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Body
Language
FOR

DUMmIES



Body
Language
FOR

DUMmIES
by Elizabeth Kuhnke



Body Language For Dummies®
Published by
John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
The Atrium
Southern Gate
Chichester
West Sussex
PO19 8SQ
England
E-mail (for orders and customer service enquires): cs-books@wiley.co.uk
Visit our Home Page on www.wiley.com
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, West Sussex, England
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, West Sussex
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 or under the terms of a
licence issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 4LP, UK,
without the permission in writing of the Publisher. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be
addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester,
West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, England, or emailed to permreq@wiley.co.uk, or faxed to (44) 1243 770620.
Trademarks: Wiley, the Wiley Publishing logo, For Dummies, the Dummies Man logo, A Reference for the
Rest of Us!, The Dummies Way, Dummies Daily, The Fun and Easy Way, Dummies.com and related trade
dress are trademarks or registered trademarks of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the United
States and other countries, and may not be used without written permission. All other trademarks are the
property of their respective owners. Wiley Publishing, Inc., is not associated with any product or vendor
mentioned in this book.
LIMIT OF LIABILITY/DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY: THE PUBLISHER, THE AUTHOR, AND ANYONE ELSE
INVOLVED IN PREPARING THIS WORK MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES WITH RESPECT
TO THE ACCURACY OR COMPLETENESS OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS WORK AND SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION WARRANTIES OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. NO WARRANTY MAY BE CREATED OR EXTENDED BY SALES OR PROMOTIONAL
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AWARE THAT INTERNET WEBSITES LISTED IN THIS WORK MAY HAVE CHANGED OR DISAPPEARED
BETWEEN WHEN THIS WORK WAS WRITTEN AND WHEN IT IS READ.
Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may
not be available in electronic books.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data: A catalogue record for this book is available from the
British Library.
ISBN: 978-0-470-51291-3
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Bell and Bain Ltd, Glasgow
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

About the Author
Elizabeth Kuhnke holds a Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Communications
from Northwestern University, and a Masters degree in Theatre Arts. For over
20 years, Elizabeth has worked with individuals and groups to bolster their
personal impact and communication skills.
Before moving to Britain, Elizabeth acted throughout the United States on the
stage, radio, and television. In addition to designing and delivering university
programmes in voice and movement, she also taught acting skills to students
and professionals.
In the United Kingdom, Elizabeth applies her theatrical expertise and psychological insight with a rock-solid business approach. She works at top level
with FTSE 100 companies and leading professional firms to provide both
one-to-one and group coaching in key areas relating to interpersonal communication and image projection. Coming from diverse backgrounds including
accountancy, law, and telecommunications, Elizabeth’s clients consistently
achieve their goals and have fun getting there. Her keys to communication
are based on the simple principle of demonstrating respect, establishing
rapport, and achieving results.
A highly entertaining speaker, Elizabeth is a popular choice on the conference
circuit, and is often quoted in the media addressing issues concerning confidence, voice, body language, and communication skills – all the ingredients
that create a positive impact.
For further information about Elizabeth, visit her Web site at www.
kuhnkecommunication.com.

Dedication
To Mom – for fortitude, finances, and fun.
To Dad – for presence, perseverance, and all those clippings.
I love you both.

Author’s Acknowledgements
Without friends, family, clients, and colleagues encouraging, nurturing, and
spurring me along, this book would not now be in your hands. Allow me, if
you will, to acknowledge but a small sampling of the support team.
The Author’s Angels: Kate Burton, my buddy and fellow For Dummies author
who believed I was the person for the job; Alison Yates who stuck with me
when lesser mortals would have tossed in the towel; and Rachael Chilvers,
whose marvellous cheerios brightened many a dark and dreary day.
Shaun Todd. An extraordinary coach and valued colleague.
Caroline Beery and Maria Jicheva who opened my eyes to diversity.
Neil Ginger and Jean Roberts for photos and fun.
All of my clients. You’re stars. Keep breathing.
Toby Blundell who keeps me on track and makes me laugh.
Karl, Max, and Kristina. My joys.
Henry, ever faithful, always there.
As for the rest of the gang, you’ll find yourselves within these pages. I am
blessed to know you all.

Publisher’s Acknowledgements
We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration
form located at www.dummies.com/register/.
Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:
Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media
Development
Project Editor: Rachael Chilvers
Development Editor: Tracy Barr
Content Editor: Steve Edwards
Commissioning Editor: Alison Yates

Composition Services
Project Coordinators: Erin Smith,
Jennifer Theriot
Layout and Graphics: Barbara Moore,
Brent Savage, Rashell Smith,
Alicia B. South, Christine Williams

Copy Editor: Anne O’Rorke

Proofreaders: John Greenough,
Melanie Hoffman

Proofreader: Andy Finch

Indexer: Claudia Bourbeau

Technical Editor: Dr Peter Bull
Executive Editor: Jason Dunne
Executive Project Editor: Daniel Mersey
Cover Photo: © GettyImages/Tony Anderson
Photography: Ginger Photography
www.gingerphoto.co.uk
Cartoons: Rich Tennant
www.the5thwave.com
Special Help: Jennifer Bingham
Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies
Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies
Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies
Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies
Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel
Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel
Publishing for Technology Dummies
Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User
Composition Services
Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services
Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services

Contents at a Glance
Introduction .................................................................1
Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture .......................7
Chapter 1: Defining Body Language ................................................................................9
Chapter 2: Looking Closer at Non-verbal Gestures......................................................33

Part II: Starting at the Top ..........................................43
Chapter 3: Heading to the Heart of the Matter .............................................................45
Chapter 4: Facial Expressions.........................................................................................61
Chapter 5: The Eyes Have It ............................................................................................75
Chapter 6: Lip Reading ....................................................................................................91

Part III: The Trunk: Limbs and Roots ..........................105
Chapter 7: Take It From the Torso................................................................................107
Chapter 8: Arming Yourself ...........................................................................................125
Chapter 9: It’s in the Palm of Your Hand .....................................................................139
Chapter 10: Standing Your Ground ..............................................................................165
Chapter 11: Playing with Props ....................................................................................179

Part IV: Putting the Body into Social
and Business Context ................................................193
Chapter 12: Territorial Rights and Regulations ..........................................................195
Chapter 13: Dating and Mating .....................................................................................213
Chapter 14: Interviewing, Influencing, and Playing Politics......................................229
Chapter 15: Crossing the Cultural Divide ....................................................................245
Chapter 16: Reading the Signs ......................................................................................257

Part V: The Part of Tens ............................................263
Chapter 17: Ten Ways to Spot Deception ....................................................................265
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Reveal Your Attractiveness................................................271
Chapter 19: Ten Ways to Find Out About Someone Without Asking .......................277
Chapter 20: Ten Ways to Improve Your Silent Communication................................285

Index .......................................................................291

Table of Contents
Introduction..................................................................1
About This Book...............................................................................................2
Conventions Used in This Book .....................................................................2
Foolish Assumptions .......................................................................................2
How This Book Is Organised...........................................................................3
Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture .............................................3
Part II: Starting at the Top .....................................................................3
Part III: The Trunk: Limbs and Roots ...................................................3
Part IV: Putting the Body into Social and Business Context.............3
Part V: The Part of Tens.........................................................................4
Icons Used in This Book .................................................................................4
Where to Go from Here....................................................................................5

Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture ........................7
Chapter 1: Defining Body Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Discovering How Body Language Conveys Messages.................................9
Projecting an image in the first 30 seconds ......................................10
Transmitting messages unconsciously..............................................11
Substituting behaviour for the spoken word....................................12
Gesturing to illustrate what you’re saying ........................................13
Physically supporting the spoken word............................................14
Revealing thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs ........................................15
Key Types of Gestures ...................................................................................17
Unintentional gestures.........................................................................17
Signature gestures: Gestures that define who you are ....................19
Fake gestures: Pulling the wool ..........................................................21
Micro gestures: A little gesture means a lot......................................22
Displacement gestures.........................................................................23
Universal gestures................................................................................24
Getting the Most Out of Body Language .....................................................26
Becoming spatially aware....................................................................27
Anticipating movements .....................................................................27
Creating rapport through reflecting gestures...................................28
Becoming who you want to be ..........................................................28
Reading the signs and responding appropriately ............................30
Appreciating Cultural Differences................................................................31

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Body Language For Dummies
Chapter 2: Looking Closer at Non-verbal Gestures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33
The History of Body Language .....................................................................33
Aping our ancestors.............................................................................34
Gestures first, language second .........................................................34
The Nuts and Bolts of Body Language ........................................................35
Kinesics: The categories of gesture ..................................................36
Inborn responses..................................................................................38
Learned gestures ..................................................................................39
A Final Word on Non-verbal Gestures..........................................................40

Part II: Starting at the Top...........................................43
Chapter 3: Heading to the Heart of the Matter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45
Demonstrating Power and Authority ..........................................................45
Signalling superiority ...........................................................................46
Demonstrating arrogance....................................................................46
Displaying aggression ..........................................................................47
Showing disapproval............................................................................48
Conveying rejection .............................................................................49
Catapulting for intimidation................................................................50
Tossing your head in defiance ............................................................50
Beckoning with your head ..................................................................50
Touching someone on the head .........................................................50
Showing Agreement and Encouragement: The Nod ..................................51
Encouraging the speaker to continue................................................51
Showing understanding .......................................................................52
Micro nodding.......................................................................................53
Displaying Attention and Interest ................................................................53
Tilting and canting ..............................................................................53
The head cock.......................................................................................54
Sitting tête à tête ..................................................................................55
Indicating Submissiveness or Worry ..........................................................55
Dipping and ducking ............................................................................56
Cradling for comfort ............................................................................56
The head clasp......................................................................................57
Showing Boredom ..........................................................................................57
Showing You’re Deep in Thought.................................................................58
Head resting on hand...........................................................................59
Chin stroking ........................................................................................59

Chapter 4: Facial Expressions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61
Communicating Feelings When Words Are Inappropriate........................61
Recognising Facial Expressions that Reinforce the Spoken Message .....63

Table of Contents
Masking Emotions ..........................................................................................65
Expressing a Range of Emotions ..................................................................66
Showing happiness ..............................................................................66
Revealing sadness ................................................................................69
Demonstrating disgust and contempt ...............................................69
Showing anger.......................................................................................70
Recognising surprise and revealing fear ...........................................70
Demonstrating interest........................................................................71

Chapter 5: The Eyes Have It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75
The Power of the Held Gaze .........................................................................75
To show interest ...................................................................................76
To show disapproval, disagreement, and other
not-so-pleasant feelings ...................................................................79
To show dominance .............................................................................79
Effective gazes in business situations ...............................................81
The Wandering Eye: Breaking Eye Contact.................................................83
The eye shuttle .....................................................................................84
The sideways glance ............................................................................84
The eye dip............................................................................................86
Other Ways Your Eyes Tell a Tale.................................................................86
Winkin’ and blinkin’..............................................................................86
Active eyebrows: The Eyebrow Flash ................................................88
Widening your eyes..............................................................................89
Flicking, flashing, and fluttering .........................................................90

Chapter 6: Lip Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .91
Revealing Thoughts, Feelings, and Emotions .............................................91
Tight lips................................................................................................92
Loose lips ..............................................................................................93
Chewing on lips ....................................................................................93
Maintaining a stiff upper lip ................................................................93
Pouting for effect ..................................................................................94
Pursing as a sign of disagreement......................................................96
Tensing your lips and biting back your words .................................97
Changing thoughts and behaviours ...................................................97
Differentiating Smiles.....................................................................................97
The tight-lipped smile..........................................................................98
The lop-sided smile ..............................................................................99
The drop-jaw smile.............................................................................100
The turn-away smile...........................................................................101
The closed-lip grin..............................................................................102
The full-blown grin .............................................................................102
Laughter’s the Best Medicine .....................................................................102

xiii

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Body Language For Dummies

Part III: The Trunk: Limbs and Roots...........................105
Chapter 7: Take It From the Torso . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .107
Gaining Insights into the Impact of Posture .............................................107
Evaluating what your own posture says about you.......................109
Showing intensity of feelings ............................................................110
Revealing personality and character ...............................................113
Three Main Types of Posture......................................................................114
Standing ...............................................................................................114
Sitting ...................................................................................................115
Lying down ..........................................................................................116
Changing Attitudes by Changing Posture .................................................116
Using Posture to Aid Communication .......................................................117
Showing high and low status through postural positions ............118
Leaning forward to show interest and liking ..................................119
Shrugging Signals .........................................................................................120
Signalling lack of knowledge .............................................................121
Showing unwillingness to get involved ...........................................122
Implying a submissive apology ........................................................123

Chapter 8: Arming Yourself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
Building Defensive Barriers ........................................................................125
Arms crossed on your chest .............................................................126
Touching yourself: Hugs, strokes, and more ..................................129
Placing objects in front of yourself ..................................................130
Giving the cold shoulder ...................................................................131
Conveying Friendliness and Honesty ........................................................131
Touching to Convey Messages ...................................................................133
Creating a bond ..................................................................................134
Demonstrating dominance................................................................135
Reinforcing the message....................................................................136
Increasing your influence ..................................................................137
Embracing during greetings and departures ..................................138

Chapter 9: It’s in the Palm of Your Hand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .139
Up or Down: Reading Palms .......................................................................139
The open palm ....................................................................................140
The downward facing palm...............................................................143
Closed-palm, finger-pointed ..............................................................144
Hands Up! .....................................................................................................145
Hiding your hands ..............................................................................145
The hand rub: Good for you or good for me?.................................146
The folded hand .................................................................................147
Hands clenched .................................................................................147
Letting the Fingers Do the Talking .............................................................150
The precision grip ..............................................................................150
The power grip ...................................................................................152

Table of Contents
The power chop .................................................................................153
The steeple..........................................................................................154
Gripping hands, wrists, and arms ...................................................155
Gesturing with your thumbs .............................................................156
Analysing Handshakes.................................................................................156
Deciding who reaches out first.........................................................157
Conveying attitude .............................................................................157
Displacing Your Energy ...............................................................................162
Drumming for relief ............................................................................162
Fiddling for comfort ..........................................................................162
Hand to nose .......................................................................................163
Hand to cheek .....................................................................................163
Hand to chin........................................................................................164

Chapter 10: Standing Your Ground . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .165
Showing Commitment and Attitude through Your Stance......................165
Straddle stance ...................................................................................166
Parallel stance.....................................................................................169
Buttress stance ...................................................................................170
Scissor stance .....................................................................................171
Entwining your legs............................................................................172
Reflecting Your Feelings by the Way You Position Your Feet .................173
Pointing towards the desired place .................................................173
Fidgeting feet.......................................................................................174
Knotted ankles ....................................................................................174
Twitching, flicking, or going in circles .............................................175
Walking Styles ...............................................................................................177

