Decoding body language
Body language is a form of nonverbal communication, and whether you (or they!) know it, other people are always reading your body language for secret clues about you. Learn about how to read body language and find out what your gestures and movements are saying with these expert insights.
Body language: Crossed arms
Crossing your arms? Others may read crossed arms to mean you’re distant, insecure, anxious, defensive or stubborn, according to Barbara and Allen Pease in The Definitive Book of Body Language. But crossed arms have their pluses, too. Driver points out that this pose can make someone better at sticking to a difficult task, citing a study that found adults who crossed their arms and then were asked hard math questions were 30 percent more likely to keep trying to solve them than those who kept their hands on a table. “The act of crossing your arms utilises both your left and right brain, creating higher cognitive function,” says Driver. In a 2019 Wired video, former FBI agent Joe Navarro even calls arm-crossing a “self-soothing” gesture, meant to comfort yourself rather than to “block” others. So the next time you confront someone with a tough question and they cross their arms, don’t assume you’ve made them mad; the crossed arms might just mean they’re trying to come up with an answer.
Body language: Eye contact
If you want your body language or nonverbal communication to show you’re listening to another person, make eye contact. But limit it: An overly aggressive eye lock can be read as threatening. “When you give more than 80 percent, the person you are communicating with will feel uncomfortable,” explains Janine Driver, author of the New York Times bestseller You Can’t Lie to Me. Give too little (40 percent or less) and it can be a sign of deceit. The magic number? 60 percent, or a little more than half. “Give them eye contact, then slightly glance away.” Tracking eye movements is also a great way to tell someone is lying.