Body Language For Dummies book cover

Body Language For Dummies

By: Elizabeth Kuhnke Published: 06-29-2015

The complete guide to mastering the art of effective body language

Body Language For Dummies is your ideal guide to understanding other people, and helping them understand you. Body language is a critical component of good communication, and often conveys a bigger message than the words you say. This book teaches you how to interpret what people really mean by observing their posture, gestures, eye movements, and more, and holds up a mirror to give you a clear idea of how you're being interpreted yourself. This updated third edition includes new coverage of virtual meetings, multicultural outsourcing environments, devices, and boardroom behaviours for women, as well as insight into Harvard professor Amy Cuddy's research into how body language affects testosterone and cortisol, as published in the Harvard Business Review..

Body language is a fascinating topic that reveals how the human mind works. Image and presentation are crucial to successful communication, both in business and in your personal life. This book is your guide to decoding body language, and adjusting your own habits to improve your interactions with others.

  • Become a better communicator without saying a word
  • Make a better first (and second, and third...) impression
  • Learn what other people's signals really mean
  • Transform your personal and professional relationships

Realising what kind of impression you give is a valuable thing, and learning how to make a more positive impact is an incredibly useful skill. Whether you want to improve your prospects in job seeking, dating, or climbing the corporate ladder, Body Language For Dummies helps you translate the unspoken and get your message across.

Articles From Body Language For Dummies

9 results
9 results
Body Language For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 05-02-2022

Want to find out more about how to be the person you’ve always wanted to be? This Cheat Sheet tells you how to act "as if." Explore how to behave without giving the game away. Try a few easy exercises that will strengthen your body.

View Cheat Sheet
How to Impress at Job Interviews Using Body Language

Article / Updated 05-13-2016

Body language reveals a lot about how you are feeling. Before you’ve spoken at a job interview, interviewers will already have formed judgements based on your posture, gestures and facial expressions. There are a number of techniques you can use to make a positive impression and project confidence, commitment and credibility. What you should do before the job interview Send out a clear message that you belong in the organisation by projecting assured and confident behaviour. Relieve yourself of clutter and carry only what you need. Remain standing while you are waiting in reception. Chairs make you look small and can be awkward to get out of. Make a positive entrance: move confidently, smoothly and purposefully to be perceived as someone with an upbeat and positive attitude. Hesitations and shuffles make you appear unsure of yourself Instead of shaking hands across a desk, move around it so that there are no barriers between you and the other person. Return the same amount of pressure as the interviewer and let them decide when the handshake should end. What to do during the interview for a job Positioning: when invited to sit, try to ensure that your body is at a 45 degree angle from the other person. Facing the interviewer directly, especially if your chair is lower than his, can make you look like a child about to be reprimanded. Sit upright and don’t slouch. Answering questions: portray a positive and serious attitude through your body language, Close your mouth and breathe through your nose. Remember to hold your head vertically as though your chin is supported. Place your knees directly over your ankles with your feet planted firmly on the ground. This will make you appear grounded and secure, giving your answers added authority. Telltale signs of nervousness include fidgeting; picking at fingernails; scratching your face, head, neck or chest. They give the impression that you’re uncomfortable in this new environment and make it difficult for interviewers to have faith in your abilities. Watch yourself on video to check whether you demonstrate any of these behaviours: Replace a nervous gesture with another action. Let your hands rest on the desk or table in front of you. If there isn’t a surface, rest them in your lap. Keep your fingers closed to demonstrate confidence and control Use accessories to enhance your image: Decide what image you want to project and choose good quality accessories to project this.

