Do you realize that the majority of our in-person communication with one another is non-verbal?
That’s why it’s important to reflect on how you project yourself through body language, making the necessary adjustments where needed.
Our non-verbal interactions with one another hold power and can ultimately convey our true selves to the external world. So next time you want to make an impression, it’s wise to be aware of the non-verbal cues you’re giving off.
To make life easier, I’ve made a list of 10 surprising ways body language reveals your true personality. Ready to start communicating effectively without saying a word? Let’s get into it!
1) The firmness of your handshake
My dad always used to tell me to always have a firm handshake, a piece of fatherly wisdom that has benefited me throughout my life.
In our society, a handshake is often the first means of communication with a new person. And whether we like it or not, a firm handshake indicates strength and confidence.
Generally speaking, you’re making a good first impression with a solid handshake.
Meanwhile, the opposite applies as well. A limp handshake comes across as meek and delicate.
If you’re in business, for example, it might subconsciously be telling the other party that you aren’t the ideal person they want to deal with or you’re not fully committed.
For better or worse, we tend to value confidence and assertiveness over shyness and docility.
However, don’t overdo it by gripping the other person’s hand to the point that there is mild pain. This communicates aggression and will almost always backfire!
2) How you make eye contact
Much like a handshake when you regularly make direct eye contact with others, you’re expressing confidence and honesty.
Eye contact is a major rapport builder. You can express, interest, attraction, but also hostility and fear, and many other emotions through your eyes.
When you avert people’s gaze or blink excessively, then you could often be viewed as dishonest, deceitful, or weak.
Although this is likely the feeling you’ll give off to new people, it may not necessarily be true.
Maybe you’re just naturally a bit shy, in which case it’s worth making an extra effort with your eye contact-making abilities.
Here also, balance applies. Too much eye contact can signify hostility and can be a turnoff. You’ll get the hang of it!
3) How you carry yourself
Posture is another type of body language that is significant.
Standing, sitting, and walking with a straight back are linked to composure and poise.
But you don’t want to be too rigid either, so stand tall but keep those shoulders relaxed.
When you’re slouched over or have a hunched back, then you’re telling the world you have low self-esteem and probably numerous insecurities.
Whether it’s for your work or personal life, this is not the ideal vibe you want to give off.
So if this sounds familiar, it’s time to straighten that back, Quasimodo!
4) The facial expressions you use
I’ve always wondered how people can truly hate professional athletes even though they’ve never shared a single conversation.
My tennis-enthusiast mother is like this. She absolutely hates certain players with a passion. When I ask her why, she says it’s because they always look angry or smug.
This is a testament to the impactfulness of facial expressions.
Smiling frequently and in the right situations has a positive effect on others. It conveys warmth and kindness.
Smiling too often and at the wrong times, like during a eulogy might have… another effect.
On the other hand, frowning will tend to indicate anger or annoyance. And smirking is associated with arrogance or conceit like the tennis players my mom “hates.”
But keep in mind, always take context into account. We’ll talk about that a bit more later.
5) Your hand, arm, and foot gestures
Here’s the thing: the gestures we make with our hands, arms, and feet hold a lot of weight and can give off a number of clues about our personalities.
Speaking animatedly with many hand gestures, for example, is often interpreted as friendly and outgoing.
Constant fidgeting of hands and tapping of feet or constant moving might be anxiety-inducing for the other person. It can also make you come across as rude or uncomfortable with the situation.
If you keep your hands in your pockets or cross your arms frequently in conversation, then these things are often considered ‘closed’ gestures and are sometimes viewed in a negative light.
Let’s say you’re on a date, you’re speaking and your partner crosses their arms for an extended period mid-conversation.
What does this tell you? They’re probably not interested, leaving you discouraged.
When you are interested though, your body language will tell a different story. This brings me to my next point…
6) When you mimic others
When you mirror another person’s movement, you’re subconsciously telling them you find them interesting and are attuned to their behavior.
This is generally seen as a positive thing in our communications with others, romantic or otherwise.
Think about it – have you ever been so in sync, the chemistry so sizzling with someone that you start to mirror their movements subconsciously?
When we mirror someone, we’re giving off signals that we’re connected to them. It also indicates a highly empathetic nature.
When we mirror, we tend to imitate the gestures, speech patterns, and attitudes of the other party.
7) The tone of your voice
From my experience, communication is more about how we say it and less about what is actually said.
The tone of your voice might not strictly be “body” language, but it is still a crucial part of non-verbal communication.
People have the ability to read your tone of voice. When you speak with a kind and tender tone, people will likely see you as a sensitive and gentle soul.
If you speak in a dominant and loud tone, then you will probably give off bold and self-assured energy. But go a bit too loud and you become obnoxious.