Chapter 11: Playing with Props . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .179
Using Accessories to Reflect Mental States..............................................179
Showing inner turmoil .......................................................................180
Pausing for thought............................................................................181
Through the Looking Glasses .....................................................................181
Stalling for time...................................................................................182
Scrutinising the situation ..................................................................182
Controlling the conversation ............................................................183
Showing resistance.............................................................................183
Appearing cool....................................................................................183
Spectacles at the office......................................................................183
Holy Smokes .................................................................................................184
Smoking and sexual displays ...........................................................184
Ways of smoking .................................................................................185
Making It Up as You Go Along.....................................................................187
Make-up at the office..........................................................................188
Making up for play..............................................................................188
Clothing: Dressing the Part .........................................................................188
Women’s accessories .........................................................................189
Men’s accessories ..............................................................................190

xv

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Body Language For Dummies

Part IV: Putting the Body into Social
and Business Context.................................................193
Chapter 12: Territorial Rights and Regulations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .195
Understanding the Effect of Space.............................................................195
Knowing Your Space ....................................................................................196
The five zones ....................................................................................196
Other territorial positions.................................................................197
Using Space...................................................................................................199
Demonstrating ownership.................................................................199
Showing submission ..........................................................................200
Guarding your space ..........................................................................201
Revealing comfort or discomfort .....................................................201
Maintaining your personal space .....................................................203
Seating Arrangements .................................................................................203
Speaking in a relaxed setting ............................................................204
Cooperating.........................................................................................205
Combating and defending .................................................................205
Keeping to yourself ............................................................................206
Creating equality ................................................................................206
Orientating Yourself.....................................................................................207
Horizontally.........................................................................................207
Vertically .............................................................................................208
Asymmetrically...................................................................................211

Chapter 13: Dating and Mating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .213
Attracting Someone’s Attention .................................................................213
Going courting: The five stages ........................................................215
Highlighting gender differences .......................................................217
Showing That You’re Free ...........................................................................219
Courting gestures of women .............................................................219
Courting gestures of men ..................................................................225
A universal sign of attraction: Dilated pupils .................................226
Progressing Through the Romance ...........................................................227
Matching each other’s behaviours...................................................228
Showing that you belong together ...................................................228

Chapter 14: Interviewing, Influencing, and Playing Politics . . . . . . .229
Making the First Impression: The Interview .............................................230
Minimal gestures for maximum effect .............................................232
Standing tall and holding your ground ............................................233
Moving with purpose .........................................................................234
Pointing Your Body in the Right Direction................................................234
Creating a relaxed attitude with the 45 degree angle ....................235
Facing directly for serious answers .................................................237
Picking the power seats.....................................................................238

Table of Contents
Negotiating Styles ........................................................................................239
Claiming your space...........................................................................240
Displaying confidence........................................................................242
Avoiding nervous gestures................................................................242

Chapter 15: Crossing the Cultural Divide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .245
Greetings and Farewells ..............................................................................246
Expecting to be touched....................................................................246
Acknowledging the no-touching rule ...............................................247
A word about waving farewell .........................................................248
Higher and Lower Status Behaviour ..........................................................248
Bowing, kneeling, and curtseying.....................................................248
Standing to attention .........................................................................249
Positioning and Setting Boundaries...........................................................249
Common Gestures, Multiple Interpretations ............................................251
Thumbs up ..........................................................................................251
The ‘okay’ sign ....................................................................................251
Laughter ..............................................................................................252
Smoothing Over Difficult Situations ..........................................................253
Playing by the Local Rules: Eye Contact ...................................................254
Adapting Your Style for Clear Communication ........................................255

Chapter 16: Reading the Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .257
Taking an Interest in Other People ............................................................257
Drawing Conclusions from What You Observe ........................................259
Looking at the sum total of the gestures.........................................259
Dealing with a mismatch between spoken
and non-verbal messages ..............................................................260
Considering the context ....................................................................261
Practice Makes Perfect: Improving Your Reading....................................262

Part V: The Part of Tens .............................................263
Chapter 17: Ten Ways to Spot Deception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .265
Catching Fleeting Expressions Crossing the Face....................................265
Suppressing Facial Expressions .................................................................266
Eyeing Someone Up .....................................................................................266
Covering the Source of Deception .............................................................267
Touching the Nose .......................................................................................268
Faking a Smile ...............................................................................................268
Minimising Hand Gestures ..........................................................................269
Maximising Body Touches ..........................................................................269
Shifting Positions and Fidgeting Feet ........................................................270
Changing Speech Patterns ..........................................................................270

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Body Language For Dummies
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Reveal Your Attractiveness . . . . . . . . . . . . .271
Using Eye Contact ........................................................................................271
Showing Liveliness in Your Face ................................................................272
Offering Encouragement .............................................................................272
Using Open Gestures ...................................................................................273
Showing Interest Through Your Posture ...................................................273
Positioning Yourself .....................................................................................273
Touching to Connect ...................................................................................274
Being on Time ..............................................................................................274
Synchronising Your Gestures .....................................................................275
Balancing Your Non-verbal Aspects of Speech ........................................276

Chapter 19: Ten Ways to Find Out about Someone
without Asking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .277
Observing Eye Movements .........................................................................277
Looking at Facial Expressions ....................................................................278
Watching for Head Movements ..................................................................279
Noticing Hand and Arm Gestures...............................................................279
Observing Posture .......................................................................................280
Considering Proximity and Orientation ....................................................280
Paying Attention to Touching ....................................................................281
Responding to Appearance.........................................................................281
Checking Timing and Synchronisation......................................................282
Scrutinising Non-verbal Aspects of Speech ..............................................283

Chapter 20: Ten Ways to Improve Your Silent Communication . . . . .285
Taking an Interest.........................................................................................285
Knowing What You Want to Express..........................................................286
Modelling Excellence ...................................................................................286
Mirroring Others ..........................................................................................287
Practising Gestures ......................................................................................287
Developing Timing and Synchronisation ..................................................287
Dressing the Part..........................................................................................288
Acting the Way You Want to Be Perceived................................................289
Demonstrating Awareness ..........................................................................289
Asking for Feedback.....................................................................................289

Index........................................................................291

Introduction

B

ody language speaks louder than any words you can ever utter. Whether
you’re telling people that you love them, you’re angry with them, or
don’t care less about them, your body movements reveal your thoughts,
moods, and attitudes. Both consciously and sub-consciously your body tells
observers what’s really going on with you.
In a competitive and complex world the ability to communicate with clarity,
confidence, and credibility is vital for success. Too frequently this ability is
overlooked. Sound reasoning, logical conclusions and innovative solutions
are rendered meaningless if they are not communicated in a way that persuades, motivates, and inspires the listener.
All day every day your body is relaying messages about your attitude, your
mood, and your general state of being. You can determine what messages
you relay by the way you use your body.
Although body language began with our ancient ancestors and long before
vocal sounds turned into sophisticated words, phrases, and paragraphs, only
in the last 60 years or so has body language been seriously studied. During
that time people have come to appreciate the value of body language as a
tool for enhancing interpersonal communication. Politicians, actors, and
high-profile individuals recognise the part that their bodies play in conveying
their messages.
Each chapter of this book addresses a specific aspect of body language. In
addition to focusing on individual body parts and the role they play in communicating your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes, you discover how to interpret other people’s body language, giving you an insight into their mental
state before they may be aware of it themselves. Remember that you need to
read body language in clusters and context. One gesture doesn’t a story tell
any more than does one word.
By performing specific actions and gestures, you can create corresponding
mental states. By practising the gestures, you experience the positive impact
of body language and discover how to create the image you want. You may
actually become the person you want to be.
Are you ready? Read on.

2

Body Language For Dummies

About This Book
For a subject that’s relatively new to the study of evolution and social behaviour, a tremendous amount of research has been done on body language. The
impact of culture, gender, and religious differences on body language could
each have a book devoted to them! I’ve written this book from a mostly Englishspeaking western perspective – much more could be written about body language in a cross-cultural communication context. However, I’ve been selective
in what I’ve chosen to include and focused on using body language to improve
your non-verbal communication for your personal and business relationships.
In this book I explain ways of recognising and identifying specific gestures,
actions, and expressions that convey and support both the spoken and nonspoken message. By improving your reading of body language, understanding
how your body conveys messages, and recognising how mood and attitude
are reflected in your gestures and expressions, you have the upper hand in
your interpersonal communications. By recognising and responding to body
signals you can direct the flow of the conversation and facilitate meetings
easily and effectively. I show you how your thoughts and feelings impact your
gestures and expressions and how the same is true for others.
The point of the book is for you to become conscious of body language, both
your own and other people’s. It’s also intended to aid you in correctly interpreting gestures, movements, and expressions. Finally, this book augments and
develops the signs and signals you send out to enhance your communication.