View Article
Connecting the Mind and the Body

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

What you think about yourself is true for you and becomes your reality. Whether intentional or not, your body’s movements reflect your self-beliefs. Your subtle and not-so-subtle facial expressions, gestures, and postures reveal how you think and feel about yourself and govern how other people think and feel about you. Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy’s seminal research into the impact of body language on communication and interactions demonstrates the power of the mind/body connection and validates the connection between hormone levels and behavior. For a simple example, notice how your body expands when you’re feeling powerful and dominant and how it folds into itself when you’re feeling negative and full of doubt. Professor Cuddy’s research confirms that powerful people tend to be assertive, confident, and optimistic. Abstract thinkers and risk takers show high levels of testosterone, the hormone of strength and power, and low levels of cortisol, the hormone that regulates stress levels. People who are stress reactive and feel shut down experience the opposite, showing higher levels of cortisol and lower levels of testosterone. The great news from Professor Cuddy’s research is that you don’t have to feel assertive, comfortable, and confident in order to act as if you are. And when you act as if you are, others believe you are. Standing for two minutes in the superwoman/superman pose with your feet firmly planted in a wide-legged position, your hands on your hips with your elbows pointed outward fills you with a sense of purpose and power as your testosterone levels rise. Placing a pencil in a horizontal position between your teeth, which forces you to smile, also leads to positive feelings. So, before you venture forth into an evaluative situation, whether it’s giving a pitch, meeting the prospective in-laws or interviewing for your dream job, pop into a quiet room, lock the door, and adopt the superperson pose for two minutes. You’ll end up feeling and looking like someone who means business. And if you really want to feel good and make others feel good too, stick a pencil between your teeth and smile. Just remember to take it out before leaving the room!

View Article
Muscles and Your Mouth

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Whether you’re pursing, pinching or pouting, sneering, snarling or snapping, your mouth’s muscles are hard at work conveying myriad messages without you uttering a word. If in doubt, consider the actresses Dame Maggie Smith and Angelina Jolie. Dame Maggie’s mouth makes lips resembling a puckered prune synonymous with pride and disapproval while Jolie’s pillow-like pout conveys the promise of pleasurable possibilities. Unless you are physically incapable of moving your mouth muscles, use them. Not only do loose, slack lips resemble a piece of uncooked liver — not a pretty picture — they make communication difficult. If you don’t have a powerful base from which to bounce vowels and consonants, project passion and pain, and articulate your thoughts, feelings, and intentions, your listener struggles to understand what you’re trying to express. When words fail you or you can’t be bothered to utter them, let your lips do the talking. The main muscle controlling mouth movements is the orbicularis oris. Originating in the maxilla and mandible bones — your jaw — this big muscle, made up of lawyers of thin muscles, encircles the mouth and inserts directly into the lips. Recent research shows that the orbicularis oris, originally conceived as a sphincter, or circular muscle, is instead made up of four independent quadrants that meet, creating a circular appearance. Because this muscle is used for puckering the lips, it’s sometimes referred to as the kissing muscle. Because kissing is an important part of healthy relationships and feels good, too, make a point of exercising your mouth muscles on a daily basis. In addition to making you a better kisser, facial exercises improve your looks by toning your lips and cheeks, as well as firming the jaw line and chin. Facial exercises also help reduce the appearance and slow the onset of the wrinkles that appear around the upper lip. They decrease the depth of the nasolabial folds, the creases that extend from the bottom of your nose down the side of your mouth towards your chin. Fewer lines and wrinkles and more toned lips and cheeks make you look and feel fit and fun.

