Body language is an integral part of our daily lives as human beings. Understanding body language signs is not only important in personal relationships, but it can also be helpful for professional relationships too.
Becoming observant of – and learning to understand – non-verbal communication increases your emotional intelligence.
Maybe you’ve landed here on this page as you’re keen to uncover the body language signs of physical attraction (see list further down). It can be really hard sometimes to figure out if someone ‘fancies’ you or not!
Understanding body language is obviously very useful if you’re dating, but you might be here for professional reasons. Either way, there’s lots of advice on this page to get you started!
As well as reading this page on body language signs, be sure to have a look at Types of Non-Verbal Communication.
Body language signs can be the cause much confusion and miscommunication, so I hope to bring some clarity.
It’s only with years of experience that I’ve learned to pick up on signs that I need to pay attention too. As a counsellor I have found over time what to look for, what to do with it, how much attention to give to it, and how and when to respond.
You are faced with a completely different situation. So, with the knowledge I’ve gained, I hope to be able to help you to understand other people's messages a little better.
It’ll prepare you for more fruitful conversations with the people around you - be they friends, family, business associates or students. Though I will focus on you and your partner in particular.
It’s not helpful to attach a ‘fixed meaning’ to any particular movements as a 'sign' of something. It’s best to avoid ‘interpreting’ non-verbal signs without other ‘evidence’.
Reading body language can be a complicated business, even though we all have a natural ability to do it. People who are deaf and have learned to use sign language rely on several ways to communicate clearly. They use hand signals, mouth the words, sign the ‘space’ they place people and objects in and move their bodies.
I used to work as a school counsellor. Youngsters would frequently get into trouble with their friends - all too often they would try to restore the peace with by electronic messages of one kind or another.
So, to get the point across I often demonstrated the many different meanings of just this sentence: "Where were you last night?"
Try it for yourself shifting the emphasis to different words.
Whilst we’re on the subject of caution - when you’re reading about body language signs, remind yourself of any texts or emails you have sent recently.
How would the meaning of that text or email have changed if you had 'said' it with a smile or with a cheeky sense of humour? What would it have meant if you said it in an angry voice, still using the same words? How would it have sounded in a gently challenging tone of voice, or if you had delivered in a 'straight to the point- no nonsense' kind of way?
The meaning of a face-to-face communication depends to a large extend on your body language and how you use your voice. You do have control over your part of the ‘electronic’ communication… but the receiver may read your message in a way you did not intend!
Bearing this in mind, why not go back over some of your recent messages, just out of interest.
Have a look at my page on how to write romantic text messages too.
Here's a list of all the body language signs you might want to take notice of. They are within your field of vision when you’re having a conversation:
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation reduces facial expressiveness, even though there is no reduction in emotions felt. Just think about what any lack of such important body language signs can have on personal relationships.
Here’s a video clip of an interview with biological anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher. Helen is an adviser for Chemistry.com and is the author of the book: "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love"
There are other body language signs displayed by people who are physically attracted to someone:
Helen Fisher's book, "Why We Love" is one of my favourites, as she backs up all that detail about chemistry between two individuals with a scientific explanation. It’s fascinating read. Actually, so is "Why Him, Why Her". Do check them out!
It also struck me recently that the body language portrayed in some music videos overemphasises what tends to happen naturally in a relationship. I wonder to what extent that shapes the viewers’ perceptions and expectations of communication. In particular children, who are perhaps more impressionable and are frequently exposed to raunchy music videos.
There’s good evidence that we pick up a whole range of cues unconsciously.
This link takes you to a really interesting study about specific cues that men pick up around the time a woman is ovulating. The researchers conclude that further studies are needed to discover how these unconscious body language signs relate to behaviour and communication in relationships. They want to find the 'real' and 'perceived' differences in behaviour between the sexes around the time of ovulation.
Culture, gender and age also affect the way we hold, touch, move and gesture. As you read on, reflect on these influences alongside with what I have written.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual by the American Psychiatric Association, a person’s lack of gestures, movement, animation and so on is named 'psycho-motor retardation'. It’s one of the warning signs of depression.
I hope that you now understand how important it is not to jump to conclusions. You can see now that it is vital to check out what you perceive someone else's body language signs mean.
You can do that by directly referring to what you have noticed and gently asking what happened when this or that was said. More subtly - come back to that part of the conversation at a later stage and talk a bit more and explore it a bit further.
By being open, inviting, interested and non-judgmental you’re far more likely to find out what is going on for you partner, rather than just relying on body language signs.
BBC - Woman's hour: Women's bodies: Lips
The Human Face - 4 part BBC series examining the face, with John Cleese
PsychBlog - 10 messages my pupils are sending you
Westsidetoastmasters.com - Cultural differences in hand signals