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The psychology and evolution behind your body language and the importance of understanding it

The body does not lie

I’ll now go through all of the big body areas and explain what and how they communicate. Keep in mind that people making these movements are unaware of them in the vast majority of situations. Also, none of these should be used as single indicators of intent, search for multiple signs before you make your conclusion. And the most important rule is that you should always keep the context of the situation in mind.


The biggest head and face signals have been listed at the start, they can be faked, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply them in your communication. Of course not in a manipulative way, but in a way which enhances your point and leaves a positive impression on the other person.

Torso and arms

As is the case with the head, the torso movements can also be faked, but it’s much less common.

Let’s start with the negative signals of the torso and arms:

  • Leaning away — If someone is leaning away from you it signals that they are feeling some sort of discomfort, be it your bad breath or smell, be it that they don’t like you or just don’t feel comfortable around you yet.
  • Hiding the heart — Our heart and lungs are vital organs, so if we don’t trust someone or feel nervous around them we protect the key organs by crossing our hands over our chest. Women sometimes use their purses as protection, while men subtly do it by adjusting their watch or tie.
    Keep in mind that this is a very comfortable position and people often do this for that reason. But if someone crosses their arms in the middle of the conversation and keeps them crossed, it’s a fair guess that they are uncomfortable or in a disagreement with you.
Not me lol
  • Stiffness in arm movements — When people are really uncomfortable or anxious the body freezes and the movement of the arms gets really stiff. Notice how you easily drop stuff when you are nervous.

Moving onto the positive indications of the torso and arms:

  • Leaning towards/facing — This one is probably common knowledge but when people enjoy your company or like you they will usually go out of their way to face you or unconsciously lean forward in order to absorb as much of you as possible, so to speak.
  • Mimicking — When interacting with someone they like or wish to establish rapport with, people will mimic their body language to show comfort.
  • Arms raised high — This one is really easy to spot, when you see a friend after a long time and go in for a hug, pay attention to how high they’ve raised their arms as it is a clear indicator of how happy they are to see you. A general rule is that any body movement that goes against gravity is an indicator of positive emotion.
Find friends that hug you like this

Legs and feet

We are now moving onto the two most honest human body parts. 
Who would have expected that our legs and feet said so much, but it all makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Feet were a huge factor in the survival of our ancestors, whether it was feeling the terrain while walking through darkness or being able to quickly move away if they stumble onto a snake.

The negative indicators of legs and feet:

  • Suddenly spreading legs — When a person spreads their legs while standing in the middle of a conversation it means they feel threatened and are ready to fight or flee.
  • Playing with shoes or moving legs while in conversation — This is a sign that a person wants more attention. (I would regard this as a neutral indicator)
  • Interlocking feet — This is a big sign that the person is feeling anxious or threatened.

The positive indicators of legs and feet:

  • Crossed legs — If someone has their legs crossed while talking to you it means they feel comfortable in your presence. If two people are talking and both have their legs crossed that indicates a very high level of comfort.
  • Turning feet towards you — If when you enter a conversation or someone’s presence they turn their feet towards you, know for sure that they enjoy your company.
  • Happy feet — When a person is moving their feet up and down or raising their legs high they are feeling a strong positive emotion.

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