When you have a conversation with somebody, you can't always count on just their words to entirely figure out what's going on. While it may be tricky to figure out how a person is feeling without them explicitly saying it, reading their body language can be a clear indicator of what they might be hiding.
But while there's a plethora of poses people can exhibit, there are some that are significantly more common than others. If you're curious to know what they represent, you're just in luck.
Here are seven popular body language poses and the meaning behind them.
1. Crossed Arms
Although it's typically assumed a person is either agitated, insecure or anxious when their arms are crossed, that's not always the case. This stance could just mean a person is concentrated and working on a difficult task.
Janine Driver, a trained lie detection expert for the ATF, FBI, and CIA, said one study showed that participants who crossed their arms and were tasked with difficult math questions were 30% more likely to attempt to solve the problem compared to those who kept their hands on the desk.
"The act of crossing your arms utilizes both your left and right brain, creating higher cognitive function," Driver explained.
2. Crossed Legs
It's well known that how a person positions their legs is a huge indicator of one's feelings. But, having your legs crossed by your ankles, the knees or ankle over the knee can symbolize two different moods.
According to Driver, having your legs crossed at the ankle is called an "ankle lock," which represents feelings of uncertainty, fearfulness, and being closed off from your peers.
However, if your legs are crossed knee-over-knee, which is otherwise known as a "figure four," you're exhibiting a confident, open, and relaxed aura.
"We have three areas on our body where we open up when we are stress-free and relaxed: the neck dimple, belly button, and 'naughty bits,'" Driver said.
But, according to the authors of The Definitive Book of Body Language, Barbara and Allen Pease, men are most attracted to women who have their legs crossed over their knees - even though other sources claim the position signifies aloofness or being emotionally withdrawn.
3. Change In Head Position
If you want to know if somebody is lying to you, make sure to pay attention to how quickly they change the position of their head, especially if it's immediately after you ask them a question.
"The head will be retracted or jerked back, bowed down, or cocked or tilted to the side (when lying)," Dr. Lillian Glass, a behavioral analyst and body language expert said.
4. Hands On Hip
When you see someone with their hands on their hips, you'll automatically assume you're in for trouble.
Mainly due to this pose's pointed elbows, it comes off as an aggressive stance, even if that's not the feeling you're trying to portray.
Most people should be aware that it's also a "readiness" gesture that is meant to represent a person's confidence and that's they're ready to accomplish big things.
5. Sitting With Legs Spread
Dubbed "manspreading" by the media, this pose is when a person has their legs spread out while sitting down. It's often associated with a feeling of dominance and superiority over one's peers.
"People with power are seen to take up more space," Driver noted.
However, others interpret a person carelessly having their legs sprawled out as someone who's simply comfortable and relaxed with themselves and the environment they're in.
6. Tapping Your Feet
If you see someone constantly tap their foot, it can mean a person is either becoming increasingly anxious or in a hurry to get going or pick up a peer's attention.
But, if you're exhibiting the latter behavior, you should keep an eye on your actions as it may come with a risk with being perceived as rude.
"You may want to tap your toes if you’re trying to get someone’s attention and don’t want to say something rude. It’s a little way of signaling that you’re feeling time pressured without yelling or engaging in sarcastic eye-rolling," Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst explained.
7. Touching Your Nose
Scientifically known as the "Pinocchio Effect," seeing someone touch their nose is another sign the person in front of you may be lying.
According to scientists at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, when a person is feeling nervous and lies, hormones called catecholamines are released, which causes the tissue in your nose to become enlarged. It also creates an increase in your blood pressure, therefore making you feel an itch in there as well.
While you can't actually see the nose get larger, you will notice that the individual in question will either start to rub or scratch it.
But while lying does cause the swelling to happen, it could also occur when a person is feeling upset, angry, or anxious.
For more tips on body language, check out these informative reads:
- 7 Simple Body Language Tricks That Can Make Your Life A Lot Easier
- Use These Six Body Language Tips To Appear Confident To Those Around You
- 10 Things That Make You Less Attractive, According to Science