Body Language In A Week

– Body Language In A Week –

Geoff Ribbens & Richard Thompson

I have been reading a lot about body language and facial expression over the past weeks, this book in particular is quite straight forward, thus being my first port of call before moving onto more detailed books.

My interest in the topic is that I strongly feel if I have a better understanding of humans and body language and facial expression I will have a better chance of creating work which effectively stimulates reaction from my audience. A general overview and some key points of interest;

Body Language means more than simply physical posture. Posture and gesture tell you a lot, but so do less obvious mannerisms, such as eye contact, speed and tone of voice, facial expressions and even non-verbal sounds like sighs.


Though we may not be aware of it, body language is taught to us from the time we are born and we spend years developing skills that enable us to interpret other peoples’ intentions, meanings and motives. Most of us take this learning process for granted, so we tend to forget that much of what happens inter-personally actually takes places at this semi-conscious level.


BODY LANGUAGE – Managing Without Words

Less that 10% of the messages we communicate facte to face occur through the words we use.

Tone of voice accounts for nearly 40% and posture and gesture 50%

Language is concerned with the expression of thoughts, ideas and feelings, its function is to enable communication to take place. It doesn’t have to be in the form of words.

By means of non-verbal communication we can convey what we think, how we feel and what we want.This is done simply by means of physical posture, gestures, facial expression, tone and strength of voice. Subconsciously we use this language in our dealings with others, yet take it for granted.

Imagine communication without body language. When we write we use comma, full stops, exclamation marks and question marks – these illustrate to the reader pauses in speech and help determine a tone ect.

Writing without punctuation is like speaking without body language.


UNCONSCIOUS MIMICRY – Mimicry is, in fact an indirect way of confirming one’s common ground.

After all, posture, gesture and intonation are subtle and do no, as such, constitute evidence of proof of a way someone thinks or feels. In addition it is seldom one gesture or posture, but a combination of body signals that convey clues. It is also important to put the body language in context; for instance people may rub their hands together because they are cold – not always because they are thinking about money.

BODY WORDS – sometimes the expressions that people use, the actual words they speak in order to describe certain feelings evidence the close relationship between spoken language and body language.

‘down in the mouth’

‘laid back’

‘spitting blood’

‘walking tall’

These all suggest postures or gestures that represent a state of mind.

THE GAZE – the gaze is distinct from the casual glance, tends to convey an interest or intent that has the effect of increasing the other person’s awareness of you.

Eye contact also regulates the flow of communication. Briefly holding a look for a few seconds indicates our awareness of what is being said and readiness to communicate further.

Studies have found that we maintain eye contact with people 40% of the time when we are talking to them, yet 75% of the time when they are talking to us.

There is another reason for maintaining eye contact, which has more to do with personal reassurance than respect- is to determine how sincere the speaker is. What we are doing is summing up how we feel about them by watching their body language.

Visual – thinking in pictures

Auditory – thinking in sounds

Kinaesthetic – thinking in feelings

Olfactory – thinking in terms of smell

Gustatory – thinking in terms of taste

Roughly 45% of the population are thought to have a primary preference for thinking in terms of feelings (kinaesthetic) compared with 35% in terms of visual images and 20% in auditory form.

Whats interesting about these systems of thinking is that they influence both the choice of words we use in communicating with other, and the body language we exhibit. Eyes are especially indicative of what we are thinking but it is the direction in which the move that tells us whether someone is thinking in terms of pictures, sounds or feelings. Example:

If we visualise something from past experience our eyes tend to move up and to our left.

If we are trying to construct a picture from words to imagine something our eyes mover up and to our right.

If we are remembering sounds our eyes move across to our left although if we are constructing sound they move over to our right.

If we are trying to access feelings our eyes move to the right and down

If we are talking about ourselves our eyes move to the left and down

If we de-focus and stare straight ahead, we are thought to be visualising; that is thinking more deeply about the picture in our head.

The point about all of this is that if thinking processes are reflected in the way we use our eyes, they probably manifest themselves in the forms of body language as well. ‘as the body and mind are inseparable’ writes O’connor and Seymour ‘how we think always shows somewhere if you know where to look. In particular it shows in breathing patterns, skin colour and posture.’

Thinking in visual images – When people do this they tend to speak more quickly and at a higher pitch. Their breathing may be higher in the chest and more shalow. Often there is an increase in muscle tension, particuliarly in the shoulders, the heas will be up and the face often appears paler than normal.

Thinking in sounds – In this case people tend to breathe evenly over the whole chest area, small sythmis movements of the body are discernible and voice tonality if cleat, expressive and resonant. The head is well balances on the shoulders or held slightly as an angle as if listening to something.


Talking to oneself – when people do this they often lean their heads to one side, nestling it on their hand or fist. this is known as the telephone position, and one that gives the impression that they are talking on the phone. they may actually repeat out loud what that have just ‘heard’ with the result that you can see their lips move.

Talking about feelings – the is characterised by deep breathing low in the stomach area. The voice has a deeper tonality to it and the individual will typically speak slowly using long pauses.

when we are involved in different thinking processes often we gesture towards the organ related to it. for example someone people gesture to their ears while ‘listening’ to sound cues; others may point to their eyes when visualising. if we feel things strongly we sometimes gesture towards the abdomen.



BODY TALK – Visual thinkers are likely to use visual expressions such as;

I see what you mean

Can we get that in focus

It seems a little hazy to me

Wheras auditory thinkers would say things suchs as;

I hear what you’re saying and so on

Kinaesthetic thinkers are more likely to say;

On the other hand

It doesnt feel right to me

My gut reaction…

I can’t grasp that idea

To a very large extent we physically dance to the tune of our thoughts.

Thoughts and feelings we try to hide behind our words creep out in our postures and gestures. Not surprisingly, as listeners we rely heavily on what someone’s bod language tells us before we make up our minds about them.

Many types of posture and a variety of gestures – such as the raising of the eye brows when we meet are common to people of all cultures, while others especially certain hand gestures are culturally specific and must be used with care.


Anger tends to be conveyed by leaning forward sometimes with fists clenched and a tight facial expression. Excitement often is exhibited in an open body position, arms raised up, pals open with mouth and eyes wide open. shyness is usually conveyed by looking down. making little eye contact and leaning to one side whilst rejection tends to be exhibited by turning the face and body away.

How a person stands can indicate not only how they feel. but also how they ‘view’ a situation – in other words their attitude towards someone or something.

People of high status often stand arms akimbo – hands on hips with elbows turned out – this is a posture of superiority and exemplifies dominance.

Sitting with legs in the four cross position (with the ankle of one leg resting on the knee of the other and elbows outstretched and hands collapsed behind back or on the head similarly suggests superiority.

people subconsciously indicate positive interest in others by propping their heads up on a hand with the index finger pointing up over the cheek. Critical appraisal is similarity indicated by an attentive gaze with the chin resting on the thumb and fingers touching or covering the mouth.

Leaning forward on a chair – positive reaction

leaving backwards – indifference or lack of interest


Typically in a group situation, we are naturally inclined to pointing our feet in the direction of people to whom we are attracted.

INTERACTIONAL SYNCHRONISING – this occurs when people simultaneously move at the same time in the same way. such as picking up cups or starting to speak at the same time  – this often occurs when people get on well together – an indication of echoing each others thoughts and feelings.  This is when we are responding subliminally to our partners subtle clues.

Crossed arms, legs or ankles self-hugging, chin down and slumped appearance are all tell tale signs that something is wrong.

A common shoulder gesture is the shrug where both are raised and often accompanied by the palms up – indicates the person concerned doesn’t care, dosn’t know or thinks whatever is happening is a waste of time.

The hand shrug palms up gesture – sometimes indicates uncertainty but can also  be used to deceive the hand shrug as it is know as one of those mock honesty gestures which appear to enlist sympathy.

Patting/tapping/thumping/fiddling – When someone places their hands palms-down in a patting fashion along with raised eyebrows they are probably indicating satisfaction with. or certainly about the facts placed before them. if this patting continues it more likely means they have heard what is to be said and wish for it to stop.. tapping a finger on a desk is a clear indication of annoyance and aggression. fiddling with objects and clothing suggests boredom or irritation and depending on the situation nerves.

Steepling – confidence / certainty ( when both hands are close together with each finger tip touching and pals at short distance – quite literally the shape of a church steeple.

Palm rocking- maybe – ‘so-so’ ‘ possibly’ ‘okay-ish’ ‘maybe’

DECEPTION GESTURES – Rubbing, scratching, touching.

There are gestures that are almost entirely sub conscious such as touching out noses when we aren’t being truthful or when we believe someone is lying to us.

Scratching ones neck with the index finger about 5 times blow the ear whilst the neck is turned slightly to one side indicates doubt and uncertainty. – this is common amongst tradesmen who often also suck air between their teeth when estimating a price and time in conjunction.

Often when lying we rub our eye whilst looking down as if they are distracted by something in their eye – this is subconsciously to distract the attention of the listener.

people involved in deception usually try to avoid blatant lying and may;

Fail to answer the question asked

pretend not to understand it

remain silent

feign emotions such as anger

pretend they are feeling ill

If they can’t get away with concealing what they are doing, they may then begin to falsify a situation by;

Inventing a scenario

telling a story

telling a lie

To conceal of avoid telling direct lies people often water down their statements, or depersnalise the the act – taking the I out of the equation. other tell tale signs are;

making odd facial expressions

feigning yawns


avoiding eye contact

pausing for longer than usual

exhibiting glazed expressions

repeatedly clearing the throat

making speech errors

alternating the pitch of the voice

grinding teeth or biting lips

nose touching

Often in such cases individuals will decrease normal expressive hand and arm movements, using them to sooth the nose, mouth and brow.

Picking lint’ is and expression of guilt.

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I could go on forever detailing this book but i have picked out points that were of key interest to me.







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