Body language explained

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Now that we've looked at an overview of body language, and how it can convey feelings, let's take a closer look at some of the individual signs you can look out for.

(In case you've landed here first, do check out Part 1 which has a great video to introduce you to the idea of Interpreting Body Language - you'll be surprised how much you already know!)


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Interpreting body language: eyes and eyebrows

What can you learn from your partner's - or anybody's - eyes?  Oh ... masses! Here we go:

Eye contact

Relaxed and at ease

Your partner will be interested in you as he/she effortlessly makes and breaks eye contact. You're likely to feel at ease. Women open their eyes into a 'doe-y' look if they're interested in a potential partner. They'll tilt their head slightly as they listen.

1/3 of a female face - eyes

Staring

You may feel uncomfortable if your partner stares at you. However, it depends on his/her intent. It's likely to feel great if he/she does it with a gentle and inviting smile. But you're bound to feel ill at ease if he/she moves into your personal space in an aggressive manner.  And... very understandably, you'd feel threatened if he/she did it whilst also being verbally aggressive.

Be aware that your partner may also be lying if he/she is staring at you. Be suspicious if he/she normally wouldn't stare at you like that.

Looking sideways

If you and your friend or partner are having a conversation and he/she looks sideways at other people, you could rightfully interpret that as a lack of interest in you! However, looking sideways also happens whilst someone is processing what you're saying, except that the glance then is more 'day-dream' or 'trance' like.

Looking upwards

When someone rolls their eyes upwards, you know they're thinking something like: "Oh for goodness' sake", or "That is so stupid". It can feel very dismissive and undermining. Just think what's going on for you when you roll your eyes upwards. If this is happening all too often in your relationship, then it's worth investing in learning to communicate better and more effectively with each other.

Looking away diagonally

This is a natural way of breaking eye contact. You can interpret that as the person you're talking to reflecting on something that you've just said.  Looking down  Your partner may look down if he/she is sad, feeling hopeless or 'has given up' on the conversation. This isn't a great sign, particularly if the two of you have been arguing and trying to 'win'. Well... you may have won the battle, but you won't win the war. These kinds of arguments can be very damaging for a relationship. If you recognise this situation, have a look at Save the Marriage (review) - one of the best blueprints for saving a close couple relationship I know of.

Looking down

Looking down can also be an admission of guilt.

Winking

This definitely is a sign that someone's interested. Winking often happens unconsciously. It kind of says: "you and I know without saying that we're on the same wavelength".

Lack of eye contact

We tend to feel uncomfortable if someone we're talking to makes little eye contact. We tend to interpret it as someone being unwilling to acknowledge us. However, people on the autistic spectrum can find it excruciatingly difficult to make eye contact.

Lack of eye contact can also mean that someone is feeling embarrassed or guilty.

Size of pupils

Enlarged pupils

You can be sure someone is interested in you if their pupils are enlarged. That is ... if they don't feel physically threatened (as this is also a cause of enlarged pupils). If their pupils are very enlarged, that is a sign that they are sexually aroused!  Normally pupils contract with light and enlarge in the dark.

Eyebrows

I don't think I need to expand much on that. You know when those eyebrows come together that you're 'in the dog house'!

If your partner's eyebrows are pulled up as they open their eyes wide whilst looking at you - and smiling - you can interpret that as a sign of their interest in you.

How to interpret the body language of shoulders

How you hold your shoulders says a lot about how you feel. What exactly they say about you depends on how far your shoulders are pulled back, hunched up, tightly held against the body or bent forward.

Straight shoulders

Feeling uncomfortable around other people? Lacking a bit of confidence? Just for a moment stand upright, pull your shoulders straight and smile. Notice how lifting your shoulders also 'lifts' your mood. Have you seen how people who look and sound confident normally have their shoulders straight?

Shoulders pulled backwards

Does your partner walk around with their shoulders pulled right back? Does 'arrogant' describe him/her? Don't be fooled though - this may be the body language of someone who deep down is lacking in confidence. He/she may be overcompensating for that by doing all they can to look confident.

Rounded and hunched

Shoulders pulled forward and up betray a lack of confidence and self-esteem, or discomfort or unhappiness with their situation. Rounded shoulders bent forward can also be a sign of disappointment and a sense of resignation.

How about our faces, or the way we walk?

Every part of our bodies plays a role in communicating something about how we're feeling. Our faces, our postures and the way we walk can give subtle hints to an observant onlooker.

Hop over to Part 3 for a look at all of these in more detail, and for an exercise to help you see if you've started to learn How to Interpret Body Language Signs.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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Elly Prior

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