How to Read Body Language

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Understanding body language is a skill that can enhance your life. You can know what a person thinks and feels by examining their subconscious body language. This article will help hone this social advantage you can gain over people in your life. You must watch from head to toe to see their actions. 


  1. Gauge how close someone is to you. The closer they are, the warmer their opinions are of you. The farther away that someone is, the less they care. It is worth noting that personal space is culturally fluid; keep in mind that what is considered close in one country is far away in another.
  2. Watch their head position.
    • Overly tilted heads are either a potential sign of sympathy, or if a man smiles while tilting his head, he is flirting. Alternatively, the person is trying to convince you of their honesty.
    • Lowered heads indicate a reason to hide something. Take note if someone lowers their head. If it is when he is complimented, he may be shy, ashamed, timid, keeping distance from the other person, in disbelief, or thinking to himself. If it is after an explanation, then he may be unsure if what he said was correct.
      • It should be noted that some cultures see this as a sign of respect.
    • Cocked heads mean that they are confused or challenging you, depending on eye, eyebrow, and mouth gestures.
  3. Look into their eyes.
    • Liars will consecutively look at you and look away a number of times. You can actually learn specifically how to observe behavior to judge whether someone is lying. However, some liars will make more eye contact than usual in an attempt to make you believe they are telling you the truth.
    • People who look away while supposedly listening to you are thinking about something else. This is why when you are talking to a group of people, if an item in conversation strikes the one looking away, they will ask for you to repeat the story. You can usually tell if a person is remembering something or making something up based on their eye's movements. When someone is remembering details, their eyes move to the right (your right). When someone is making something up, their eyes move to the left. It's usually reversed for lefties.
    • Some cultures believe that looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of disrespect.
    • Auditory learners may look from side-to-side and repeat phrases in an effort to retain information.
    • Dilated pupils mean that the person is interested. Keep in mind, however, that many drugs cause pupils to dilate, including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, LSD and others. Don't mistake having a few drinks for attraction. Also, some people have permanently dilated pupils (a condition known as mydriasis).
    • Looking to the side means that the person feels guilty.
    • When you ask somebody where they were, look very carefully at the way they look. If they look to the right( for right handers) they are recalling an event or a memory, meaning that they are telling the truth. However, if they look to the left they are making something up (this is why people look to the left when they are daydreaming, but to the right when they are remembering). It is exactly the opposite if someone is left handed. Sometimes a person might look up and move their lips to the side. That means they are thinking. Especially if you are interrogating, look out for people doing this when they try to give an alibi.
  4. See if they're mirroring you. Mirroring is another common gesture. If someone mirrors, or mimics your appearance, this is a very genuine sign that they are interested in you.
  5. Check their arms.
    • People with crossed arms are closing themselves to social influence. The worst thing that you can do to people with crossed arms is to challenge them in one way or another, no matter how they react. This annoys them. Though some people just cross their arms as a habit, it may indicate that the person is (slightly) reserved, uncomfortable with their weight (therefore trying to hide it), or just trying to hide something on their shirt.
    • If someone rests their arms behind their neck, they are open to what is being discussed and interested in listening more. They may be waiting to state their opinion on the matter.
    • Look at the location of their hands. If their hands are in their pockets, then they are more relaxed and are more likely to be attracted to you.
  6. Be aware of nervous gestures:
    • If someone brushes their hair back with their fingers, this may be preening, a common gesture if the person likes you, or their thoughts about something conflict with yours. They might not voice this. If you see raised eyebrows during this time, you can be pretty sure that they disagree with you.
    • If the person wears glasses, and is constantly pushing them up onto their nose again, with a slight frown, that may also indicate they disagree with what you are saying. Look to make sure they push up their glasses with an intent, not casually adjusting them. Look for pushing on the rim with two fingers, or an extra motion of wiggling the side of their glasses. The frown or raised eyebrows should tip you off.
    • If they are playing or fiddling with their hair (a girl may twirl a lock of her tresses around a finger), they are feeling self-conscious, flirting, or possibly uncomfortable.
    • If someone is biting their lip, they are anticipating something or holding back. Or it could just be out of habit.
    • Lowered eyebrows and squinted eyes illustrate an attempt at understanding what is being said or going on. It's usually skeptical. (Or maybe they have a problem seeing things e.g. short-sightedness, astigmatism...)
  7. Watch their feet:
    • A fast tapping, shifting of weight, or movement of the foot will most often mean that the person is impatient, excited, nervous, scared, or intimidated.
    • Slowly shifting weight usually means that someone is distracted, uncomfortable, or bored.


  • If people mimic you or your tone and pace of talking they usually like you, and are comfortable with you.
  • It's easy to spot a confident person; they will make prolonged eye contact and have a strong posture. Long eye contact can also be found in lover's eye's. Those not in love will be at an equilibrium of social stature. A bond of equals.
  • If people laugh excessively, it may be dishonest, or they just might be very naturally jovial, or happy. Use your best judgment. Some people laugh out of nervousness. The person may be trying to give you any excuse to look up if you are looking down then when you do look up smile.
  • Don't isolate yourself by constantly examining body language when interacting with people. Otherwise, there is no reason to gain a social upper hand anyway. This is paralysis by analysis.
  • Watch the face, it will usually give off a quick involuntary and sometimes subconscious twitch when something happens that irritates, excites, or amuses them.
  • Try not to judge the person, everyone shows multiple sides of themselves to different people. a person who has not decided to open up to you will act differently than someone who has (a close friend).


  • To be fully competent in such an art/science takes years of analytical study. There are always exceptions to the rule.
  • Understanding the equilibrium between attentiveness to body language and verbal language is very important to being a successful communicator.

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Read Body Language. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.