Though music is generally regarded as the “universal language” that connects people from all over the world, it isn’t the only form of communication that is inherently understood by humans from all walks of life. On an even simpler and intrinsic level, there’s also body language, which clearly communicates feelings of happiness, sadness, bitterness, and fear—sometimes even when we don’t want it to.
Yes, some nonverbal communication cues simply can’t be controlled— but it’s still important to know what your body language says about you. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up 30 things you’re communicating with your body without even realizing it, from those power poses you strike in meetings to those tells that show you’re nervous.
Firm Handshake = You’re Confident
If you want potential employers to think that you’re a worthy and viable candidate, then make sure that your handshake is firm and strong. In one study of 98 undergraduate students published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, subjects with better handshakes were perceived as more hirable.
Leaning Over The Desk = You Feel In Charge
The next time you have a meeting or encounter with your boss, take note of how they stand at their desk. If their position of choice involves leaning over their desk with their hands spread apart, then research shows that your manager likely has a dominant personality and feels like he or she has all the power. (Whether this is a good or a bad thing can only be decided on a case-by-case basis.)
Expansive Pose = You Speak Your Mind
When you’re choosing which photo to use for your online dating profile, opt for a picture with your arms spread wide or your hands on your hips over one where your arms are crossed. Why? Per one 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, both men and women tend to be more attracted to individuals with their bodies in expansive positions, as this simultaneously signals dominance and candor.
Hand On Your Face = You’re Nervous
Don’t put your hands over your face during a job interview or important conversation. As Dr. Nick Morgan, author of Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact, explained to Business Insider, using your hands as a barrier between your face and the person with whom you’re talking indicates “nervousness, self-consciousness, [and] introversion in general.”
Biting Your Lip = You’re Hiding Something
Most people have nervous ticks that they turn to as coping mechanisms when they find themselves in uncomfortable situations. For some people, that nervous tick comes in the form of sucking in and/or biting their lips—but this could potentially be a problem, seeing as, according to body language expert Janine Driver, this action “says [that] you’re holding something back.”
Tilting Your Head = You’re a Good Listener
Both consciously and unconsciously, people tend to judge the listening skills of their friends and family members not just by what they say, but also by their body language. And per body language expert Carol Kinsey Goman, “leaning forward, nodding, and tilting your head” tends to best communicate that you are completely immersed in the conversation at hand.
Brusque Movements = You Feel Insecure
Even if you’re trying your best to seem confident through your words, your body language could easily be giving your insecure interior away. “Your posture tells a lot about you and about how you feel at any given time,” explains Jack Vitel, a relationship coach and founder of relationship blog Road to Solidity. According to the expert, it’s those “nervous, uncontrolled, and brusque movements” that give off a nervous vibe.
Avoiding Eye Contact = You’re Shy
There’s a reason why people always make such a big deal about maintaining proper eye contact. According to one study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, people who avoid making eye contact tend to be perceived by their peers as shy, socially anxious, and even less intelligent.
Excessive Fidgeting = You’re Impatient
During an important meeting or a potentially life-altering first date, the last thing you want is to unintentionally convey via your body language that you’d rather be anywhere else. However, people commit this unintentional faux pas on a frequent basis, as, according to entrepreneur Andrew Thomas, excess fidgeting serves as a signal to whomever you’re with that you’re anxious to move on with your day.
Shoulders Down = You Believe in Yourself
“Posture not only exudes confidence and says that you are present, but it reinforces your own connection to yourself,” Erica Hornthal, a dance movement therapist and clinical counselor, explained to Bustle. “With your chin slightly lifted, your shoulders down, and your chest open, you exude confidence and positive self-esteem [both] to yourself and to the people you come in contact with.”
Strong Voice = You’re Intelligent
According to etiquette experts, vocal habits fall under the broad category of body language—and they’re just as telling as any other ticks and movements you might make. In fact, according to one survey conducted by Quantified Communications, people who speak with “normal voices”—or with voices that are low, strong and smooth-sounding—are generally associated with characteristics like success, intelligence, and sociability.
Fidgeting = You Have Money
Unfortunately, nothing you say or do is going to hide the fact that you do (or don’t) come from money. That’s according to one study published in Psychological Science, which concluded that subjects were able to figure out a person’s socioeconomic status just from their behavior. Evidently, people in the upper echelons of society tend to engage in more disengagement-related behaviors, like fidgeting and doodling, and people coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to be more engaged, using body language like head nods, laughing, and eye contact.
Eye Wrinkling When You Smile = You’re Sincere
A Duchenne smile, characterized by wrinkling around the eyes and a big grin, simply can’t be faked. And since people know that this type of smile is entirely genuine, one study conducted by researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that those with Duchenne markers tend to be perceived as more sincere and trustworthy.
No Expression = You’re Not Happy
It’s not just frowning that signals to people that you’re unhappy. Per one study published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, people who lack any facial expression whatsoever are also viewed as unhappy.