Conventions Used in This Book
This book is a jargon-free zone. When I introduce a new term, I italicise it and
then define it. The only other conventions in this book are that Web and
e-mail addresses are in monofont, and the action part of numbered steps
and the key concepts in a list are in bold. I alternate between using female
and male pronouns in odd- and even-numbered chapters to be fair to both!

Foolish Assumptions
I assume, perhaps wrongly, that you:
Are interested in body language and know a little bit about it
Want to improve your interpersonal communications
Are willing to reflect and respond
Expect the best

Introduction

How This Book Is Organised
The cool thing about the For Dummies books is that you can dip in and out
as you please. You don’t need to read the first chapter to understand the last
and if you read the last chapter first you won’t ruin the story. The table of
contents and index can help you find what you need. If you prefer to just dive
in, please do – there’s water in the pool. Read on for what lies ahead.

Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
In this part I explore the foundations of body language, the silent communicator. You discover the origins of body language, how it evolved, and the
impact it has on all your communications and relationships.

Part II: Starting at the Top
Focusing on the head and its parts and positions, I continue exploring body
language and the messages it conveys. You discover how the tilt of your
head, the lift of your brow, and the tremble of your lip reveal more than
the words that tumble from your mouth.

Part III: The Trunk: Limbs and Roots
In this part I explore the impact of your posture on your thinking, attitudes,
and perceptions. You see how feelings, behaviour, and perceptions are intertwined. I look at the body’s limbs, its arms, legs, feet, hands, and fingers, and
how their movements reflect inner states and create impressions. Finally, you
see how your accessories add to the picture of who you are.

Part IV: Putting the Body into
Social and Business Context
In this part you discover how to gesture effectively and appropriately according to the situation you’re in. You find out where to place and position yourself for greatest effect. You discover how to read and reveal signs of interest
and dismissal and how to engage with a possible romantic partner. Back at
the office you discover the power positions and how to demonstrate confidence and positive impact.

3

4

Body Language For Dummies
Addressing cultural diversity you get a glimpse into behaviours different from
your own and pick up adaptive strategies for avoiding potential pitfalls.

Part V: The Part of Tens
If you’re keen to get a handle on body language quickly and concisely, start
with Part V. Stop here if you want top ten tips for spotting when someone’s
being economical with the truth. I also show you how to enlarge your fan
base and engage with your admirers. For developing your skills as a silent
communicator, gaining self-awareness, and honing your observation skills,
this is the place to be.

Icons Used in This Book
For sharpening your thinking and focusing your attention, let these icons be
your guide.
This icon highlights stories to entertain and inform you about friends of
mine, or people I’ve seen, and the clues they’ve revealed through body
language.
Here’s a chance for you to stand back and observe without being seen. By
distancing yourself and taking a bird’s eye view you can watch how others
behave and reflect on the outcome.

This icon underscores a valuable point to keep in mind.

These are practical and immediate remedies for honing your body language
skills.

Here you can have a go at putting theory into practice. Some of the practical
exercises are designed to enhance your image and create an impact.

Introduction

Where to Go from Here
Although all the material in this book is designed to support you in being
yourself at your best, not all the information may be pertinent to your specific needs or interests. Read what you want, when you want. You don’t have
to read the book in order, nor is there a sell by date for covering the material.
If you’re interested in how body language conveys messages, begin with Part
I. If you’re seeking to improve your body language for a job interview or for
playing the political and corporate game at work, have a look at Chapter 14.
If you’re curious about facial expressions have a look at Chapter 4.
Now, flip to a page, chapter, or section that interests you and read away.
Feel free to dip and dive from section to section and page to page. Most
importantly, enjoy the read.

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6

Body Language For Dummies

Part I

In the Beginning
Was the Gesture

H

In this part . . .

ere’s where we explore the foundations of body language, the way of silently communicating that can
improve your impact factor and relationships once you
grasp even the basics. In this part we go back in time to
the origins of body language, how it’s evolved, and its
subtle power.

Chapter 1

Defining Body Language
In This Chapter
Finding out how body language speaks for you
Gesturing for a purpose
Understanding what you’re communicating

T

he science of body language is a fairly recent study, dating primarily from
around 60 years ago, although body language itself is, of course, as old
as humans. Psychologists, zoologists, and social anthropologists have conducted detailed research into the components of body language – part of
the larger family known as non-verbal behaviour.
If you’re quiet for a moment and take the time to pay attention to body language movements and expressions that silently communicate messages of
their own, you can cue in on gestures that convey a feeling and transmit a
thought. If you pay close attention, you can identify gestures that you automatically associate with another person, which tell you who she is. In addition, you may notice other types of gestures that reveal a person’s inner
state at that moment.
In this chapter you discover how to interpret non-verbal language, exploring
the gestures and actions that reveal thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. Also,
you have a quick glance at some of the research into this unspoken language
and recognise similarities and differences throughout the world. In addition,
you find out how you can use gestures to enhance your relationships and
improve your communication.

Discovering How Body Language
Conveys Messages
When cave-dwellers discovered how to decipher grunts and to create words
to convey their message, their lives became a lot more complex. Before
verbal communication, they relied on their bodies to communicate. Their
simple brains informed their faces, torsos, and limbs. They instinctively

10

Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
knew that fear, surprise, love, hunger, and annoyance were different attitudes
requiring different gestures. Emotions were less complex then, and so were
the gestures.
Speech is a relatively new introduction to the communication process and is
mainly used to convey information, including facts and data. Body language,
on the other hand, has been around forever. Without relying on the spoken
word for confirmation, the body’s movements convey feelings, attitudes, and
emotions. Like it or not, your body language, or non-verbal behaviour, says
more about you, your attitudes, moods, and emotions, than you may want
to reveal.
According to research conducted by Professor Albert Mehrabian of the
University of California, Los Angeles, 55 per cent of the emotional message
in face-to-face communication results from body language. You only have to
experience any of the following gestures or expressions to know how true
the expression is, ‘Actions speak louder than words’:
Someone pointing her finger at you
A warm embrace
A finger wagging in your face
A child’s pout
A lover’s frown
A parent’s look of worry
An exuberant smile
Your hand placed over your heart

Projecting an image in
the first 30 seconds
You can tell within the first seven seconds of meeting someone how she feels
about herself by the expression on her face and the way she moves her body.
Whether she knows it or not, she’s transmitting messages through her gestures and actions.
You walk into a room of strangers and from their stance, movements, and
expressions you receive messages about their feelings, moods, attitudes, and
emotions. Look at the teenage girl standing in the corner. From her slouching
shoulders, her lowered head, and the way her hands fidget over her stomach,
you can tell that this little wallflower is lacking in self-confidence.

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language

Early observations about body language
Before the 20th century, a few forays were made
into identifying and analysing movement and
gesture. The first known written work exclusively
addressing body language is John Bulwer’s
Chirologia: or the Natural Language of the Hand,
published in 1644. By the 19th century, directors
and teachers of drama and pantomime were
instructing their actors and students how to
convey emotion and attitude through movement
and gesture.
In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and
Animals (1872), Charles Darwin discusses the

connection between humans, apes, and monkeys.
These species use similar facial expressions,
inherited by a common ancestor, to express certain emotions. Out of Darwin’s work grew an interest in ethology, the study of animal behaviour.
In the late 1960s Desmond Morris created a
sensation when his interpretations of human
behaviour, based on ethological research, were
published in The Naked Ape and Manwatching.
Further publications and media presentations
continue to reveal how much our non-verbal
behaviour is based on our animal nature.

