14 Tactics For Reading People's Body Language

Whether someone’s lying to you, hitting on you, or bossing you around, you can read their intent and emotional state in their body language — if you know what to pay attention to.

According to UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian, 55% of what you convey comes from body language, 38% from the tone of your voice, and only 7% from the words you say.

So how do read between the lines? We’ve compiled tips from Psychology Today, research journals, and other publications to help you understand what people are telling you, far beyond their words.

Raised eyebrows are often a sign of discomfort.

In the same way that real smiles shape the wrinkles around your eyes, University of Massachusetts professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne says worry, surprise, or fear can cause people to raise their eyebrows in discomfort.

So if someone compliments your new hairstyle or outfit with their eyebrows raised, it may not be sincere.

Eye contact shows interest -- both positive and negative.

When you look at someone in the eyes, it sets an 'arousal' state in the body.

'How that arousal is interpreted, however, depends on the parties involved and the circumstances,' writes Claremont McKenna College organizational psychologist Ronald E. Riggio. 'Being stared at by a stranger who appears large or ominous can be seen as a threat and elicit a fear response... However, the gaze of a potential sexual partner causes arousal that can be interpreted positively -- as a sexual invitation.'

But if they look into your eyes for too long, they might be lying.

In an attempt to avoid looking shifty-eyed, some liars will purposefully hold their gaze a touch too long, so that it's slightly uncomfortable.

They may also stand very still and not blink.

An expansive pose signals power and a sense of achievement.

How someone holds themself is a big clue to how they're feeling. Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy finds that expansive poses increase testosterone and confidence. If they're leaning back and relaxed, they feel powerful and in control. Similarly, research shows that even people born blind raise their arms in a V shape and lift their chins slightly when they win a physical competition.

On the other hand, a low-power pose -- seen when someone closes up and wraps their arms around themselves -- increases cortisol, a stress hormone.

A clenched jaw, tightened neck, or furrowed brow shows stress.

All of these are 'limbic responses,' associated with the limbic system in the brain.

'Emotion, spotting and reacting to threats, as well as assuring our survival, are all heavy responsibilities of the limbic system,' explains former FBI Counterintelligence Agent Joe Navarro. 'The bus leaves without us, and we are clenching our jaws, rubbing our necks. We are asked to work another weekend, and the orbits of our eyes narrow as our chin lowers.'

Humans have been displaying discomfort this way for millions of years, Navarro says.

Expansive, authoritative postures show leadership.

Whether they're innate or learned, there are a number of signals and behaviours people use when they feel that they're a leader, or at least are trying to convince you that they are.

They include holding an erect posture, walking purposefully, steepling and palm-down hand gestures, and generally open and expansive body postures.

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