsible for creating crow’s feet around the eyes. Extensive research has shown you simply cannot fake the movement of this muscle. So if someone is genuinely happy, you’ll see the crinkles.

6. Watch what the mouth does, not what it says

We should pay some attention to the words that come out of people’s mouths. However, movements and expressions are far more telling:

  • Chewing the bottom lip – feeling worried, afraid, nervous, or insecure.
  • Covering the mouth – lying, subconsciously stopping themselves from saying something hurtful.
  • Smiling – if not genuine it could be used to denote sarcasm, cynicism, or fake happiness.
  • Pursed lips – disapproval, distrust or distaste, stopping an outburst.

7. And check out that jawline

One of the first signs of stress is a clenched jaw. This is another one of those signals we are unable to control. And it all comes from the limbic system.

The limbic system controls our emotions and how we respond, all without us even knowing. It is all automatic. Symbolically, it is almost as if the person is biting down on the anger they want to suppress.

8. Facial symmetry can reveal the truth

Most of our emotional facial displays are symmetrical. They are bilateral, meaning they affect the two sides of our face equally. Therefore, if a person fakes an emotion, it will show up on their face.

So next time a colleague consoles a co-worker for missing out on a promotion, watch their face. If one side is more active than the other, chances are they’re faking it.

9. Why a shoulder shrug is the same in any language

Body language experts agree that a shoulder shrug is one of those universal signals we all know and use. It means ‘I don’t know’, ‘I don’t understand what is going on’ or ‘I don’t understand what you are saying’.

But why is this universal? The interesting thing about the shoulder shrug is it that it has evolutionary survival roots. Moreover, it’s usually made up of three parts:

  1. Raised eyebrows to show submission.
  2. Raised shoulders hunch up to protect the throat from attack.
  3. Open palms show that no weapons are concealed in the hands.

10. Talking of open palms….

As with the shoulder shrug, so do we associate open palms with openness and honesty. This also has its roots in evolutionary survival. When we expose any part of our body, particularly vulnerable parts, we are showing a submissive side. Just as a dog will roll on its belly to show submission.

In a similar way, we show our palms so that the other person knows we are unarmed. It also denotes honesty. Whenever we swear allegiance to the Bible we hold up one hand, with our palm facing outwards.

11. But don’t point your finger at me

Whereas open palms suggest submission, a pointed finger is an exact opposite. When someone closes their fist and points their finger they are making a symbolic club out of their hand.

They use it to dominate, as a form of aggression. They are literally beating their listeners into submission. A person on the receiving end of a jabbing pointed finger is likely to feel extremely frightened.

12. Expansive posture indicates power and confidence

Our final secret from body language experts involves posture. When you see world leaders walk across a stage, do they shuffle along, with hunched shoulders, head down, bent over? Or do they march along with an open chest, arms swinging, big strides and their head up?

When gorillas want to show their strength and power, they will stand up and puff their chests out in a show of dominance. Body language experts believe we are not that different when it comes to our ape cousins.

Do you agree with our body language experts or do you have some secrets of your own to share? Let us know in the comments section below!



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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. lisettte fernandez

    too simplistic

  2. Maxim

    One major problem with this formulaic approach — cultural differences. Eg: after one meeting I was told my crossed legs gave away my “closed defensiveness & opposition” despite my agreeing to what I heard. I informed the colonials that I was raised in a traditional European family & when one enters a room & sits, the legs are to be crossed immediately, Not to do so is rude.

  3. Gary Hynous

    Body language is useful in sales which I was engaged in for the last 15 years of my career. Part of my training in sales was to overcome objections. If you were successful the persons body language would change. Crossed arms is an easily recognized body language which indicates objection to your pitch.. A smile and a handshake are obvious too.

  4. Johnny

    Expanding on pointing, the military uses the knife hand to emphatically gesture. It started with the whole pointing is rude mindset, with the preferred alternative being to point with the whole hand, but it’s taken on a life of its own.

    1. Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

      That’s interesting Johnny, thank you.

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