Topic – Body Language: What Does It Mean?

Share to Brightspace Continue with Brightspace

Read the Following Selection

Read the following selection, or click on the play button below to listen aloud.

Body Language: What Does It Mean?

Body language is how we communicate without words or sound (nonverbal communication). Some researchers think we communicate with body language between 50 and 70 percent of the time. That is a lot of nonverbal communication.

Experts who study body language agree that body language can tell us what someone is thinking or feeling. They also agree that there are general actions which have meanings that we can use to understand body language. Experts say interpreting body language is not an exact science; body language only gives clues. But interpreting the clues can be interesting.

Facial expressions are probably the first and best clues as to what a person is feeling, even if they are saying something different. So many emotions can be shown by the face, such as happiness, anger, fear, confusion, and surprise. And facial expressions are generally universal. This means they do not change much from culture to culture.   

Your mouth alone can say a lot. Smiling is probably the best-known way you can communicate with your body, but a smile can mean different things. It may mean the person is happy, but it may also express false happiness or sarcasm. If the mouth is turned down, it may mean that the person is sad or even in pain. Pursed lips might show that the person is feeling distrustful or disgusted. Biting the lip might mean someone is worried or anxious.

Eyes can say a lot too. If a person looks directly into your eyes while having a conversation, this might mean that the person is interested and paying attention. But someone who stares at you for a long time may be threatening. Blinking can be a clue too. People who blink rapidly may be feeling uncomfortable.

Arms and legs can give us clues. Crossed arms might mean that the person is feeling defensive about something. Standing with hands-on-hips might show that the person is in control. A person who is rapidly tapping his or her fingers could be bored, impatient, or angry.

Posture is how we hold our bodies, and it can tell us a lot about a person. For example, if you are sitting up straight, this might mean that you are paying attention. If you are slumped in your chair or hunched over, you might be bored or you might not care what is happening around you.

You can use body language to better understand how someone else feels. You can also use it yourself to show how you are feeling. So if you want to show someone that you are interested in what they are saying, stand up straight, uncross those arms, and look directly into his or her eyes. That person will get the message.

Now, show what you know!

Complete some questions about the reading selection by clicking “Begin Questions” below.