The only language that’s seemingly universal, is body language. How we carry ourselves and behave around others physically can send out strong messages, both positive and negative.
A video by The HUB has detailed 10 things we can tell from our own, and others’, body language.
1. Eye contact
The video says:
How your eyes meet with other eyes normally is an indication of confidence, interest and honesty.
Good eye contact is crucial for interviews, it states. But when it comes to staring, things get a bit trickier.
Good, strong eye contact is one thing, a hard stare is another. This is not universal.
In areas such as Eastern Europe it’s fairly normal for people to stare at you, “they’re not being creepy or aggressive as people would assume in the UK and US”.
2. Male legs
For men, the classic manspreading shows the dominant person, someone who likes to be in charge: “the kind of people who give themselves ‘you da man’ pep talks in the mirror every morning”.
In most European and Asian countries, men often sit with the left leg crossed over the right with both pointing downwards. In the US this will probably indicate a closed nature but if one leg is horizontal with the ankle resting over the knee, then this is a confident and often argumentative pose.
3. Female legs
Most female leg poses involve the legs being together, the video says; spreading legs is rare because females’ pose has been influenced by clothing.
Then there’s the “ankle lock,” where one foot wraps around the other and is a sign of repression or fear.
4. Playing with hair
Running your hands through your hair, especially taking hair away from your face, is often a sign of flirting and openness, the video says.
Playing with hair is not always a good sign, though. Holding hair indicates awkwardness and nervousness.
5. Drumming fingers
Drumming your fingers on the desk is a “loud and obvious message” broadcasting your impatience or frustration. It’s also something you often don’t realise you’re doing. It can be a sign of nerves, the video explains, when “your body doesn’t know what to do with itself”.
But it can also be used more deliberately, often by “More dominant people” to show they’re not happy with something.
6. Arms and hands
The most common body language signal of all is crossing your arms. You don’t need to be a psychologist to know what it means.
It’s probably one of the first major signals that children learn to read, the video says, and when parents cross their arms it often means the child is in trouble.
Or, it simply means you're cold.
However, crossing your hands behind your back often means the opposite: "shyness turns to fearlessness, anger becomes calm".
Rubbing your palms together shows you’re expecting a good outcome, while holding your palms open and facing up makes you more trustworthy, since you’re showing you have nothing hidden in them.
7. Where you point your body
When it comes to body language your chest, the video says, your chest is an arrow: where you point it indicates where your interest lies.
In a meeting, it says, if someone’s chest is pointed away, they’re either not interested or they disagree with what’s being said. Same goes for a cinema date:
If you’re on a cinema date and they’re leaning on the far armrest there’s probably no Hollywood happy ending.
8. Shaking hands
A weak handshake, the video says, implies a “lack of determination and commitment”.
Using both hands to cup a handshake from below shows “sincerity and a desire for closeness”, whereas cupping it from above shows dominance.
Body language can help you get away with lies more easily.
If your eyes go up to the right, it implies we’re using our imagination, not your memory, so you’re making something up.
Another sign of lying is a dry mouth, so don’t lick your lips or swallow strangely.
We mimic each others' body language to show we're on the same wavelength, the video states, but just make sure you don't go overboard or it'll look very odd.
Here's the full video: