Sex & Relationships

Understanding Body Language Goes a Long Way

Talk is cheap. Understanding physical signals can be priceless.
IMAGE Ümit Bulut via Unsplash

Every confident, successful man knows the basics. Make eye contact. Firm hand shake. Never yawn in your boss's face. But what about Body Language 2.0?

With non-verbal signals doing most of our communicating for uswhether we like it or notit pays to have a developed knowledge of the psychology behind it all.

Because you're busy, we've done the research and rounded up 10 proven body languages signals all men should know about. They're not hard and fast rules, but considered in context they can help you be more perceptive and effective at work, home and beyond.

1| To defuse an argument
Whether it's an irate colleague or an angry drunk you've just bumped into buying a kebab, the way to calm someone down is to sit or stand shoulder to shoulder to them, facing in the same direction. The exact opposite, when you think about it, to the 'squaring up' you do when you're the one with a missing invoice or garlic sauce on your shirt.


2| To feel more confident

It all sounds a bit new age and channel-your-inner-tiger-y, but researchers at Havard have proven that adopting a 'power pose' for a couple of minutes stimulates testosterone and makes you feel more confident and in control. So before a stressful situation, find somewhere private, stand with your legs wide, put your heads behind your head and lean back, opening up your body. It's what animals do before a fight and it'll give you a boost. Just keep the roaring to a minimum.

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3| To tell if someone wants you around or not
This one is simple: look at their feet. If you approach a group and they turn to face you completely, so their toes move towards you, then congratulations: you're Mr. Popular. On the other hand if they only swivel from their torso and keep their feet facing away from you, they'd probably prefer you keep walking.



4| To know you're being lied to
There are certain 'tells' people perform with their face if they're lying (unless they're particularly good at it). They might blink rapidly, which means their brain is doing overtime making up some crazy 'late train' story. They may scratch their nose, which means they really want to cover their mouth (an instinctive response to shame). Or they may purse their lips, which is an unconscious effort to gag themselves when they're saying something they may come to regret. Be careful not to jump to conclusions with this one thoughthey may just have something in their eye, an itchy nose or a mouth ulcer.

5| To read a handshake
Never too soft, never too firm, and never, ever moistmost of us know that much at least. But also take a quick note of palm position. If some offers you a handshake with a downwards swoop (palms facing down), it's an effort to assert dominance and authority over you. Likewise if they come from below (palm facing up) they're revealing themselves to be weak and submissive. To be safe, keep yours somewhere in the middle.


6| To tell if someone is uncomfortable
There are the obvious signs, of course: sweating, looking around for an escape route, bursting into tears. But there are also more subtle indications that a person isn't having fun, that usually resolve around making their body smaller. Two classics: people sitting in the 'pretzel' position (legs crossed with one foot locked behind the opposite ankle) and standing with a drink held closely to their chest. Of course that one could just be because you're spitting too much.


7| To know if she likes you
Let's be honest, this is probably the information you began reading this article for, so let's break it down in more detail. Here are some female body gestures, and what they may be saying to you. Note: you really should have figured most of these out by now.

A lingering glance: "I like what I see"
Hair fixing / outfit brushing: "I know you're checking me out"
Arm touching: "I'm testing boundaries (and I'd like you to reciprocate)"
Looking away as you kiss / hug / touch: "Sorry buddy, I'm just not that into you"
A small smile, with no teeth showing: "I want to get to know you better"
Arms folded and touching ribs: "I feel insecure or bored"
Arms folded and touch biceps: "I don't want to talk you at all"


Of course, all these signals have to be considered in context of where you are, what's being said and your personal history, and are never cause for romantic lunges / heartbroken sadness on their own.

8| To know if a hug is genuine
Basically? Watch out for the 'pat'. If someone pats your back a few times as you embrace, it either means they are confused ("should this hug be happening?") or simply keen for it to end ("I love you too man, but you're far drunker than I am and this is getting awkward"). Either way, best respect it and let go.

9| To make an impact when you're talking
It's in your own handsliterally. Your palm and fingers constitute what psychologists call 'trust indicators'the more of them you show, the more people come to believe in you and what you're saying (studies have also found that pairing talking with hand gestures helps people remember what you've said more clearly). Tony Blair, memorably, could barely get through a sentence without chopping through the hair or waving his upturned palms around. As with most examples of body language, you only have to consider the opposite: people with their hands folded away or stuffed in their pockets look shifty or unwelcoming.


10 | To appear wise
There is one gesture that above all others manages to communicate wisdom, conviction and trustworthiness: the steeple. With the notable exception of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, people who deploy this hand movementfingertips touching in front of them like a triangletend to be socially astute and widely respected. Don't believe us? Watch some clips of Barack Obama. The man can't stop steepling, and within reason, nor should you.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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