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What Can I Learn from Reading and Observing Body Language? Part II

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

If you read my last blog post, which was part one of this two-part blog series, you learned many things that you would be able to observe from the body language of others. It discussed studying the eyes, facial movements, and proximity of body positioning. Part two includes information about mirroring, head movements, feet and hand signals, and more!

Is the other person mirroring you? 

Mirroring of body language or behavior involves the other person mimicking a person’s body language and movements. For example, a common mirroring gesture would involve taking a sip of a drink at the same time. When your body language is being mimicked, it typically means that the other person is trying to establish rapport with you – so this is a good sign.

Head movements 

Typically, the speed at which a person nods their head when you are speaking indicates patience – or lack thereof. Slow nodding is a sign of interest and tells the other person that you want them to keep talking. Fast nodding indicates the person feels as if they have heard enough and wants

you to finish speaking or give them a turn. Additionally, tilting the head sideways conveys a sign of interest in what the other person is saying. Contrarily, tilting the head backward conveys uncertainty or suspicion.


People are often so wrapped up in gaining control of their facial body language and other parts of their bodies that they forget about their feet. But typically people’s feet are pointed in the direction that they want to go in. This could apply to one-on-one interaction or group interaction. If someone’s feet are pointed towards you, this typically means that they have a favorable opinion of you.

Hand signals 

Hand usage and positioning can be important when reading body language. When hands are in pockets while standing, it can indicate anything ranging from nervousness to outright deception. Also, interestingly enough, people tend to unconsciously point in the direction of the person they

share an affinity with. You will see this often in meetings and when working with groups. While supporting the head with both hands on a surface can indicate boredom, supporting the head with your hand and resting the elbow on a table can indicate interest and that the person is holding the head still to listen. Objects that are held between a person while speaking to someone else can be viewed as a barrier or can be considered as a blocking act when it comes to non-verbal communication.  

Positioning of Arms

The arms should be viewed as a doorway to the body itself. Crossed arms when talking to a person is typically viewed as a defensive or blocking endeavor. Crossed arms can also indicate “anxiety, vulnerability, or a closed mind.” However, crossed arms paired with a genuine smile and a relaxed posture indicate a confident attitude. Hands placed upon the hips is typically a gesture used to exert dominance unto another person – and it’s used more commonly by men than women.

Although this two-part blog series can give you intel into the behaviors and motives of the behavior of others, it’s important to remember that it is not foolproof. These techniques will not apply to all people 100% of the time – many times body language can be situational. Also, a person’s personality, general body language, and culture need to be taken into consideration.


How to read body language – revealing the secrets behind

common nonverbal cues. Fremont college. Retrieved from:


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