View Article
Communicating Across Cultures

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

In a diversified world in which you frequently communicate with people from countries and cultures different from your own, anticipating and sidestepping nationalistic landmines is as vital a skill as being adept at reading, writing and arithmetic. Unless, of course, you’re content and comfortable making faux pas, insulting others and demonstrating a lack of knowledge and respect, in which case, keep calm and carry on. Before you do, however, consider the possible outcomes. Because your beliefs and attitudes influence your behavior, negative thinking can lead to disappointing, if not downright disastrous, consequences! The first step in connecting with your audience, communicating a clear message, and creating productive relationships, is to note the behavior of the natives. By mirroring and matching — not miming or mocking — what you observe, you can begin building the foundation for successful intercultural relationships. Start slow and keep it simple. If, for example, you’re in conversation with someone from China, contain your gestures and keep your face calm. Demonstrate quiet respect in your demeanor, and you’re on the right path. The same applies when engaging with Russians. Too much overt body language, such as ingratiating smiles, expansive gestures, and quick movements are viewed with suspicion, whereas in America and Australia a bit of back slapping, pinching, punching, and raucous laughter are the norm. Behave like that in Asia at your peril. Take the safe path and follow the rules of respectful and deferential behavior. In Latin countries you’re expected to let your body do the talking. Thoughts, feelings, and intentions reveal themselves through gestures, movements, and facial expressions. Anger, love, passion, and pain are clearly conveyed through the flick of a finger, the whip of a wrist and the wink of an eye. In Southern Europe and South America, for example, specific hand and finger gestures convey clear intentions leaving the receiver in no doubt about the initiator’s thoughts and feelings. In Nordic countries the opposite is true. You could cause your hostess to choke were you to demonstrate the same kind of behaviors as your southern cousins. Should you find yourself in any of the Scandinavian countries, wondering how to behave, think: Cool and Contained. If you’re interested in learning more about cultural differences and communication go to ArgonautOnline. Until then, unless you’re familiar with the culture and its expectations keep your gestures to yourself. What is a sign of endearment at home can be rude and insulting somewhere else.

View Article
Top 10 Tips for Meeting the In-Laws

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

In-laws, out-laws, whatever you want to call them, these are the people who might view you with suspicion, distrust, and outright resentment. These are the people who can make your life miserable or magnificent. These are the people whose favor you want to garner. How you behave towards them influences how they behave towards you. Demonstrating respect to in-laws When meeting your beloved’s parents for the first time, treat them with respect. Of course, you should always treat people with respect, and no less so than when you want them to like you. Following the leader — letting your in-laws show you the way Observe how they behave and model what you see and hear. For example, if you notice that they’re contained in their gestures, measured in their movements, and restricted in their use of facial gestures, you’d be misadvised to bound into their territory like an unbridled stallion during mating season. Standing tall when dealing with in-laws Pull in your stomach, lift your chest, and lower your shoulders. Plant your feet firmly under your knees and hips to give you a sense of strength and pride. Shaking hands with your in-laws Unless you’re the one doing the entertaining, wait for the in-laws to offer their hands as a sign of greeting. Striding into their territory while thrusting out your hand, even as a sign of friendship, is a bit presumptuous. Looking the in-laws in the eye Unless your culture decrees otherwise, establish and maintain eye contact. Avoid staring as that can make others feel scrutinized, and while that may be what you’re doing, you don’t want to come across as an interrogator. Showing interest in your in-laws Even if his passion for star gazing makes you shudder and her penchant for needlepoint leaves you bleary eyed, pretend that you’re interested. Lean into the conversation, nod in appreciation, and keep your eyes focused on the other person and what they’re showing you. The more interest you show, the more interesting people think you are. Smiling for success when meeting the in-laws When you’re meeting someone for the first time, especially if this person is potentially important to you, smile. Most people respond positively to a warm and welcoming smile. Just leave the raucous laughter and black slapping for a night out with your friends. Minding your manners around your in-laws Scratching your head and picking your teeth and nose at the table are unacceptable behaviors. Get your elbows off the table and don’t gesture while holding your cutlery. When engaging in conversation over a meal, never speak with food in your mouth. Keeping calm around the in-laws Fidgeting fingers and flipping feet are clear signs of nervous energy. Unconscious body signals can indicate worry, anxiety, and a state of unease. Give yourself mental messages to contain your energy and put it to positive use. You could offer to set the table, pour the drinks, or help serve. Breathing around your in-laws Meeting people who you hope will like you can be a nerve-wracking experience. To make your nervous energy work for you, breathe deeply into your core, allowing your lower abdomen and rib cage to expand while your upper chest remains still. By breathing deeply, you gain physical and mental strength.