Another young woman in this room of strangers is standing in a group of
contemporaries. She throws her head back as she laughs, her hands and
arms move freely and openly, and her feet are planted firmly beneath her,
hip width apart. This woman is projecting an image of self-confidence and
joie de vivre that draws people to her.
How you position your head, shoulders, torso, arms, hands, legs, and feet,
and how your eyes, mouth, fingers, and toes move, tell an observer more
about your state of being, including your attitude, emotions, thoughts, and
feelings, than any words you can say.

Transmitting messages unconsciously
Although you’re capable of choosing gestures and actions to convey a particular message, your body also sends out signals without your conscious
awareness. Dilated or contracted eye pupils and the unconscious movements
of your hands and feet are examples of signals that reveal an inner emotion
that the person signalling may prefer to conceal. For example, if you notice
that the pupils of someone’s eyes are dilated, and you know that she’s not
under the influence of drugs, you’d be correct in assuming that whatever
she’s looking at is giving her pleasure. If the pupils are contracted the opposite is true. These individual signals can be easily overlooked or misidentified
if they’re taken out of their social context, or if they’re not identified as part
of a cluster of gestures involving other parts of the body.

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
At times in life you may want to conceal your thoughts and feelings, so you
behave in a way that you believe hides what’s going on inside. And yet wouldn’t
you know it, out pops a slight giveaway gesture, often invisible to the untrained
eye, sending a signal that all’s not what it appears. Just because these micro
gestures and expressions are fleeting doesn’t mean that they’re not powerful.
In the 1970s, Paul Ekman and W V Friesen developed the Facial Action Coding
System (FACS) to measure, describe, and interpret facial behaviours. This
instrument is designed to measure even the slightest facial muscle contractions and determine what category or categories each facial action fits into.
It can detect what the naked eye can’t and is used by law enforcement agencies, film animators, and researches of human behaviour.
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Professor Albert Mehrabian’s
classic study of how messages are received and responded to during faceto-face communication shows that when an incongruity exists between the
spoken word and how you deliver it, 7 per cent of the message is conveyed
through your words, 38 per cent is revealed through your vocal quality, and a
whopping 55 per cent of your message comes through your gestures, expression, and posture. Mehrabian’s premise is that the way people communicate
is inseparable from the feelings that they project, consciously or not, in daily
social interactions. Although some people contest Mehrabian’s figures, the
point remains that body language and vocal quality significantly contribute
to the meaning of the message and determine the effectiveness of our
relationships.
Arthur is the chief executive of a global telecoms company. Highly accomplished and rewarded for his successes, he still harbours some self-doubt
and insecurity. This uncertainty is particularly evident when he’s making
formal presentations. He holds a pad of paper in front of himself, as if it were
a protective shield. When he’s unsure of the word he wants to use, he quickly
and briefly rubs the skin under his nose with his index finger. When he moves
from one point to the next in his presentation, he quickly taps his forehead
with his left index finger as if to remind himself that he’s about to move to the
next point. Seeing himself on DVD he recognised how these meaningless gestures were revealing his lack of security, and how uncomfortable he feels in
front of a large audience. By visualising himself presenting at his best and
modelling specific behaviours of presenters who Arthur thinks are excellent,
he developed ways of eliminating his unconscious negative gestures.

Substituting behaviour for the spoken word
Sometimes a gesture is more effective in conveying a message than any
words you can use. Signals expressing love and support, pleasure and pain,
fear, loathing, and disappointment are clear to decipher and require few, if
any, words for clarification. Approval, complicity, or insults are commonly

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language
communicated without a sound passing between lips. By frowning, smiling,
or turning your back on another person, your gestures need no words to
clarify their meaning.
When words aren’t enough or the word mustn’t be spoken out loud, you gesture to convey your meaning. Some examples are
Putting your index finger in front of your mouth while at the same time
pursing your lips is a common signal for silence.
Putting your hand up sharply with your fingers held tightly together and
your palm facing forward means ‘Stop!’.
Winking at another person hints at a little secret between the two of you.
When Libby, the well loved and highly successful Artistic Director of the
Oregon Shakespeare Festival was honoured for her years of service, she felt
proud and humbled. Looking around the room filled with colleagues, friends,
and major financial contributors, Libby placed her right hand over her heart
as she thanked them all for their years of support, belief, and dedication.
Around the room, many people’s eyes were moist and they held their fingers
to their lips. Libby’s hand to her heart reflected her appreciation.
Fingers placed over the mouth indicate that they’re keeping something from
coming out.

Gesturing to illustrate what you’re saying
When you describe an object, you frequently use gestures to illustrate what
the object is like. Your listener finds it easier to understand what you’re
saying when you let your body create a picture of the object rather than
relying on words alone. If you’re describing a round object, like a ball, for
example, you may hold your hands in front of yourself with your fingers
arched upward and your thumbs pointing down. Describing a square building
you may draw vertical and horizontal lines with a flat hand, cutting through
the space like a knife. If you’re telling someone about a turbulent ride on a
boat or plane, your arms and hands may beat up and down in rhythmic fashion. Describing a large object may entail holding your arms out wide. If you’re
illustrating a small point you may hold your fingers close together. The point
is that gesturing is a useful means of conveying visual information.
Because some people take in information more effectively by seeing what’s
being described, illustrating your message through gestures helps create a
clear picture for them. To help someone who can’t see, to experience what
you’re describing, hold her hands in the appropriate position.

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
As Lotsie was describing her climb up Mount Kilimanjaro she acted out those
moments when the air felt so thin that she was hardly able to breathe and
when she struggled to put one foot in front of the other. She mimed leaning
on her walking stick, bending over with the weight of her equipment, gasping
for air, and pausing between shuffled steps as she put one foot in front of the
other. Her gestures painted the combined picture of a woman who was both
fit and exhausted.

Physically supporting the spoken word
Gesturing can add emphasis to your voice, clarify your meaning, and give
impact to your message. Whether your point requires a gentle approach, or
a firm telling off, your body’s instinct is to reflect and move in harmony with
the emotion.
In addition to reinforcing your message, hand signals especially reflect your
desire for your message to be taken seriously. Watch a well-schooled politician standing at the podium. See how the hands move in a precise, controlled
manner. No wasted gestures, just those specific ones that paint a clear picture and accurately convey the message.
Experienced lawyers, celebrities, and anyone in the public arena are also
adept at emphasising their messages through considered movements and
gestures. By carefully timing, focusing, and controlling their actions, moving
in synchronicity with their spoken words, and responding appropriately to
the atmosphere in their environment, they court and woo the people they
want, and dismiss others with aplomb.
When you’re giving bad news and want to soften the blow, adapt your body
language to reflect empathy. Move close to the person you’re comforting and
tilt your body towards hers. You may even touch her on the hand or arm, or
place your arm around her shoulder.
When you’re making a formal presentation, use gestures to help your audience remember the points you’re making.
During the introduction to your presentation, as you establish the points to
be covered, list them separately on your fingers. You may hold them up in
front of you, or touch your fingers individually on one hand with a finger
from your other hand as you say the point. (Note: Most British and American
people begin counting with their index finger. Many Europeans begin counting with their thumb.) When talking about point 1 in your presentation, point
the first finger, or gesture to it; when you reach point two, point or gesture to
your second finger, and so on.

