A great deal of communication occurs in what remains unspoken — in body language, gestures, facial expressions and use of space. In fact, one study at UCLA found that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by non-verbal cues!
Learning how to read body language is an important skill that will help you improve your interactions with colleagues, employees and supervisors. Pay attention to what non-verbal cues tell you about what another person is feeling or thinking, but be careful to evaluate a single factor in context with other signs. For example, a person may avoid making prolonged eye contact out of awkwardness, dishonesty or simple shyness, but that action combined with another — fidgeting or crossed limbs — can give you a more complete picture.
Positive Body Language Cues
- Comfortable periods of eye contact, balanced with looking down or looking away naturally (shows engagement in the conversation)
- Leaning in to speak to the other person (demonstrates interest and comfort)
- Genuine smiles (difficult to fake, shows openness and honesty)
- Relaxed body language and uncrossed limbs (communicates friendliness and ease with the conversation)
Negative Body Language Cues
- Blinking excessively (can be a sign of distress or discomfort) or too infrequently (can be a sign of trying to control eye movement intentionally)
- Intense eye contact without looking away (can communicate a threatening demeanor)
- Leaning away from the other person (can be a sign of discomfort)
- Pursed lips or lip biting (can signal distaste or anxiousness)
- Crossed arms or legs (can communicate self-defensiveness or being closed off to the conversation)
- Tapping feet or fingers (can signal boredom, frustration or impatience)
- Clenched fists or tensed body (can be a sign of anger or hostility)
What other non-verbal cues can help you learn how to read body language?