Good politicians know how important tone is when giving a speech. They are aware of timing and pace, voice and inflection, volume, etc.
Look at Barack Obama’s whirlwind ascent to the presidency in 2008. Regardless of what you think of the man, it’s hard to deny his power as an orator.
He was a relatively inexperienced senator out of Illinois when he burst onto the scene. It was his dominant, assertively-toned speeches that ultimately catapulted him to victory.
8) The way you touch
Let me explain… we communicate a great deal about ourselves through our touch.
Generally speaking (and without going into extremes) people whose motivation to touch is to express support or affection or to establish a connection are unsurprisingly perceived as outgoing and warm.
The level of the touch’s intensity matters too. A firm, almost forceful touch could indicate a strong, more intense character. So tread with caution!
Meanwhile, a light, gentle touch might express a demure but nurturing personality.
A good friend you haven’t seen in years might give you a bear hug, possibly even lifting you off the ground a few inches. This type of person is both expressing warmth and a dominant personality.
Concurrently, zero touching could come across as cold or unapproachable.
Of course, touch is no different from other body language cues in that we have to factor in several things like culture and setting before making successful conclusions about the intent and personality of others.
9) The amount of personal space you give
Do you feel uncomfortable when people get just a little too close to you? If so, you aren’t alone. People tend to be sensitive about their personal space.
Proxemics, a term invented by anthropologist Edward T. Hall, means the distance between people as they physically communicate.
Just like gestures and facial expressions, the physical space between individuals can say a lot too.
Depending on the culture, there are various expectations for personal space, but generally speaking, there are four primary levels: intimate space (0 to 45 cm), personal space (18 inches to 4 feet), social space (4 to 12 feet), and public space (12 feet or more).
The distance we select during our interactions with others can convey various messages regarding our level of comfort with that person including our intentions, our aggression, etc.
So when it comes to personal space, a practical approach is required. In short, read the room.
For example, if you’re out on a first date with someone you met on a dating app, getting too close to them in the initial moments might feel too aggressive and possibly threatening while being too distant could signify aloofness or disinterest.
Nailing that healthy balance is key here. Certain situations call for certain distances.
10) The micro-expressions you express
Micro-expressions are quick, involuntary facial expressions that expose people’s true emotions in situations.
They are fleeting and typically last for a fraction of a second but can express a wealth of emotions from sadness to anger and provide insight into a person’s identity.
A common micro-expression is the eye roll. You might be in a spirited exchange with a colleague about an issue you’re both passionate about.
What you consider a friendly interaction, might not be a mutual feeling when you catch your colleague briefly rolling their eyes as you make a point.
Other micro-expressions include tightening of the lips, flaring of the nostrils, raising of the eyebrows, squinting of the eyes, drooping of the forehead, and many others. You get the gist.
Don’t overlook these subtle tells in your interactions as they can truly reveal a lot!
How do you read body language?
Now that you’re aware of the importance of body language when communicating, I guess the natural tendency is to ask: how can you read body language in order to behave and respond appropriately?
Here are some tips on how to read body language effectively:
- Get a feel for their overall vibe: Right off the bat, you can get a feel for a person by absorbing their general demeanor.
Pay attention to the more obvious body language cues like posture, tone of voice, and eye contact. This will give you a feel for their overall comfort level.
- Look for patterns: When a person gives off multiple non-verbal cues that say the same thing, then chances are that’s what they’re feeling.
If someone is really disinterested or bored with you, for instance, you’ll probably be able to tell, even if they don’t say it outright. Look for a combination of factors like crossed arms and staying a comfortable distance away from you.
- Trust your gut: Don’t overlook your intuition. If they’re saying one thing but their non-verbal cues are saying otherwise, something might be off.
If your brother says he agrees with you, for example, but gives you hostile eye contact then things don’t add up and you can respond accordingly.
- Keep an eye on changes: Keep a lookout for changes in a person’s body language throughout your interaction.
Maybe they’ll start off being calm and relaxed, but then begin to get agitated or make closed gestures, indicating that something in their situation or their emotional state has likely changed.
Why is body language so important?
In short, whether it’s in the world of employment or business, or dating, being an effective communicator when it comes to body language is an important and empowering quality.
Let’s not forget the old adage “Actions speak louder than words.” Your words could be rendered meaningless if your non-verbal cues don’t match the message!
But still, it’s worth remembering that body language is not the only indicator of a person’s inner thoughts or feelings, and should always be packaged with speech and other factors like setting and culture.
Overall though, when you master the art of positive body language, it’ll take you places! By paying attention to nonverbal cues and using your intuition and observation skills, you can gain a deeper understanding of a person’s behavior and motivations and this solidifies your ability to tackle the many challenges life will throw at you.