How to Read People by Observing Basic Body Language and Gestures

Reading People by Body Language
Have you ever really wondered how many times you have actually spoken lies but have revealed the truth through your body language? Reading people by body language is not really a secret anymore. What you may think is the perfect lie, might in fact end up revealing otherwise, merely because of the way you are standing or because of your facial expressions.
Your mind may know the various ways to lie or hide your feelings, but does your body follow accordingly? Have you secretly wished that you knew what was going on in that cute boy's mind when he looked at you the other day? Body language can reveal a lot about the person, even more than one intends to. This is because, intentionally or unintentionally, most people use non-verbal signals to communicate on a daily basis. These signals are sent out even when one might not be aware that they are doing the same. As we take you through the following sections, varied body language signs and gestures will become clearer, and you will be able to understand a person better.
Basic Signs and Gestures
The following are certain basic signs that can be studied when trying to read a person through his body language. These can be observed in most social situations, formal meetings or other gatherings.
Direct Eye Contact
Direct Eye Contact
If a person maintains direct eye contact, it is indicative of the fact that the person is completely focused on what the other is saying and that he is interested in what is being said. Direct eye contact, if accompanied by other positive signs like a 'hmm' or a 'uh huh' in between sentences is an encouraging sign and just goes to show that the other person is interested in the conversation.
Avoiding Eye Contact
Avoiding Eye Contact
If a person does not maintain eye contact, constantly looks elsewhere while the person is talking to him, focuses on another object in the background, or follows someone else with their eyes (for example), it means that a person is distracted and/or not interested in the conversation. It could also mean that the person is trying to hide something and therefore cannot meet the person's eye.
Firm Handshake/Palm to Palm
Firm Handshake/Palm to Palm
A firm handshake is a sign of a confident person. A palm to palm handshake indicates that the person has nothing to hide - that he is an honest and genuine person.
Limp Handshake/Finger to Finger
Limp Handshake/Finger to Finger
A limp handshake denotes a kind of lack of confidence in a person; it shows how a person is uncomfortable and awkward.
Palm Down Handshake
Palm Down Handshake
This is indicative of a person trying to dominate, influence and/or control the other person. It is taken as a sign of arrogance, whereby the person is indicating that they are not equals, but that he is superior to the other in some way.
Palm Up Handshake
Palm Up Handshake
A hand up handshake is indicative of a person who is in some way submissive towards the other person. In one way or the other he has allowed or wants to allow the other person to dominate and influence him.
Using Both Hands
Using Both Hands
When a person clasps a person's hand in both his hands for a handshake, it is usually taken as a sign of control -- such that a person wants to convey that he can be trusted.
Using Too Much Pressure
Using Too Much Pressure
When a person uses too much pressure and ends up crushing your hand, it is taken as a very fake gesture, as if the person is going over the top and trying to be somebody that he is not.
Arms Folded Across Chest
Arms Folded Across Chest
Arms across the chest is usually taken as a defensive gesture. It is indicative of a person trying to create a barrier between you and him and shows that he is uncomfortable and not open to whatever is being discussed. Arms across the chest with a shoulder-width distance between the feet is considered as a show of authority and power, wherein the person is trying to show you that he is in command in some way. Arms on the side is therefore advisable.
Pursed Lips
Pursed Lips
Pursed lips and a tight-lipped smile are clear indications that a person is upset and trying to hide something. This is a subconscious way of literally sealing your lips, either by pursing them or with a smile so that the truth -- by way of your genuine feelings -- is not revealed. A tight-lipped smile could also mean that a person disapproves of something and is trying not to show his true sentiments (for whatever reasons) and therefore is closing himself off by way of this.
Crossing of Legs
Crossing of Legs
Crossing and closing of ones legs tightly is considered a defiant gesture, one where it is taken to mean that the person is threatened about something and wants to hide his true feelings. It could also mean that he is not open to suggestions - he thus closes off all ways of communication by adopting this stance.
Drumming Fingers
Drumming Fingers
Along with drumming one's fingers, shaking legs and rubbing palms is taken to mean that the person is not comfortable in that situation. He could either be restless, impatient, nervous, uncomfortable, frustrated or going through a combination of these emotions. All in all, his discomfort becomes apparent in his interaction with others.
Open Palm Vs. Closed Fist
Open Palm Vs. Closed Fist
An open palm is indicative of a person being open, friendly and accepting of things. On the other hand, a closed fist denotes the exact opposite -- it shows a person who is closed and is most likely hiding something.
Nail Biting
Nail Biting
Nail biting, along with forced laughter, biting one's lips, and teeth grinding are all an indication of a person being nervous, restless, uncomfortable and tensed. Forced laughter is usually used by a person to act like everything is OK, even though the truth is far from it.
Head Nodding
Head Nodding
Head nodding in a slow and deliberate manner means that a person agrees with what you're saying, but the same action when done in a vigorous head nod shows impatience -- that the person wants you to hurry up and get to the point.
Slouching Shoulders
Slouching Shoulders
A person who is slumping and slouching, gives off a vibe that he lacks confidence and is unsure about himself to take up a certain responsibility or carry through a conversation well (to cite an example).