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language

Revealing thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs
You don’t have to tell people how you’re feeling for them to know. Look at
Rodin’s sculpture of The Thinker. There can be no doubt about that person’s
state of mind: thoughtful, serious, and contemplative. Equally so, a child
throwing a tantrum with stomping feet, clenched fists, and a screwed up face
is letting you know that she’s not happy.
Think of your body as if it were a movie screen. The information to be projected is inside you and your body is the vehicle onto which the information
is displayed. Whether you’re anxious, excited, happy, or sad, your body
shows the world what’s going on inside. Here are some examples:
People who feel threatened or unsure of themselves touch themselves
as a means of self-comfort or self-restraint. Gestures, such as rubbing
their foreheads, crossing their arms, and holding or rubbing their fingers
in front of their mouths, provide comfort and protection (see Figure 1-1).
People who perform specific gestures reserved for religious rituals
reveal their beliefs and values. Upon entering a Catholic church, the congregation dip their fingers into holy water and cross themselves. Before
entering the home of many Jewish people, you may touch the mezuzah
by the front door. Muslims bow in prayer facing east. By performing
these gestures, people are demonstrating their respect for the culture,
its traditions, and values.
People in a state of elation often breathe in deeply and gesture outwards
with expanded arms. Pictures of winning sportspeople frequently show
them in the open position with their arms extended, their heads thrown
back, and their mouths and eyes opened in ecstasy.
Footballers who miss the penalty kick and city traders who get their
numbers wrong often walk dejectedly with their heads down, and their
hands clasped behind their necks. The hand position is a comforting
gesture and the head facing downwards shows that the individual’s
upset.
People in despair, or feeling down and depressed, reveal their thoughts
and attitudes by the slouch in their step, their drooping heads, and their
downward cast eyes. Positive people, on the other hand, reveal their
thoughts and attitudes with an upright stance, a bounce in their step,
and eyes that appear lively and engaged.
Not every bent head signals depression. Sometimes it just means that
you’re reflecting, thinking, or absorbing information. If you’re demonstrating the behaviour of someone who’s thinking hard, your head most
likely rests in your hand or on your fingertips, like Rodin’s The Thinker.

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture

Figure 1-1:
These two
men are
telling us
they’re
disagreeing
about
something.

At Peter and Louise’s wedding anniversary celebrations, Peter stood up to
toast his wife and children. As he raised his glass to the family members, his
feelings for them were clear. By the way he slightly leaned forward toward his
son, Sebastian, you were able to sense the great warmth and tenderness he
held for him. As he turned to his daughter Olivia, to express his amazement
at her joyous spirit, he slightly lifted his head and tossed it back. When he
turned to gaze at his wife Louise, his eyes softened and a gentle smile played
at the sides of his mouth. He stood upright, held his arm forward, and raised
his glass high.

Noticing your own body language
My husband suggested that people may only
demonstrate body language when someone else
is around to see and respond to it. I found that an
interesting thought and retired to my office to
consider the implications on my own. As I sat at
my desk reflecting on what he said, I noticed I
was leaning back in my chair with my head tilted

upwards, one arm folded over my body supporting the elbow of my other arm. My chin was resting lightly on my thumb as my index finger gently
stroked my cheek. I couldn’t help but think of the
saying about falling trees in the forest making
noise if no one’s around to hear it.

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language
Holding your hands over or near your heart, as shown in Figure 1-2, is an
expression of how much something means to you.

Figure 1-2:
The hands
over the
heart, the
tilted head,
and the
open smile
indicate
appreciation.

Key Types of Gestures
Humans are blessed with the ability to create a wide variety of gestures and
expressions from the top of the head to the tips of the toes. Gestures can
show intention, such as leaning forward just before rising out of a chair; as
well as showing no intention, such as crossing arms and legs. Some gestures
belong to you, because you’ve become so identifiable by them. Some gestures
are displacement gestures: you do them for no reason other than to displace
some energy. Some gestures are specific to local customs, and some are universal gestures that everyone does.

Unintentional gestures
Unintentional gestures are behaviours that inhibit your ability to act. They’re
like the fright part in the ‘fright or flight’ syndrome.

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
The unintentional gestures imply that you have no intention of moving from
where you are. They hold you back, won’t let you go, and your body says that
you’re not budging. And no amount of outside influence to get you to move is
going to succeed.
Examples of unintentional gestures are
Folded arms
Lips pressed together
A hand or finger in front of the mouth
Crossed legs
These actions all keep you in place. You can’t walk when your legs are
crossed. You can’t speak with your hand in front of your mouth. Crossed
arms say that you’re holding back.
Standing or sitting with your legs crossed is no position to take if you want
to get out of town quickly. The scissor stance is a prime example of a gesture
that keeps you in your place. One leg is crossed over the other, rendering
you immobile (see Figure 1-3). When someone adopts this position you know
she’s staying put.

Figure 1-3:
The finger
over the
mouth
and the
scissored
legs
indicate
she’s
holding
back.

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language
Because the scissor stance contains no sign of impatience, the gesture can
come across as submissive. The person has no forward movement in her
body as in the body of a person about to take action. The person who acts
is usually considered to be dominant. Therefore, the person who stays put is
usually considered to be submissive.

Signature gestures: Gestures
that define who you are
A signature gesture is one that you become known by, a common gesture that
you perform in a particular way. The person who twirls her curls around her
finger, or the one who sucks her thumb, or the one who pats her eyebrows.
These gestures give us clues into the person’s personality.
Signature gestures set you apart from all others. Think Napoleon Bonaparte
and his mighty stance (see Figure 1-4) – on the canvas, not the battlefield.
Standing with his hand tucked into his waistcoat, he looks the picture of
pride and authority. Who knows if he ever really stood in that position. The
artist created the image and we believe the artist.

Figure 1-4:
The
Bonaparte
pose
conveys
stature and
authority.

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
One of Diana, Princess of Wales’s most vividly remembered signature gesture’s was the head lowered, eyes looking upward, now known as the Shy Di
look (see Figure 1-5).

Figure 1-5:
A downward tilted
head and
upcast
eyes looks
vulnerable
and
pleading.

Sophie is a delightful woman in her early twenties. Pretty, vivacious, and
polite, Sophie’s signature gesture is thumb-sucking. I first noticed this gesture
when she spent several days at our home. Curled up on the couch, Sophie
slipped her right thumb into her mouth, lightly rubbing her nose with her
index finger. Claire, a woman in her forties, also sucks her thumb. Her variation on this gesture is a small piece of soft fabric that she rubs in the palm of
her cupped hand.
Toby, my personal assistant, is a quiet, thoughtful, focused man. I’m highly
energetic with a mind that skips and leaps from one project to the next.
Frequently, I ask Toby to do one task, only to interrupt his concentration
by asking him to do something else, often unrelated. When Toby pats his
eyebrows with the tips of his fingers I know that the time’s come for me to
back off and let him get on with what he has to do.

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language
Some examples of signature gestures can be seen in a person’s
Posture
Smile
Hand clap
Pointing finger
Clothes tugging
Some sportspeople perform specific actions as an anchor to get them
grounded and focus their energy. Before serving, the tennis player Rafael
Nadal, tugs at the back of his shorts. This gesture is so closely associated
with this gifted sportsman that other players have been known to mock him
on the courts and in the dressing rooms by performing it in front of him.
By recognising signature gestures you can tell what kind of person you’re
dealing with. Certain gestures, like clapping the hands together once, show
a mind that’s organised. The hair twirling gesture indicates that the person
may be a day dreamer. When you successfully read the signs you can figure
out how best to manage the person.
If you want to be easily identified and remembered you can create your own
signature gesture. Victoria Beckham’s sexily defiant pout has become her
signature gesture, as has Hugh Grant’s foppish head toss.

Fake gestures: Pulling the wool
Fake gestures are designed to camouflage, conceal, and fool. They deliberately point you in one direction to make you believe something that isn’t so.
Fake gestures pretend to be something when they’re actually something else.
You’re able to tell a fake gesture from a real one because some of the real gesture’s parts are missing.
Some gestures that are commonly faked are
Smiling
Frowning
Sighing
Crying
Holding your body as if in pain

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
Anna is a highly motivated recently qualified lawyer in a large London firm.
She knows that, in part, her success depends on her ability to get on well
with clients and colleagues. One day her supervising partner invited her
to attend a client meeting and to put together the remaining briefs that a
previous trainee had begun and hadn’t had time to finish. Anna, already
overloaded with work, stayed at the office until well past midnight. In spite
of little sleep and over an hour’s commute that morning, she arrived, shortly
before the meeting’s 8 a.m. start looking smart. At one point during the session the client remarked that some information seemed to be missing. The
partner shot Anna a glance of annoyance before covering up his feelings with
the hearty remark, ‘Well, she’s new on the job. We’ll let her get away with it
just this once.’ To cover her fury and shame, Anna put on what she calls her
‘smiley face’, a big toothy grin, and offered to find the missing materials.
Anna’s teeth were clenched, and her eyes didn’t crinkle (a sign of a sincere
smile). She was tired, hurt, and humiliated and anyone paying attention
would have seen she was giving a fake grin.
Look for all the signs. Fake gestures are meant to deceive.

