Body Language


C onversation between twain interlocutors is characterized by verbal, but also by visual communication. Normal knowledge of such interaction tell of the most usual rhytm, during which, the speaker, namely, yields his look sideways, while the listener has the eyes fixed, to a greater extent, at the speaker.

F urther, it can be said that an informant, who at that very moment when the message is being delivered, places his visual point high to the right, allows this message to be accompanied by a creative thought process, with a greater probability than otherwise, for example a visualization of something described. An informant with a low visual point, held to the left, is probably remembering something associated with the discourse.

A s long as one interlocutor is in a listening phase, but looks sideways, just the same, it could be presumed that he soon intends to reveal a complementary phase, perhaps inclined as an interrupting one, even, formulated as an objection.

I f the speaker turns to fix his eyes on the listener, from previously looking way, then the opposite applies. In other words, he expects that the word will pass unto him, because his own phrase is nearly finished.

T o fix one´s eyes on the person one is talking to, as a speaking interlocutor, however, is rather signifying of that one wishes to emphasize what is being told. One is sure of that the message is correct and important, and wants to intensify this into the listener. By looking at the other in this way, one has the possibility to act on the response, and assure oneself of the attention of the listener. The reason for the interlocutor´s way of not looking at the listener could be that he concentrates on the message, as such, instead, at which he preferably doesn´t want to be distracted.

   Friendly or Hostile

R aised eyebrows is usually paraphrased as a friendly gesture. However, when raised eyebrows is followed by an advancing movement of some sort, the gesture might be aggressive.

A person standing with the hand holding his waist, with the elbow outwards, signifies hostility or dissociation in the direction, which the elbow points. A position of having both elbows pointing outwards in this way, may signify dejection and irritation.

W hen body language is being treated, one very much likes to take an interest in crossed legs, and the direction where the overhead leg points. If you are sitting next to someone who has placed his farther leg over his nearest leg, and points in your direction with his hanging foot, so to speak, then the person concerned may much more likely be favourably minded vis-à-vis you. Same person on the same side of you, but sitting in a reversed position, may possibly be dissociating himself.

Y et, do observe that a contradictory body language may often be used to undramatize a situation. Examples of this matter could be when two persons of opposite sex interact in a formal situation. When the woman wants to indicate togeherness with the man beside her, she turns against him with a smile. In order to make him understand that the smile is not intended as a sexual invitation, she crosses her legs in the opposite direction.

I t should also be added that certain people have a preference for crossing their legs in either direction, more or less regularly. This applies to an even greater extent when somebody crosses his arms. Whether this occur in one direction or another is practically without validity regarding possible visual messages.

O n the other hand, crossed arms is generally regarded as a sign of intransigence or distance. This applies in particular together with other signals such as raised eyebrows, tightly clenched jaws, or a shifting gaze. In other, more contradictory contexts, the crossed arms may instead negotiate frustration or being locked., and possibly a desire of being “unlocked”, as well.

T o place one leg, while being in a front position toward somebody, so that the shin lies in straight angle against the thigh of the other leg, possibly with the hands at the ankle, is regarded to be a dissociation, according to the book. One builds, so to speak, a barrier between oneself and the person that one confronts. However, such conclusions can be difficult to draw. In a situation with sexual chances of interpretation may exposure of the genital areaI, for example, carry a greater weight. Different interpretations can be apt when the sitting environment or the dynamic of the situation makes this stand to reason.


A person, whose feet are pointing inward, when walking, may be presumed to be introvert and odd. If the feet instead points outward, this indicates a sort of inclination of interaction with the environment. As the right half of the body is controlled by the logical, left brain half, by most people, while the left brain half is more controlled by the emotional, right brain half, a one-sided slant of one foot may give certain information about which respect the quality applies to. Gait without slanted feet is generally regarded to account for purpose, in particular if the steps is long and the chest is held forward, furthermore. Inversely, a reserved or shrunken chest implies passivity. A person walking with a body inclined forward, sort of staring into the ground, and with the arms hanging by the sides, without swinging, but with swift steps, is likely introverted in some respect, perhaps also an individual with one-sided foci and a low social interest, perchance.

