Even if someone tries to hide what he’s really thinking, his hand signals can tell youthe truth. If you are sensitive to the language of his hands, you can make an appropriate course of action and even get a good response. Hand gestures that are larger than the outlines of your body — communicates a large idea or concept.
List of body language: hands and arms gestures
- Hands behind the back. This usually shows some amount of confidence, as the front torso and vital parts are exposed. You will often see this in men, and while it is always better to show hands, this is perhaps the exception to the rule as far as hand confidence displays go. For many people, this hand position makes them feel totally uncomfortable when they are being looked at. They feel naked.
- Palms up. Open palms usually have a positive effect on people. It’s effective in making amends or closing a sale. Combined with outstretched arms, it communicates acceptance, openness and trustworthiness.
- Hands on the heart. This conveys a person’s desire to be believed or accepted. Though intended to communicate sincerity, it doesn’t necessarily mean honesty. It just means, “I want you to believe me (whether or not what I say is true”.
- Rubbing hands together. Hand-rubbing indicates anticipation or relishing something to come. We use self-rubbing gestures to dissipate stress – and being overly excited in anticipation of something to come is a form of positive stress.
- Clasping hands, squeezing hands together is a self-pacifying gesture. A person who does this is uncomfortable, maybe even nervous or fearful. He’s trying to assure himself, “Everything’s going to be alright.” A variation of this is rubbing the wrist. Clasped hands with interwoven fingers indicate great anxiety and frustration. That person is thinking, “Things are going really bad”. You better prepare yourself when you spot this.
- Cracking knuckles expresses readiness for action, more often associated with men.
- Steepling is when palms that face each other and just the fingertips are touching (the fingers resemble a steeple). This is a display of confidence and self-assurance. You would see this in a lawyer or chess player who just found a way to wipe out his opponent.
- Arm movements become less pronounced in those trying to avoid detection. It’s a microcosm of the freeze response which makes you feel like you’re reducing your profile (noise, visibility, movement, aggressiveness) and allows you to take stock of the situation. Also, an individual caught in a lie will momentarily stop his arm movements as he tries to steer around that part of the conversation.
- Hands on hips Akimbo is often really just a position of readiness. It can be a show of authority and superiority and the Hands on Hip is mainly people trying to appear ” bigger” larger” than they are; showing a size they don’t have has to do with uncertainty at a fundamental stage.
- Hands in pockets indicate unwillingness and reluctance. If a person keeps his hands in his pockets, you will need to first gain his interest as well as his trust. Often orators/speakers maintain one left hand in their pocket because several business classes suggest pointing to a presentation with your right hand. Some people have a hard time with this, so they are instructed to keep their left hands in their pockets. This is to keep them from crossing their arm over their body and potentially preventing people on their left side from seeing. It is also a way to show that they are relaxed and they know what they are talking about.
Now, pay attention to your own hands too. Consciously use gestures that will get your message across, especially those that will help you build alliances and influence people.
List of body language: legs movement signals
If the eyes are a window to the soul, then the legs are the signposts to what you are thinking. People are far less guarded about how they position their legs during a conversation than they are with other parts of the body, so leg and feet positioning is usually a good clue that you can add to the cluster of cues you’re trying to build up.
When you’re having a conversation with someone, if his feet point towards you, then there’s a fair chance he likes you, is interested in what you’re saying or agrees with you. If, on the other hand, his legs and feet point away from you, it is almost as if he’s already walking away from the conversation. During job interviews, when you’re trying to impress, if the interviewer’s feet are pointed towards you, there’s a good chance he’s interested in you and you’re making a good impression. Keep it up. If his feet turn away, you might need to start improving your answers or change tack. Don’t stare at his feet throughout the interview, though!
Similarly, if he’s seated with his hands on his knees with his weight shifted forward, he is mentally already standing up and preparing to be somewhere else.
The trick is to see this happening and to use it to your advantage. For example, if your boss is adopting these types of positions, get to the point quickly and exit. Remember, he’s probably not that interested in what you’ve got to say.
Remember, most body-language movements don’t just mean one thing. Many (like leg jiggling) are indicative of differing emotions. It’s all about context. For example, nervous leg jiggling will probably occur at a time when you would expect it to (e.g., during a briefing or a reprimand), and it will probably coincide with another body-language movement which manifests itself when people are nervous, like neck touching. You’re looking for a congruence of indicators that all point to the same thing.
Further reading: What’s the Influence of body language in business