Micro gestures: A little gesture means a lot
Teeny weeny, so small that they sometimes take highly specialised equipment to see them, micro gestures are flashes of emotion that flicker across
your face faster than a hummingbird, revealing feelings that you may prefer
to keep to yourself. These gestures aren’t ones that you purposely choose.
Micro gestures give a brief hint of what’s going on inside. You choose to
smile, wave, and rise from a chair. You don’t choose to have a micro gesture
flicker across your face. No one is immune to them.
A list of the more common micro gestures include
Movement around the mouth
Tension at the eyes
Flaring of the nose
Mark and Liz met at a party. They were immediately attracted to one another.
They stood easily in the other’s intimate space. Their facial gestures were
controlled, but the occasional flicker around Liz’s eyes and hint of a smile
around Mark’s mouth gave the impression that a frisson existed between the
two. Friends and family members recognised the signs and frequently ask
about the relationship between Liz and Mark.

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language

Facing facts
In the 1970s, Paul Ekman of the University of
California, San Francisco, and W V Friesen, developed the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) for
measuring and describing facial gestures. The
instrument uses careful observation of the face’s
muscles, and recording devices and measuring

tools to categorise facial expressions. FACS
shows how, through the contraction of your facial
muscles, you can change your appearance. Their
work provided much of the foundation for animated films and is instrumental in detective work.

Displacement gestures
When you’re feeling conflicting emotions, you may engage in gestures that
have no relation to your immediate goals. These behaviours are mostly selfdirected and serve to release excess energy and gain a feeling of comfort,
even if only temporary. Drumming fingers, flicking feet, going for a glass of
water when you’re not even thirsty – these are the behaviours of someone
who’s looking to burn some pent up energy, or at least, refocus it. Called displacement activities, they’re a conduit for excess energy that’s looking for a
place to go.
Some examples of displacement gestures are
Fiddling with objects
Tugging at your earlobe
Straightening your clothes
Stroking your chin
Running your fingers through your hair
Eating
Smoking
Some smokers light up a cigarette, take a puff or two, and then put it out or
leave it in the ashtray barely smoked. These people may not actually want
the cigarette, but need a gesture to take their mind off something else.
I knew the time had come to stop smoking when I had three cigarettes on the
go in a four-room apartment. I was working in New York, living on my own,
making barely enough to pay my monthly bills, and wondering what I was
doing with my life. I was frustrated and feeling anxious. One morning, while I
was in the kitchen making coffee, I lit up a cigarette. When the phone rang, I
answered it in the living room, leaving the cigarette burning in the kitchen.

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
While speaking on the phone to my soon-to-be ex-husband I lit another cigarette which, after a drag or two, I stubbed out in the ashtray on my desk. I
went to the bathroom to get ready for work. Here, too, I lit a cigarette, which I
occasionally puffed on as I applied my make-up. In the course of less than 10
minutes I had lit three cigarettes, none of which I was interested in smoking.
Rather than stating their feelings verbally, people demonstrating displacement activities are letting their gestures reveal their emotion.
Prince Charles is noted for fiddling with his cufflinks. He crosses his arm over
his body and touches his cufflinks in a protective and reassuring gesture. The
Prince is displacing his anxiety by making contact with his cufflinks. On honeymoon with Diana, the late Princess of Wales, Charles is purported to have worn
cufflinks given to him by his current wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. No wonder
that his young bride was upset when she discovered this wedding gift of gold
cufflinks with entwined Cs. Especially when she saw him fondling them.
Words convey information. Gestures reveal attitude. If someone’s feeling anxious she may fiddle with her keys, twist the ring on her finger, or pull at her
clothes to compensate for her anxiety.
If you see someone under pressure and being scrutinised, look to see what
her hands are doing. If she’s gently rubbing her stomach, you may assume
that she’s feeling the pressure and is calming and comforting himself, the way
you comfort a baby or sick child.

Universal gestures
Universal gestures, such as blushing, smiling, and the wide-eyed expression
of fear, mean the same thing across world cultures. These gestures stem from
human biological make-up, which is why you can recognise them spanning
the globe.

Smiling
From the sands of Iraq to the shores of Malibu, humans are born with the
ability to smile. From the earliest days in an infant’s life, her facial muscles
can form the upward turn of the lips and the crinkling around the outer edges
of the eyes to create a recognisable smile.
Sure, each person may have her own unique way of smiling. The point remains
that anyone with working facial muscles who’s conveying a positive message
lifts her lips in pleasure.

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language
When you see the sides of the lips turned up and the eyes crinkling at their
outer edges, count on that smile being genuine in showing pleasure.
The Japanese smile in embarrassment as well as pleasure. Young women
giggle behind their hands. Don’t expect the Japanese to respond to your
humour with a raucous, belly laugh.

Blushing
If you blush, your embarrassment’s showing. The blood flows to your chest
and cheeks, and you want to drop down and hide. Go to Thailand, go to
Alabama, or any country: You see this gesture everywhere when embarrassment takes over.
To control the blushing take several slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm
to steady your nerves and control the blood flow.
My Aunt MarNell lives in Dallas, Texas and is the perfect combination of cowgirl and southern belle. When Dad, MarNell’s only sibling and adored brother,
raised his glass in special toast to her, her cheeks flushed like a young girl’s.

Crying
Crying is a universal sign of sadness. One of an infant’s first actions is to let
out a walloping great cry when she first enters this world, having been torn
for the comfort and safety of her mother’s womb. No one had to teach her,
she was born knowing how.
If you feel tears well up in your eyes and you want to stop them from flowing
down your face, fix your gaze at that point where the ceiling and wall meet.

Shrugging
Shrugging is a gesture that people use when they need to protect themselves
in some way. The full shrug is when your head dips into your rising shoulders, the sides of your mouth turn down, your palms turn upwards, and you
raise your eyebrows.
The shrug can indicate
Indifference
Disdain
Unknowing
Embarrassment

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture

Television versus radio
In the early 1960s there was little knowledge of
body language. Yet, John F Kennedy intuitively
knew how to use it. Prior to their first televised
debate in 1960 JKF and Richard Nixon posed for
a media photo call. Kennedy placed himself to
the right of Nixon and shook Nixon’s hand. The
resulting photograph showed Kennedy applying
the upper-hand position causing Nixon to
appear diminished in stature. This was one
of Kennedy’s favourite gestures. The NixonKennedy election debate which followed this

photo call was a further testimonial to the
power of body language. Most of the Americans
who only heard the debate on the radio believed
that Nixon out-performed Kennedy. However,
the majority of those who saw the debate on
television believed Kennedy was the victor.
Kennedy knew how to use his body to manipulate public perception and did it with grace,
charm, and unconscious expertise.

To know which attitude is being expressed, you have to look to see what the
other body parts are doing.
I was invited to speak at an event for Women in Technology. I made the mistake of sitting at the panel table before making my presentation, rather than
joining them afterwards. When the host introduced me her comments were
so glowing that I felt embarrassed. I had set myself up for all to see and,
rather than squaring my shoulders and lifting my head with pride, I dropped
my head and lifted my shoulders in a humble shrug, as if seeking protection.
What saved me from looking like a complete idiot was the sparkle in my eye
and the bounce in my step when I took to the floor.