Good Posture/Upright Chest
A good posture (straight back, chest pushed out, square shoulders) is indicative of a person being extremely confident and sure about what he is doing.
Signs of a Liar
A person might think that they've successfully been able to lie and get away with it, but there are certain telltale signs and gestures that indicate otherwise. The following are some that can be looked into.
Shifty Eyes
Classic Beauty, Fashion Model in Studio
A person who is constantly moving the pupils of his eyes and avoiding eye contact is considered to be dishonest and hiding something.
Hands in Hair
Hands in Hair
Running hands through the hair and constantly touching or scratching the nose while talking is an indication that the person is trying to hide something.
Staying Still
Staying Still
People are usually animated when they're talking, and end up using a lot of hand gestures as an extension of speech. A liar will usually be as still and stiff as possible, giving in to minimum hand gesturing or facial expressions. When a person keeps still like this, watch their hands closely as well -- these will either be stuck in the pocket, taken behind the back or be clenched tight.
Exaggerated Eye Contact
Exaggerated Eye Contact
When a person knows that he is fibbing about something, he tries to avoid making direct eye contact. This is done in an attempt to prevent the person from reading his eyes and catching the fib. On the other extreme, a person who is lying will maintain such high levels of eye contact that it is highly unnerving. He will also hardly blink his eyes -- thus making the whole affair seem a little stretched and giving the feeling of something being wrong.
Place Objects in the Path
Place Objects in the Path
A liar will try to create blocks and place obstacles between you and him. For example, if the two of you are sitting across a table, he might place a glass of water between you. All this is done subconsciously without him even realizing it.
Playing with Things
Playing with Things
When a person is lying about something, he might pick up an object that is lying around and start fiddling with it (like a pen, a paperweight -- anything). This is because he wants to distract you and draw your attention to the object instead of looking at him and catching his lies.
The Long Pause
The Long Pause
When you ask someone a question and they are fibbing, they will usually take a long pause before answering you. This could be an indication that they are taking their time to come up with a response.
Looking to the Right
Looking to the Right
It is said that a person who is lying and fabricating things will usually look to the right side or the right side and up, as opposed to looking to the left or left and up when trying to recollect facts.
Answering with Questions
Answering with Questions
A person who is trying to hide something will typically answer questions with more questions instead of giving a straight and direct answer. This is done so that he can buy more time and can think of a suitable fib to respond with.
Body Turned Away
Body Turned Away
A person who is lying will usually turn his body away from the person he is talking to. This is a way of preventing others from reading him.
Reading Attraction
A person's attraction towards the other is apparent in all the subtle gestures and signs that the person subconsciously reveals.
Dilated Pupils
Dilated Pupils
If a person is attracted to the other, their pupils will be dilated. Though this is a little difficult sign to catch easily, the twinkle in the eyes is a sure sign, one that cannot be missed (at the risk of sounding corny). Also, look out for a genuine smile, one that reaches the eyes and is not limited to the lips.
The Leaning
The Leaning
A person who is interested in someone will lean in to them to show that they are interested in what the other person is saying. Along with that, their body and feet will be turned towards the subject of their interest and they will remove anything that forms an obstacle in their path -- something like a chair, a glass of water - anything.
Soothing the Hair
Soothing the Hair
Both, men and women will take to touching their hair in some way or the other when in the company of the subject of their interest. They will soothe their hair and run their hands through their hair in a subconscious attempt to smooth it over (in an effort to look prim and proper). In addition to doing these things, women will also take to playing with their hair -- twirling it around their fingers, pulling it to one side, and then bringing it back to the original position (for example).
The Touch
The Touch
If a woman is attracted to a man, she will more often than not end up touching his arm or just as easily end up playfully hitting him on the arm. Men, though do not use their hands in the same manner, will use them as a form of protection -- like when they are passing through a crowd, they will place their hand on the shoulder or (if they are extremely comfortable around the girl) will place it on the small of her back and guide her through the crowd.
Mirroring Actions
Mirroring Actions
When a person has a crush on someone or he/she is attracted to the other, they will end up mirroring their body language. For example, if the girl brushes her hair and then picks up her glass of water, the guy will also do the same without even realizing that he's doing it. The actions then look somewhat synchronized. Notice how the couple in this image have their hands in their pocket and are leaning against the wall.
Eye Contact
Eye Contact
Eye contact (and we don't tire of stressing this one enough) is one of the most obvious factors that one can study when it comes to reading the body language of attraction. A person who is attracted to the other will usually keep darting glances at the person, holding onto their gaze for long and quickly look away if caught in the act, then look back again and hold the gaze again.
Smiles and More
Smiles and More
A person who is attracted to the other will usually have a smiling disposition. In addition to that, if the person's head is tilted to the side, and he is looking up towards the other with a shy smile, it is an indication of attraction. The accompanying expressions in the eyes could also indicate whether he is being playful, teasing or simply coy.
Body language cannot, and should not be studied based on a single sign or gesture. Several gestures and signs go together in revealing a person's state of mind and demeanor. Yet, it is equally true that it is one of the most effective ways in which we can understand people better - both, personally and professionally, and thereby learn how to communicate well with them.