How To Decode The Basics Of Body Language

The Wikipedia defines body language as “a form of mental and physical ability of human non verbal communication, which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements”. It provides a general brief of the approach of the person. The six universally recognized facial expressions are sadness, fear, disgust, happiness, surprise and anger. Decipher each one of them through bodily movements and gestures.

Common physical postures decoded

Head Positions

Tilting one’s head:


Even if you’re paying attention to what the other person is saying, tilting your head in either direction can, at times, be misinterpreted as a sign of submission, sympathy, and playfulness or even flirting.

Lowering ones head:


It shows that the person is hiding something. If it’s after an explanation, it means that the person is unsure of what he/she just said, and it will start reflecting on his/her words.

With a smile:


If someone tilts their head while they’re smiling, it shows genuine happiness and playfulness.

However, in some cultures, it is interpreted as a mark of respect.

Position of the Arms

Crossing ones arms across his/her chest:


This posture is sure to signal a barrier on the part of the individual. It shows that he/she is closing themselves to social interaction and influence. It can be construed as a sign of hesitancy and being very defensive by the person.

Rubbing Arms:


If a person is rubbing his/her hands, it shows that they are comforting themselves. If they have gripped their upper arms, it’s more of a self hug, which is an attempt towards reassuring oneself.

Arms held behind back:


This demonstrates authority and confidence since there is no physical barrier in the front, on the part of the individual.

The Mouth

Biting Lip:


It showcases tension and stress, often attributed to high concentration but more likely due to anxiety.

Biting nails:


This indicates suppression and frustration. Borne due to fear, it hints upon suppression of one’s feelings and behavior  To explain it clearly, stress does not result in a nail biting. However, nail biting is the external manifestation of stress.

Tight lipped smile:


With concealed teeth and a stretched straight line across the face, it shows withheld feelings or secrecy. The person has a secret, which they won’t share possibly due to dislike or distrust.


Blinking frequently


The normal blink rate for a human being is between six to twenty times a minute. If a person blinks more than this, it shows pressure and excitement.

Direct eye contact:


This is considered to be a sign of honesty and truthfulness. It also shows that one is focused, interested, attentive and involved.

Widening Eyes:


When a person widens their eyes, it reveals interest, invitation and appeal. It usually entails a positive response.


Clenched fists:


Clenched fists epitomize determination, aggression, resistance, defense, etc. They may also mean that the person is angry, irritated or nervous.

Rubbing hands together:


Very often, rubbing hands together is a conscious gesture. It means that one is anticipating (an enjoyable activity) or relishing something.

Finger pointing:


This is a very confrontational and dictatorial sign. It shows threat, aggression and emphasis. It emphasizes the lack of social control and is viewed as an intimidation.

Legs and Feet

Crossed Legs:


This signifies disinterest and caution of varying degrees and attributed to a number of reasons such as insecurity to feeling threatened.

Uncrossed Legs:


Unlike crossed legs, uncrossed legs stand for openness, frankness and an open attitude. It shows that the person is open to talk.

Rubbing your feet with theirs:


If someone rubs their feet with yours, it means they are flirting with you, and the act usually has sexual undertones.

Positive Body Positions


  • Leaning towards you
  • Constant eye contact
  • Relaxed, uncrossed limbs
  • Genuine, honest smile

Negative Body Positions


  • Leaning away from you
  • Crossed legs and arms
  • Looking away
  • Rubbing nose and eyes.

Note: The tips to decode body language are not universally applicable, and may vary from individual to individual, often depending on the norms and traditions of the specific culture. However, they can be of great help in many situations and can help one prepare for job interviews, meeting new people and breaking the ice in between acquaintances.