I n case that the observed person holds his head in a reserved way, while walking, he may be presumed to be somewhat rigid in his forming of opinions and thinking. On the contrary, an active head signifies interactive readiness and activity. A prominent head may possibly have a connection with a careful attitude. However, it may just as well account for obtrusivity and self-assertion. The forward leaning gait and the prominent head may bothand appear in elderly people, due to physiological reasons.

   Personal space

A common division indicates the personal space in 4 different distances. The public distance begins about 3,5 metres from the individual. Inside this, we have our usual company distance of distances from 1,2 metres up to and including 3,5 metres. This kind of space is for impersonal interaction. The distance interval for impersonal interaction in the West lies between 0,45- 1,2 metres from the individual. All further trespassing is considered as intimate.

I f two persons, unknown to each other, are forced into each other´s spheres of intimacy, due to external circumstances, such as in a bus or an elevator, it is considered custom to look into the floor, or in an another direction. Two persons sitting or standing next to each other, parallelly, so to speak, or in a line, feels less troubled at a given intimacy distance, as compared with standing eye to eye, or ear to ear. If one is forced into body contact, then it is custom to tighten the muscles in the concerned area. Certain men might exploit other people´s fear of body contact to express dominance or relaxedness, by sitting widely with their knees toward the sides, on a bus, in spite of that someone is sitting next to him.

I n a similar way, some short individuals may choose a small conversation distance in order to poach a taller interlocutor, who doesn´t want to embarass them with his relative height. They also express a sort of dauntlessness with that, or even dominance, as well.

   Special Gestures

A person passing his hand toward the mouth, eventually hiding the mouth, as he is pronouncing something, may be suspected of lying. The same gesture performed while he is silent may instead imply that he distrusts your discourse. Alternatively may the hand be passed toward the nose or the ear. However, to clearly scratch one´s nose, or at the eye, is more likely an act of a lost, physical circumstance. If the mouth is completely covered, but without saying anything, sometimes a silenced, spontaneous reflection may be suspected.

S omebody scratching his neck might feel uneasy. There might be a conflict of opinions, with an objection, which is to be hidden, especially in connection with a positive and understanding discourse, on his part.

T o scratch one´s earlobe may imply a dissociation, or a wish to achieve a better general view. This is a gesture which has to be understood in its context. Between man and woman, it may constitute a constitution of a physical interest, or the like. To fold the ear forward may hint of a wish to let the other person have it out. On the other hand, it might be a variety of the stopped ear: “i have heard enough”.

T o show one´s palms clearly is usually considered as evidence of not having anything to hide, for example in connection with a discourse, but as a characteristic of attitude, as well. If you inversely walk with the back of our hands held forward, this builds a barrier toward the surrounding world. Such gestures are easy to manipulate, and something that is taught within rhetoric, at an early point. A politician flapping his hands, and exposing his open palms is hardly honest. Much more likely is that he has learned this as fundamental trick in order to deceive people.

P ointing against the interlocutor with one´s finger, and the hand held like a gun, signifies aggressive dominance. Attempts to moderate the same gesture by more bent finger joints, is, however, considerably more complaisant and friendlier. To point with the whole hand toward someone is official and clear. To point into one´s own palm signifies something that one expects to receive, or something that is supposed to happen. The invisible in the palm is an inclined symbolic object for one´s circumlocutions.

P utting the fingertips of both hands together implies a will to communication and intellectual exchange. The same gesture, but with the hands together in a tighter fashion, and with the fingers pointing outward, through the opposite hands finger gaps, respectively, does not signify the same will to communication. It is an averting gesture.


M ark that a person, consulted about his body language, almost regularly gives way, even for an unambigous interpretation, in particular if it in some respect could shed a negative light over the person in question. It has been proved that even movements and gestures from subjects of an experiment, which during special conditions have been stimulated through artificial way, quickly finds a ”rational” explanation when the subjects are questioned about their acting. In general, people even want to explain body language with “hard cases”. If you stand with your hands in your pockets, then it is cold. If you stand with your hands at the sides, then it is comfortable. If you do a gesture toward the neck, then it itches, and so on.

   Kåre Andersson

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