What Does Your Body Language Say About You

From the way you dress to how you stand in public waiting for your transportation, your body never stops relaying messages and, to me, that’s the most fascinating thing about body language. As students, we subconsciously communicate via our body language in class, when we converse with our family and friends, or even when we’re studying by ourselves! That’s because body language is the big umbrella of many things, including facial expressions and postures. But here comes the critical question, what are some of the existing analyses that you can apply to your everyday life?

#1. Your Smile


Have you ever felt like you’re smiling from the bottom of your heart? This always happens when my friends are pitching ridiculous jokes and I’d laugh until my legs grow soft. A Duchenne smile, named after a French anatomist who studies different expressions of emotion, is characterised as the smile of true enjoyment and delight — when your smile involves the muscles of the mouth, cheek, and eyes simultaneously. So now you know if your friends react to your jokes with a Duchenne smile, it is out of genuine laughter and happiness.

When I was performing my emcee duty for a livestream, I had to plaster a smile on my face throughout the show. Surprise surprise, this kind of smile also has a name! A Pan Am smile, or you may know it as a ‘fake smile’ is the kind of smile that requires you to put extra effort on your facial muscles to keep the corners of your mouth high. While it’s commonly associated with the smile of flight attendants and people in the tertiary industry, this name originated from a discontinued airline — Pan Am, which trained its flight attendants to smile so unnaturally that it is now named after the airline. 

Another fun information is that research has found an embarrassed or shy smile is often accompanied by your head tilting downwards or looking to your left, and you’d notice that you’re touching your face and neck areas more frequently too.

#2. Your Limbs and Posture


You might have heard that when one is having their arms crossed at the front, they’re feeling defensive. But Joe Navarro, a nonverbal communication expert says otherwise. It’s seen as a self-soothing behaviour, almost like a self-hug. This can be seen more frequently in public places than in private, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar situation.

As you’re passionately rumbling through the things you want to share, pay attention to your listener’s feet as well! Regardless if you’re standing or sitting, your feet are always a striking resemblance of the direction you want to go. If your listener’s feet are pointing at you, then lucky you, he or she is interested in the conversation. However, if their feet are pointing elsewhere or at another person, then they might feel more interested to converse with them at that moment.

#3. Your Gaze


I know this is cliche, but speaking from personal experiences I do have to concur that our eyes are the windows to our souls. When you’re speaking to a person face-to-face, are they looking at you while you speak, often rubbing their eyes, or looking in other directions?

Eye-rubbing, blinking, and squinting are common gestures of shielding the eye and it’s a signal that the person is feeling uncomfortable. Whenever someone performs this gesture, it normally indicates that the person you’re talking to is disagreeing with what they are hearing or seeing.

Another fun fact is that your pupils actually dilate when you see something pleasant or stimulating (like when I know I’ll be having pizza for dinner). Vice versa, when the stimuli is something negative or uncomfortable, your pupils tend to contact and block out the unpleasant imagery.

Additionally, one of the more popular eye-reading assessments are eye directions. To summarise, a right-handed person would usually look up and to the left when they are recalling a memory, and look up to the right when they are lying to delve into their imaginary side of the brain. But don’t keep staring at the person you’re talking to when you’re assessing their eye directions!

#4. Your Gesture


If you place close attention to a person onstage delivering their speech, you’d notice that their most frequent movements are their hand gestures. When a person is punching a solid fist in the air, it usually symbolises their determination and passion for the things that they’re advocating. 

When you’re speaking and you are holding up a gesture of connecting your thumb and your index finger, you’re stressing and emphasising something that you want your audience to focus on. If used effectively, this highlights the main points of your speech that you want your audience to take away.

Another familiar phenomenon is pointing. Us humans often feel unsettled when other people are pointing directly at us because we feel targeted and invaded, which isn’t a comfortable experience! But sometimes when the speaker is encouraging us to act on something and we’re pointed upon, we might also feel the sense of inclusivity and duty to participate with the group. But please be careful when you demonstrate this gesture and don’t upset the people around you! In fact, using your thumb may be more polite instead of pointing with your index finger.

There are still many untold tales of body language waiting for you to explore! It can assist not only professionals, but ordinary people like you and me so we could gain our emotional awareness to build better relationships. You can also get more tips on perfecting your body language here! As a final note, do not underestimate the capability of your body language, you might be more influential than you think. Always treat everyone you meet in life with respect, authenticity, and integrity.

Emma Chee Luo Yi is currently pursuing her Cambridge A-Levels at Taylor's College and is part of the Executive Members of Taylor’s Lakeside Model United Nations Club.

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