The subtle signals of body language: 12 things perceptive people notice

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A lot of body language signs are easy to miss. 

While some are obvious, such as contorting your face when you see someone you dislike, most of them can evade your notice, like when you fidget when you’re nervous.

But if you’re a perceptive person, even the most subtle signals of body language can be easily noticeable. 

In fact, your ability to see through people is largely thanks to your ability to notice these subtle cues.

Think you’re one of them? Read more below to see if you’ve seen these 12 subtle signals of body language only perceptive people notice.

1) Eyebrow raise

Have you ever raised your brows to someone in the street?

The eyebrow raise, also known as the eyebrow flash, is when we slightly open our eyes wider and raise our brows for about a fifth of a second to another person.

It’s easy to notice this when we do it to greet an acquaintance we happened to stumble upon in public.

But only perceptive people notice this gesture as an act of expressing approval or acknowledgment, agreeing to something, thanking someone, or asking for confirmation.

For example, when you’re asked a question as a group, answer with doubt, and briefly flash your brows at a groupmate, only a perceptive person will notice that you’re asking for validation.

2) Dilated pupils

You’ve probably heard that our pupils dilate when we see someone or something we love. It’s the subject of numerous “psychological fact” posts, though this one’s actually true.

Our pupils dilate when we see our pets, our favorite stores, and people we’re crushing on.

Of course, dilated pupils are naturally harder to notice than eyebrow flashes. You have to be really up close and personal with someone to notice.

But perceptive people don’t have to get up close and personal to see that you’re excited. When they see your pupils dilate, it’s merely confirmation for them that you’re seeing or talking about something you love!

3) Mirroring

When we’re interacting with a close friend, we usually mirror their words and gestures in an attempt to establish intimacy.

Professor Joseph Heinrich from the University of Michigan explains to Science of People that mirroring is actually hardwired in our brains, which means it’s an inherent tendency.

An example of this is when the other person uses a certain word in a conversation and you use it too when you respond, or when they cross their legs and you cross yours too in return.

We often do these things unknowingly, but an especially perceptive person won’t miss it

So if you mirror a perceptive person, they’ll feel comfort in knowing you like them enough to want to connect with them. 

4) Facial animation

Naturally, in our interactions with other people, we use facial expressions to convey how we feel. Facial animation is similar to this, but more subtle.

Research from Psychology Today shows that subtle head movements, like slowly nodding your head in agreement, or slightly furrowing your brows in focus, can make you appear trustworthy and honest.

While many people might not notice themselves doing this, a perceptive person will be able to know—and appreciate—that you’re making an effort to listen and understand.

5) Gentle touches

Gentle touches can be either platonic or romantic.

Platonically, people might pat a friend on the shoulder or rub their hands on their back to comfort them when they’re upset. 

Romantically, this happens when you and another person’s pinky touch, as if in anticipation of holding each other’s hand.

Either way, these gentle touches are so subtle they’re often unnoticeable, but a perceptive person will easily notice them. 

When you rub their back, they know you’re trying to comfort them. If you’re attracted to them, your subtle arm touches will be a big give away.

And because they know how comforting it is to be touched gently when you’re down, they do it often with the people they love, too.

6) Head tilt

You know how a cat exposes its tummy when they’re comfortable around you? 

We do that too (though not with our stomach, of course!) when we tilt our head when speaking to someone. According to Science of People, we do the head tilt because the neck is one of the most vulnerable areas in our body. 

But if you’re a highly perceptive person, you probably don’t have to know the science behind it to learn that when a person does the head tilt, they’re easing the tension you might be feeling. You just know it intuitively!

People usually do this when they try to ease the tension to encourage a friend to open up. For example, when you find out that a friend has a new partner, you’ll want to know, right?

So to gently encourage them to open up, you unknowingly tilt your head first—maybe rest it on your hand—give a suggestive look, and smile before telling them: I heard you found a special someone!

7) Hand signals/gesticulation

Do you use your hands when you speak?

If you do, you will probably know that it’s an effective gesture that aids you to convey what you need to say.

The science behind it is that when a person is speaking and gesticulating with their palms open, that means they’re knowledgeable enough to be comfortable to speak.

Good public speakers do this, but we usually don’t notice it—we just get the feeling that they’re good speakers.

But people who are highly perceptive can see this easily.

A perceptive person is that friend who can see your discomfort just ‘cause they saw you with your hands in your pocket or behind your back. Even if you do this unknowingly, your perceptive friend will notice easily and will try to comfort you.

8) Eye rubbing

Frustration is such an intense feeling, and one way we involuntarily express it is when we rub our eyes.

Science explains that this is because rubbing our eyes helps us calm down because it acts like a “visual reset.” It’s as if we’re wishing for the frustrating thing to just go away, out of our line of sight.

When a perceptive person gets in an argument with someone, when the other person rubs their eyes, they’ll know to shut up and back down. 

They’d take it as a sign that the other person is frustrated, and the argument won’t be productive if it’s already reached a level of frustration.

Unlike most people, they’ll still push and push and try to win the argument until both people start lashing out against each other. It’s unhealthy, and perceptive people know enough to avoid it.

9) Knee bouncing

People usually think knee bouncing is nothing but a simple and often annoying habit, but it actually signifies a feeling of worry or anxiety. 

Before doing something we’re nervous about, such as facing a crowd or preparing for a contest, we often bob our knees up and down involuntarily. It can also happen when we’re nervous around someone, such as a crush or a boss.

When you do this in front of a perceptive person, they’ll know you’re nervous. They would be thoughtful enough to know why, and would try their best to calm you down.

10) Fidgeting

People usually fidget when they’re bored. That’s why neurodiverse people often have fidget gadgets with them for stimulation.

Even normal people do this, too. You’ll find people playing with their necklace, watch, keys, or anything nearby when they’re bored. 

It can also be a sign of urgency, such as wanting to end a small talk as they’re already running late for something.

So when you fidget around a perceptive person, you can trust that they’ll let you go when you need to.

11) Locked ankles

Locked ankles is when you cross your feet with one ankle on top of the other, with thighs touching or close together.

This is especially easy to miss, since when in conversation, we naturally look upward to the eyes rather than downward to the feet (unless you feel nervous or insecure).

When a perceptive person sees you cross your ankles in front of them, they’ll know you’re uncomfortable and will try their best to comfort you. 

In some cases, they’ll simply stay away from you so you won’t feel the discomfort.

12) Intimate expressions

Out of everything in this list, this one’s my favorite.

When we’re trying to establish an emotional connection with someone, we do these intimate expressions, also known as immediacy cues.

This is when we make enough eye contact to make the other person feel seen, but not too much that they feel uncomfortable; turning our body toward them instead of facing sideways; or gesturing toward them when you’re speaking.

Because these cues are inherent in all of us, it’s so normal that it often escapes our notice. However, an especially perceptive person will know.

In fact, it would be flattering to them to know that you’re comfortable enough in their presence to want to connect with them emotionally.

It’s such a wonderful, human thing  to do!

Joyce Ann Isidro

Joyce is a writer who believes in the power of storytelling and changing lives by writing stories about love, relationships, and spirituality. A bookworm and art enthusiast, she considers herself a creative-at-heart who likes to satisfy her childish wonder through new hobbies and experiences.

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