What is body language?

by | Nov 12, 2019


Types of body language motions

Several examples of body language and their meaning

Final words



So, what is body language?

The key to success and wealth usually lies in the quality of your communication with your coworkers or friends; nevertheless, your communication doesn’t necessarily need to be verbal. On the contrary, that is the nonverbal way of communication that always speaks the loudest.

Body language, as the name suggests, is a method of talking using the body. No word is used in the language of the body. It is defined as a nonverbal type of communication in which you use physical motions to convey a message. Body language is what we do instinctively, not consciously. 

Even if you are oblivious to that, you are constantly using body language every time you interact with others. All the gestures you make, the tone of your voice, your eye contact, etc, are conveying strong messages along with what you verbally say. 

In this article, we are going to learn the types of body language motions and interpret them. You can use it to enhance your relationship in either your workplace or your family.


Types of body language motions


Body language generally consists of these behaviors:

  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Body postures
  • Gestures
  • Space
  • Touch
  • Voice

Let us review in brief all the types of body language listed above.


Eye contact

Maybe you have heard the phrase “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Eye contact is one of the most essential types of body language. That is because you can use this powerful communicative method to deliver a vast majority of messages to the viewer. How you look at someone can deliver absolutely different messages to them, such as hatred, love, hostility, friendship, attraction, demands, etc.

Aside from that, you can assess the behaviors of the listener by investigating their eye contact. If the listener is enthusiastic about what you say, their eye contact in addition to their other body language signals can help you decide whether or not they like to keep listening to you. On the other hand, if the listener is occasionally averting their looks or frequently looking away, this might indicate that they are distracted, not listening to you carefully.

body language eye contact

the eyes are the windows to the soul

Facial expression

Your face is able to talk on behalf of you very well. On many occasions, using facial expressions better than words can let others know what you mean. Maybe it is not unwise if one says the face can speak better than the tongue.

The good point about facial expressions is that the face’s language is global. The facial expressions for anger, sadness, happiness, sorrow, etc are the same across various cultures in the world.

Facial expressions can be used to convey many different messages. Below are only some:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Hatred
  • Fear
  • Desire
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Excitement
  • Surprise


Body postures

Have you ever meticulously watched how people move their bodies on different occasions? You might think they are quiet, but in fact, they are constantly speaking using their body postures. The way you stand, walk, sit, or move your hand is constantly sending numerous signals to others about you.

Body movements and postures are absolutely crucial. They shape your overall characteristics. People are sometimes affected by your body postures even more than what you really say.



Have you ever noticed the movements of someone’s hands while speaking? How do they beckon, point, or wave their hands? Most people move their hands subtly while speaking, without even knowing they are doing it. These movements are giving life to their personality and way of speaking. They use their tongue to speak, while their gestures are assisting the listener to understand what they mean.

Although most of the gestures have their specific meaning in a cultural area, some have a completely different meaning in another. You need to be careful while using them when you are a foreigner in a different country. For example, moving your thumbs up in most countries connotes the OK message, though it might be considered offensive in some other countries such as Germany and Russia. For that reason, you must be aware of your gestures when in a different culture.



Have you ever noticed how close or far people stand when talking to you? Some people tend to stand very close to the others, while some may prefer to stand a little further. That space is somehow like your physical territory and maybe you do not like it to be invaded; all the same, people in different cultures may have different interpretations of how close or far people stand next to each other.

Apart from different cultures, the closeness of a relationship also determines and describes the physical space between two people. Your loved ones may stand closer to you than others. In brief, the space between people can be used as a means to convey nonverbal messages too, including signs of intimacy, aggression, etc.



Do not take the ability to touch for granted. You can communicate with others well through touching. As an example, from tomorrow, pay close attention to how hard different people squeeze your hands when you shake their hands. This can simply help you know things about those people.

You can convey many messages through touching. Consider the messages you receive by a weak handshake, a warm hug, a hope-giving pat on the back, or a grip on the forearm. You can let people know you are supportive or even better, you love them.



