Elizabethkuhnke's Blog

Body Language and Gestures

Posted on: November 2, 2011

Several weeks ago at a Sunday lunch with friends and family I embarrassed my son. I embarrass him on a regular basis, as doing so is part of a mother’s job. This particular day I went a step too far and Max demonstrated a degree of self-control that made me sit up and notice. While he didn’t say a word, his body tightened and he wrapped his arms around his torso as if keeping his emotion in check. His jaw locked and his lips puckered in disapproval. Add to that, his eyes became steely as he glared at me, suggesting that I might want to stop what I was doing. And I did.

Your body’s speaking and people are noticing. How you’re holding your body, focusing your gaze and what your feet and fingers are doing tells a tale of your inner state.

Below is a snap shot of gestures and the emotions they’re conveying. Before I go any further, remember that no one gesture tells the entire story. In order to interpret what the body’s saying, you must reflect on the whole picture of the person.

Fiddling fingers, bouncing feet and sideways glances reveal feelings of doubtfulness, rejection or suspicion. A combination of picking at fingernails, pinching the fleshy part of the hand, rubbing or caressing a personal object (ring, cufflinks, watch, for example) or chewing on an object, such as a pencil or pen translates into insecurity.

To spot enthusiasm, look for smiles in which both the lips and eyes are engaged. People who are enthusiastic move with a bounce in their step. Their posture is erect, their hands are open and they frequently extend their arms in the direction of their interest.

Negative emotions such as secrecy or nervousness tend to manifest themselves through minimal or no eye contact, throat clearing and covering the mouth while speaking. Boredom reveals itself through drumming fingers, swing feet, picking at clothes and jingling keys and coins.

People demonstrating superiority and authority come across as both relaxed and expansive in their gestures. They steeple their fingers, are comfortable putting their feet up or on their desk. You often see them leaning back with their fingers laced behind their head with their chin lifted upward.

When you notice someone with their hands on their hips or sitting forward at the edge of a chair, you’re right in thinking that they’re ready to go. As you may be by now.

For more about how body language reveals attitudes, emotions and feelings, buy a copy of Body Language For Dummies. You might want to wait to the end of January 2012, when the 2nd edition hits the stands with more photographs and expanded content. Until then, pick up an app to get you started.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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2 Responses to "Body Language and Gestures"

I guess that some of these body language clues are specific to English culture, Elizabeth? For instance, I understand that in India, you don’t give eye contact if you are in the presence of someone superior to you.

You’re absolutely right. Same in some African cultures. This blog was directed toward Western cultures, including UK and USA. In 2nd edition of Body Language For Dummies, there’s an expanded version of the chapter dealing with body language across cultures. Let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to address.

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