View Article
Managing Your Body Language When the Stakes Are High

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

An unconscious movement, an inadvertent gesture or an unwitting facial expression can give your game away faster than a speeding bullet. Below are a few tips for containing and controlling your body’s movements. Breathe with consciousness. Be aware of the air entering and leaving your body. Breathe slowly and deeply, allowing the nurturing oxygen to calm your nervous energy. Drop your shoulders. Gently release your shoulder blades, letting them meet at your spinal cord. Experience the sensation of tension melting downwards, escaping through your feet. Expand your upper body. Feel your ribcage swell in front, around your sides, and into your back. Experience the sensation of being bigger than you are. Hold your head in a neutral position. When you’re standing or sitting, keep your chin horizontal to the floor. Jutting your chin upwards, or letting it sink into your chest sends out signals of aggression and depression, respectively. Holding your head horizontally demonstrates strength, focus and direction. Keep your face still. Vladimir Putin is an expert at maintaining a still face. Inscrutable, impenetrable and impermeable, his stone-like mask conceals what he’s thinking, leaving the rest of us wondering what he’s got in mind. Avoid lip chewing, nostril flaring, and eyeball rolling if you want to demonstrate control. Contain your hand gestures. Flapping hands and fidgeting fingers are signs of stress. Loosely interlock your fingers and let them sit quietly in your lap or on the desk in front of you. You may also find that resting one hand rest on top of the other prevents them from leaking information you’d rather not reveal.

View Article
Building a Fit, Firm, and Flexible Body for Communication

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

A fit, firm, and flexible body enhances your ability to communicate with confidence and control. Below are a few exercises to help you improve your body’s ability to communicate your thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Before undertaking any form of exercise, lightly stretch your muscles to prevent injury. Gently roll your head and shoulders, slowly twist your torso from side to side, and stretch your limbs out wide. You might want to practice in a private, comfortable place as some of the expressions and movements can look and feel a little awkward. Strengthening your lips. Firm lips are a thing of beauty and have caused many sleepless nights. To build up your mouth muscles, pucker your lips slightly. From this position, bring the corners of your mouth as close together as possible by actively engaging the muscle. Hold your lips in this position for a count of five. Relax and repeat 10 times. Squeezing your buttocks. A tight bottom is attractive. And it feels good, too. To maintain your bottom’s upward lift and inviting appearance, squeeze your glutes tightly for a count of five. Relax and repeat ten times. Stretching your hands. Your hands get a steady workout during the day whether they’re tapping the keyboard, lifting and carrying, or just stroking the dog. To give your fingers a bit of a respite, put them together in the prayer position, finger tips pointing upwards, heels of the palms together. Push your fingertips tightly together, allowing the heels of your palms to separate. Relax and repeat ten times.

View Article
Acting 'As If' to Become the Person You Want to Be

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You don’t have to be an actor to act ‘as if’. You just have to act ‘as if’ you are. The more you act ‘as if’ you are that person, the more you become that person. Below are a few tips for getting you started on the path of becoming the person you long to be. Begin by asking yourself, ‘What do people in control do? What behaviors do they demonstrate? What do they say?’ If you can identify the behaviors and replicate them yourself, you can convince anyone who’s watching that you are what you say you are. If you were acting as if you were the person you would like to be, how would you be acting? If you could see a film of your life, what would be different? If a good friend were to see you several months from now and you were more like the person you want to be, what would this person see you doing differently? What might some initial indicators be that would demonstrate that you are headed in the right direction? If you want to come across as a person in control, the one to turn to when all else fails, the one you can count on to get the job done, you have to act ‘as if’ you were that person. Once you have the answers to those questions, you’re well on your way to being the person you want to be.

View Article