Getting the Most Out of Body Language
Successful people know how to use their bodies for greatest effect. They
stand tall, with their chests opened like a well loved book, smiles on their
faces, and when they move, they move with purpose. Their moderate and
carefully chosen gestures reflect their sense of what they want to project and
how they want to be perceived.
Successful people also know where to position themselves in relation to
other people. They know that if they stand too close they can be perceived
as overwhelming or threatening. They know that if they stand too far away
they can be perceived as distant. They know how to anticipate movements –
theirs and another’s – to avoid (or not) bumping into someone else, depending on their motives, and their relationship with the other person. They know
that the gestures they use and how they use them have infinitely more of an
impact than the words they say.

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language
The people who demonstrate respect for others, who think before acting, and
who develop the necessary skills to create their desired outcomes, are the
ones who feel good about themselves. You can tell by the way they move.
Their gestures and actions have purpose and meaning.
If you want to succeed in your career or relationship, using effective body language is part of your foundation. Once you’re aware of the impact – of what
works and what doesn’t – you can move and gesture with confidence, knowing
that you and your message are perceived the way you want them to be.

Becoming spatially aware
Understanding how to position themselves in relation to other people is a
skill that some people just don’t seem to have. Either they’re so up close and
personal that you can smell their morning coffee breath, or they stand just
that bit away that makes them appear uninterested, unengaged, or slightly
removed. Others, however, know just how to get it right. They understand
and respect the different territories and parameters that people have around
themselves, and being with them is comfortable.
You have a personal, individual space bubble that you stand, sit, and move
around in, and it expands and contracts depending on circumstances.
Although you may have grown up in the country and have need for a lot of
space around you, people who grew up in cities need less.
The study of proxemics, how people use and relate to the space around them to
communicate, was pioneered by Edward T Hall, an American anthropologist in
the 1960s. His findings revealed the different amounts of personal space that
people feel they need depending on their social situation. Robert Sommer, an
American psychologist, coined the term ‘personal space’ in 1969. He defined it
as the ‘comfortable separation zone’ people like to have around them.
Chapter 12 takes a look at how circumstances determine at what distance
you’re most comfortable, and how best to position yourself in relation to
another person, whether standing, sitting, or lying down.

Anticipating movements
Movement can be equated to dance. It’s more than just the gestures themselves, it’s about the timing of them as well. Anticipating an action and registering that it’s about to happen before it does, gives you information that
others may not grasp.

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
The American anthropologist, Ray Birdwhistell, pioneered kinesics, the study
of body movement and verbal communication. Replaying, in slow motion,
films of people in conversation Birdwhistell was able to analyse people’s
actions, gestures, and behaviours.
Consider these examples:
Spotting the subtle gestures a person makes in preparation for rising
from a seated position previews what’s about to happen.
Recognising when a person’s about to strike out in anger gives you
enough time to protect yourself and others.
Feeling your dancing partner shift his weight indicates that a change in
movement is about to occur.
Anticipating a movement can save your life. It can keep you from harm. It
may also bring you great happiness, like a lover’s first kiss which, had you
missed the movement, you may have lost. By anticipating gestures, you gain
the upper hand in knowing how to respond before the action is completed.

Creating rapport through
reflecting gestures
When you talk about establishing rapport you’re talking about accepting and
connecting with other people and treating one another with respect. Rapport
assures that your communications are effective and lead to results that satisfy both parties’ needs.
You have many ways of creating rapport, through touch, word choice, and
eye contact. Another way is to reflect another person’s movements. By
mirroring and matching the other person’s gestures and behaviours you’re
demonstrating that you know what it feels, sounds, and looks like to be in
her shoes. If connecting with others and behaving respectfully is important
to you, mirroring and matching their behaviour helps you achieve that goal.
A fine line exists between reflecting another person’s gestures and mimicking
her. People who are being mimicked quickly figure out what you’re doing and
recognise your insincerity.

Becoming who you want to be
How you present yourself, how you move and gesture, how you stand, sit,
and walk all play their part in creating the image you present and in determining people’s perceptions. By adopting a cluster of postures, positions,

Chapter 1: Defining Body Language
and gestures known for the attitudes they effect, you can create any attitude
and make it your own. Positive body language looks and feels strong,
engaged, and vibrant. Negative body language communicates weaknesses,
dullness, and a disconnectedness. Sometimes you want to project one image
over another. Whatever image you want to project – moving your head, face,
torso, and limbs with confidence, control, and commitment, or creating
desired effects with the flick of your wrist or a furrow of your brow – being
perceived and responded to in the way you want helps you to achieve your
desired results.
Actors know the technique of creating a character from both within and
without. Working from the outside in, actors consider how their character
sounds, moves, and gestures. They ask themselves:
How would the character walk, sit, and stand? Would the character
move like a gazelle, lumber along like a sleepy bear, or stagger in a
zigzag pattern like someone who’s had one drink too many? Is the
posture upright and erect, or slouched and limp?
What gestures would be required for conveying a particular mood or
emotion? Slow, deliberate, and carefully timed gestures create a different
impression from those that are quick, spontaneous, and unfocused.
By adopting the appropriate behaviours, the actor creates an attitude, emotion, or feeling that the audience recognises and understands. It’s the same
for the lay person. By acting in a particular manner you can create an image
and become that character. As Cary Grant said, ‘I pretended to be someone I
wanted to be until I finally became that person.’
The behaviour you adopt and the gestures that you make leave an impression. How you’re perceived – dumb or sultry, champion of the people, or
chairman of the board – is up to you. The key is to adopt/exhibit/display the
right gestures. To do that, keep these points in mind:
Make sure that your gestures reinforce the impression you want to
make: For example, the higher up the command chain, the more contained the gesture (which is why you never see the chief executive run
down the hall).
You can modify your gestures to suit the situation: When Toby, my PA
and I, are working in the office and no one else is around, our body language is loose and relaxed. When a client or another colleague arrives,
the body language changes. We both become more formal, the degree
of formality depending on the other person.
Decide what attitude you want to project. Model the gestures of a person
who you think successfully emulates that image.

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Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture
I recently experienced my first tax audit, which had me in a bit of a state.
Tom, my bookkeeper, and my accountant Rashmi, tell me how much and
where to sign and I do it. I trust them and Tom’s been teaching me about the
finances. Tom arrived at the office, wearing a suit and tie, for the meeting
with the VAT lady. Our office is normally quite informal and Tom’s change of
clothes told me that we were to leave out the jokes. Although I was dressed
informally I adjusted my behaviour to mirror Tom’s, which was thoughtful,
serious, and open. We wanted to create the impression that not only does the
business have a strong creative base, but also that its financial backbone is
firmly in place.

Reading the signs and responding
appropriately
Being able to read other’s signals is a stepping stone to effective communication. By observing how people move and gesture, you get a glimpse into their
emotions. You can tell, for example, the intensity of someone’s feelings by the
way she stands. You can see what kind of mood a person’s in by the speed of
her gestures. By having an insight into someone’s feelings you’re forewarned
and forearmed for whatever may happen next.
Say that you’re at a party with a friend. You notice her sitting dejectedly by
herself. Seeing her in this position, with her head hanging down and her arms
wrapped around her body, you know that she needs a little tender loving
care. You gently put your hand on her arm and she begins to feel a bit better.
Later at the party you observe that some of the younger guests – who have
had more than their fair share of drink – are beginning to go from jovial to
rowdy. You notice the lads pushing and shoving one another, which is your
sign to leave.
By reading body language effectively, you can tell when you can stay and
when to go.
Edith unexpectedly popped around to have a chat with her neighbours, Tim
and Sarah, who were in the middle of a busy morning and had little time to
stop for a gossip. Although Tim smiled warmly at Edith, he stood by the
entrance without inviting her in. His arms were crossed over his chest, his
legs were held closely together, and rhythmically he rocked backwards and
forwards on his toes. Edith sensed from Tim’s closed position that now was
not a convenient time for them to speak, and she quickly left.


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