Understanding Body Language and Nonverbal Communication

People understand the concept of body language and the importance of nonverbal communication but don't really have a one-stop source for reference.

In this article, I will attempt to share the basics of understanding body language and nonverbal communication.

This article will not be an exhaustive or detailed description of body language basics, but it will be an excellent reference to turn to when you are trying to figure things out. Suppose you notice a person consistently acting a certain way when you talk to them but cannot figure out why she's acting that way. In that case, this basic description of body language may help.

Nonverbal Communication and Observation

Keep in mind that when observing body language signals in nonverbal communication, you must look for a combination of signals. If you base your observation on just one signal you see, you may be entirely wrong in your conclusion. Someone looking up to the left with their eyes during conversation may not necessarily lie. The person could be thinking of a creative way to answer a question.

Rule number one, " there is no Pinnochio effect," it doesn't exist a single gesture for deception. It's all about cluster (group of signals indicating deception), context, and interpretation.

Some Body Language Basics

When someone is stroking their chin, this could mean they are making a decision on something. Some people actually stroke their cheeks or hair when making a decision. Clasping or putting the hands together upwards as if to pray has also been used when making a decision. When a person tilts their head, this usually means they are interested in more information. Dogs and robots do this to express they are waiting for more information.

A friend of mine constantly bites his nails. While this typically means a person is nervous or insecure about something, it could also mean they have a bad habit.

When you notice someone pinching their nose (without hands) and/or closing their eyes, this usually means they are reacting negatively to something.

I knew a man who would close his eyes when people would talk to him, but he didn't pinch his nose. If you knew him well enough, you would know that he was simply trying to tune into a spiritual vibe for direction in the conversation. People think that when someone touches or slightly rubs their nose, they may be lying or expressing doubt about something; this is an urban legend. Yes, some studies revealed that in most cases, in case of deception, the person is touching or rubbing her nose. We call it the Pinocchio effect, and I don't know how true that is. Maybe they just have an itch.


One common mistake in nonverbal communication, I believe, gets a bad reputation is when someone crosses his arms. The idea here is that they are closing themselves. But in reality, there are so many meanings about the arms crossed that the only way to interpret this gesture is the context.

At which moment or in which situation that gesture happened?

Crossed arms can also be a position of relaxation; it would most likely mean they are relaxed.

I invite you to read more in the following articles. Our communication is way more subtle and complex than just words.

Words are meaningless, and your nonverbal communication must be your priority to be mastered.

Till next.

Guy Pardillos

Guy Pardillos, Mentalist, consultant & trainer in Nonverbal Communication.

I entertain, train, and coach people to strengthen their communication skills using the power of nonverbal communication to overcome obstacles standing between them and their greatness.

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