Firm Handshake = You’re Outgoing
Firm handshakes can say a lot about you—not just as an employee, but also as a person. In fact, when researchers at the University of Alabama had 112 subjects shake the hands of four different trained professionals, they found that the experts were able to predict whether someone was outgoing, optimistic, and open to new experiences based solely on their firm handshake.
Disobeying The Rules = You Have Power
People really do seem to believe that nice guys finish last. When researchers from the University of Amsterdam conducted a study about office behavior, they found that subjects associated frowned-upon behaviors like frowning, putting your feet up on the table, speaking loudly, and disobeying the rules with being in a position of power.
Raising Chin = You’re Full of Yourself
Do you tend to raise your chin up high when meeting someone new? You might want to stop doing that. As Janine Driver, president of the Body Language Institute, explained to Inc, this body language signal is often misread as a sign that you’re conceited, even if that’s not the case.
Puffed Chest = You’re Hiding Your Insecurities
“A puffed-out chest can signal overconfidence, which is often due to underlying insecurities,” explains Erica Hornthal, a movement therapist with Chicago Dance Therapy. At the end of the day, simply feeling comfortable in your own skin is the best possible way to exude confidence and dispel any notions that you don’t love every single aspect of yourself!
Averting Gazes = You’re Lying
In the same body language study, researchers also found that people who avert their gazes are more often viewed as deceptive and untruthful. So, when you’re having an important conversation, make sure to maintain eye contact—these are two things that you definitely don’t want to be associated with in a job interview or during a heart-to-heart with your spouse.
Manspreading = You Like To Be In Control
All of you fellas out there might want to listen very carefully for this next one. Not only is manspreading—you know, the practice that involves a man taking up several seats with his legs spread obnoxiously apart—annoying, it’s also a signal to everyone around you that you feel the need to take the reins in any and all situations (and not in a good way).
Palms Open = You’re Telling The Truth
When the police tell you to turn around and put your hands up, you do so with your palms spread open in order to reiterate the fact that you’re harmless. In a court of law, you use your open palm to swear under oath that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The open palm gesture is used in various facets of society to convey that a person is telling the truth—and so naturally, the gesture has become generally associated with “truth, honesty, allegiance, and submission,” as Barbara and Allan Pease wrote in The Definite Book of Body Language.
Hands Up in a V = You Feel Accomplished
When people feel a genuine sense of accomplishment and achievement, you can tell by the way they throw their arms up in the shape of a V. In fact, research from the University of British Columbia found that even blind individuals exhibit this body language, which further goes to show that body language can unintentionally say a lot about a person’s innermost emotions.
Legs Crossed = You’re Closed Off
When trying to negotiate a business deal, the last thing you want to see is a pair of crossed legs. Why? According to psychologist Travis Bradberry, this position can “signal that a person is mentally, emotionally, and physically closed off”—and those aren’t exactly ideal character traits when it comes to negotiations and business transactions.
Smiling = You’re Genuinely Happy
Smiling is one of the most common ways in which you nonverbally communicate to someone how you feel. By simply cracking a smile or showing other obvious signs of joy, you are telling whomever you are with that you enjoy their company and that they make you happy.
Feet Turned In = You Have a Crush
If you want to know whether someone likes you, just look at their feet. As human behavior and body language expert Lillian Glass explained to Prevention, a person’s feet will point in the direction of the person they’re talking to if that person is the focus of their affection.
Feet Turned Out = You Have an Enemy
In a similar vein, a person’s feet can also give away whether or not they aren’t all that fond of you. “If you’re in a room with someone you don’t like, you won’t scowl or make faces because you don’t want to come off as insensitive or mean,” explains Joe Navarro, M.A., former FBI agent and author of What Every Body Is Saying, “but your feet will almost immediately turn away from that person.”
Clenching Your Jaw = You’re Stressed
Stress is simply one of those emotions that people can read on your face and in your body language, almost as if you were screaming about your feelings at the top of your lungs. According to Navarro, some of the tells in your body language, as far as being stressed goes, include clenching your jaw, rubbing your neck, lowering your chin, and narrowing your eyes.
Tilting Your Head = You’re with Someone You Love
“In the presence of someone we love, we will mirror their behavior, tilt our heads, and blood will flow to our lips making them full, even as our pupils dilate,” wrote Navarro. “Our limbic brain communicates through our bodies precisely the true sentiments that we feel and orchestrates accurate corresponding nonverbal displays.”
Hand Over Your Heart = You’re Empathetic
People who are compassionate don’t just wear their hearts on their sleeves. Rather, you can single out an empathetic soul based on the way they put a hand over their heart and gesture with their palms facing up.
Slouching Shoulders = You’re Overwhelmed
You can try to hide your stress all you want, but at the end of the day, your shoulders are going to give you away. Evidently, something as small as slouching shoulders is an indication to the outside world that you’re feeling overwhelmed, so you’re going to be hard-pressed to deny (with conviction, at least) that you feel like you’re drowning, should someone ask.
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