Body Language


Bodily orientation (the degree to which one interactant’s shoulders and legs are turned toward, rather than away from, the other interactant):

·        Standing individuals interact with more direct orientation with those of higher status than with those of lower status.


Open and closed bodily positions (with open positions consisting of knees apart, legs stretched out, elbows away from body, hands not touching, legs uncrossed, etc., and closed positions consisting of legs crossed at either knees or ankles, hands folded on lap, arms crossed, etc.):

·        Individuals with open body positions are perceived more positively than those with closed body positions. 

·        Individuals with open body positions are more persuasive than those with closed body positions. 


Trunk lean (the direction in which one interactant positions his or her trunk, forward / toward or backward / away from, in relation to the other interactant):

·        Individuals who engage in forward trunk leans increase the verbal output of their interactional partner more than those who do not.

·        Individuals tend to engage in more sideways-leans when interacting with lower-status than with higher-status individuals. 


Postural positions:

·        The adoption (or imitation) of common bodily postures (identified as posture matching) by interactants in pairs or groups tends to enhance rapport between/ among the interactants, because it signals that the interactants are open to and with one another.  The adoption of noncongruent postures tends to indicate attitudinal and perceptual differences or relationship distance. 


Gestures (hand and arm movements):

·        Speakers engage in more manipulative gestures (such as touching self or surroundings) when they are responding to intimate questions and when they are interacting at a close interpersonal distance. 

·        Individuals’ hand movements – especially vertical one – can indicate a positive interpersonal relationship. 


Head movements:

·        Listeners who engage in head nodding increase the speech duration of speakers.

·         Listeners who engage in head nodding provide positive reinforcements for speakers.




Interpersonal Distances from Various Categories of Interaction




Type of Encounter

Voice Volume

Close (8 in. to 12 in.)

Highly personal, seldom used in public.

Audible whisper, very confidential

Near (12 in. to 36 in.)

Many dyadic social interactions occur.

Indoors, soft voice;

Neutral (41/2 5 ft.)


Most social gatherings and business transactions.

Outdoors, full voice

Public distance (51/2 ft. to 8 ft.)

Business and social discourse more formal. Desks in offices are placed to hold off visitors.

Full voice with slight over loudness

Across the room (8 ft. to 20 ft.)

Used by teachers or speakers at public gatherings.

Loud voice talking to a group

Far distance (20 ft. and more)

Public speaking by public figures.

Hailing distances, public-address systems

















This table shows the proximity between the speaker and listener in a conversational setting.  It can be used to assist a speaker in determining how far away s/he should be form his/her audience, and to show what volume s/he should use in speaking to the audience.   


Proper Climates for Interactions


Defensive Climates

Supportive Climates

Leaning back (possibly with both hands supporting the head) or away

Leaning forward

Positioning body to exclude partner, pointing feet or entire body toward the exit

Positioning body to include partner

Turning face away from partner

Turning face toward partner nodding head vertically (affirmatively)

Shaking head horizontally (negatively)

Nodding head vertically (affirmatively)

Assuming incongruent (dissimilar) body posture

Assuming congruent (similar) body posture

Making excessive postural shifts, fidgeting, tapping or jiggling a foot, maintaining a fixed or rigid body posture

Maintaining a relaxed/involved body posture

Elevating one's self, "standing tall"

Maintaining same elevation as partner

Holding head and/or body erect, tilting head back

Tilting head slightly to the side

Increasing distance between self and partner or invading partner's personal space

Maintaining a close and comfortable distance from the partner

Maintaining a closed body posture (crossing or locking arms/legs or camouflaging body crosses)

Maintaining an open body posture

Crossing legs away from partner

Crossing legs toward partner touching partner

Avoiding tactile contact with partner

Touching partner

Engaging in highly expansive gestures

Engaging in natural gestures

















This table illustrates some of the commonly made body posture mistakes

   during conversations, known as defensive climates (left column), and provides     

   the proper body positioning, or supportive climates (right column).  


        Common Gesture Meanings



When in Moderate Form

When Exaggerated

Forward Lean

Friendly feelings

Hostile feelings

Direct eye contact

Friendly feelings

Hostile feelings

Unique dress and hair style



Upright posture

Expertise; self-confidence

Uprightness; hostility

Variability in voice pitch, rate and loudness

Lively mind

Nervousness; anxiety; insecurity


Friendliness; relaxed and secure composure

Masking hostility; submissiveness

Averting gaze

Shyness; modesty

Guilt; unreliability

Knitted brow



Nodding and reaching out the hands while talking






Nonverbal Gestures to Avoid

 Common Intrepretations


Incompetence and uncertainty

Placing your hand in front of your mouth

Anxiety about your competence

Rubbing your arm or leg

Anxiety about your competence; uncertainty

Wringing your hands; rubbing your fingers

Nervousness; anxiety; uncertainty

Slumped posture

Boredom; alienation
























This table describes some common gestures and their associated meanings.  Utilizing gestures as a type of body language assists the sender in clearly and effectively translating the message to the listener.  Using the appropriate gestures during a conversation will maximize the impact of the message.


Works Cited

By:  Xpressionz