This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Body language is one of those things that we may not often think about consciously but that can radically alter how we are perceived and, by extension, our success in life.
The term “body language” is suggesting that the body “speaks,” but how exactly does it do that?
This article will give an overview of body language and then provide six ways that specific body language gestures can affect how others perceive you. This knowledge may help you get a step up in life and also have a better understanding of how others feel about you based on their own body language.
Body Language 101
Body language is a type of nonverbal language. Every single conversation and interaction we have involves body language, whether we realize it or not. Even though it is silent, body language really does speak volumes.
You can even start to get a better sense of body language by studying your favorite films and TV series. Take note of the actors and how the way they use their bodies is conveying additional meaning to the words that they are using.
Body language is a fascinating topic and more complex than we might think. For more interesting resources on the topic, you may want to check out BetterHelp: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/body-language/
So, let’s take a look now at six types of body language gestures and what they mean.
6 Types of Body Language and What They Mean
Everyone knows the power of a smile. Depending on the person, the situation, and whether or not we feel it’s genuine, a smile can really lift us up.
Smiling communicates a range of things but often it involves complicity and friendliness. Smiling more—within reason, i.e. when it’s appropriate—may help people feel more comfortable around you and be more willing to open up to you.
A full smile, by the way, is one that reaches the eyes—even if you have a mask on for health reasons, it will still be visible because the skin around your eyes will crinkle.
Folding your arms across your chest can signify multiple things. In many cases, it conveys a sense of frustration, exasperation, or anger. Other times, however, it might just be a casual pose.
You may want to resist the urge to fold your arms across your chest if you have a habit of doing so, as people may interpret it as you being aggressive or upset about something.
Standing Up Straight
Good posture involves standing up straight with shoulders back. This body language helps show that you are confident and self-assured. It helps you command more respect and people are more likely to listen to what you have to say.
The opposite of this would be having hunched shoulders and not standing up straight, which may make you look less confident and less authoritative.
Eye contact is a very complex form of body language. Many fleeting glances, maintaining eye contact, avoiding eye contact—these all may signify different things.
If someone frequently glances at another person, even when they are not speaking, it may mean that they have romantic feelings for them. The same is true if there’s a joke told—whoever a person chooses to look at while they’re laughing or right after may be the person they’re most interested in.
Maintaining eye contact during a conversation—to a reasonable degree—is considered respectful and shows that you are listening. Avoiding eye contact does the opposite.
Looking down may mean nothing at all, but it is often associated with being sad or depressed. Someone who is constantly looking down may be in poor spirits.
On the contrary, someone who holds their head high is more likely to seem like they are in good spirits and confident.
Putting Your Head in Your Hands
Putting your head in your hands is a classic symbol of frustration or despair. It seems to say, “I can’t believe what is happening right now.”
You should be careful with this form of body language, as it is quite strong. There may be situations where it is inappropriate, and you should keep a more neutral appearance.
Body language is a compelling topic and even more so because it’s often overlooked. Its importance, however, is found all throughout our life. How others perceive us and how we “read” other people plays a massive role in the success we achieve (or not). So, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of body language.