Do not get confused, by voice we do not mean what you say. It is all about “how” you say things. In brief, the tone of your voice can also deliver a huge versatility of messages to the listener.

When you talk, people can “read” your voice in addition to hear it. How you make pauses and use timing, how loud your voice is, the tone of your voice, and voices that convey confirmation of what you have heard such as “aha,” are some examples of how you can use your voice in your body language. The tone of your voice can show sarcasm, hatred, love, anger, etc if you pay attention to it well.


Several examples of body language and their meaning

Now that you well know what body language is and what types it has, let us review some examples of body language and see what they probably mean.


Eye gaze

When someone is directly looking into your eyes when you talk, it almost certainly means that they are attracted and excited about what you say. On the other hand, if someone tends to look away from you and pay attention to different things while you speak, it indicates that the person is distracted and does not fully care about what you say.


Arms crossed

Arms crossed across the chest almost always indicate defensive attitudes. You may also seem angry or stubborn holding your arms like that. Additionally, holding arms across the chest can also mean the temperature is too cold where you are.

body language crossed arms

Arms crossed across the chest almost always indicate defensive attitudes.



Interpretation of smiles and their different types might be sometimes tricky. That is because there are various types of smiles including happy smiles, shy smiles, fake smiles, ironic smiles, etc. As opposed to fake smiles, happy real smiles consist of pulling two corners of your mouth up while squeezing your eyes. People are smart and more often than not can detect the type of smile. Then, do not try to deceive people using your fake smiles.


Tapping fingers

Tapping fingers usually mean you are nervous and maybe impatient.


Biting lips

People usually bite their lips when they are worried, anxious, or stressed.

body language lip biting

Covering the mouth

People might cover their mouth in order not to let you see their emotional reaction. Maybe they are concealing their smiles or smirks behind their hands.



The way you shake hands implies different messages too. A firm grip can introduce you as a confident person. A weak squeeze can show you are unsure. The duration of your handshake can connote various messages too. If you drop your hands too quickly, you might be considered to be shy.

body languages handshakes

The way you shake hands implies different messages.



Bouncing your head up and down during a conversation can show you are interested in and agree with what people are saying. This makes them excited, helping them keep the rest of their conversation with more excitement.


Gestures of hands

If you want to make your speech memorable, talk with your hands. When you use your hands to talk along with your tongue, you are making your words penetrate deeper into the listener’s head. Despite the benefits of this action, you have to be cautious not to overdo it as it might make you seem out of control and too excited.


Pressed lips

Did you know that liars more than truthful persons tend to press their lips on each other while talking and lying? Be careful and do not let people think you are a liar by tightening your lips, even if you actually are.

body language tightening lips

Do not let people think you are a liar by tightening your lips



If you copy the way someone stands, speaks, expresses their ideas, etc, you are often generating trust and understanding between the two of you; however, you need to be careful not to do it in all of the situations. For example, when the person you are talking to is a subordinate of yours, copying them may seem weird.


Other examples

There are countless body movements and each may have different meanings. People instinctively learn most of them, though some might need to be taught. Some have different meanings in different cultures. Also, people may understand two different meanings from one body movement due to the intricacy of a situation.


Final words

Better understanding the body language will eventually lead to having a better relationship with others. This way, others will read what you mean by your body language faster. You can also do the same when detecting the type of people’s body movement. Then, learning how to interpret the language of the body seems to be vital in your everyday life.

As you read above, your body language is in a close relationship with your personality. Each and every movement of your body may reveal something about you. As an example, one might consider you to be a shy and weak person; however, you can practice managing your body language in order to change their minds.

About Sanan Sanani

About Sanan Sanani

Co-founder and CEO of Sanani Holding Ltd and Sterling Property Advisors.

Sanan Sanani is an entrepreneur, a savvy businessman and self-proclaimed workaholic who loves to stay busy and make clients happy. 

Sanan Sanani

My page on Facebook

Enjoyed the content?



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *