Monday, June 7, 2010
Head body language Techniques > Use of body language > Parts-of-the-body language > Head body language Lowering | Raising | Tilting | Oscillating | Rotating | Pointing | Touching | See also The head can send such a wide range of signals that the face and other parts of the head are covered in other pages. Here, we focus just on movement of the head as affected by the neck muscles. Lowering A lowered head covers the neck with the chin and hence can be a defensive posture that can occur as a result of any perceived threat (not just physical threat). Lowering the head also lowers the eyes and hence can be a sign of submission, effectively saying 'I dare not even look at you'. The eyes are typically also lowered here. It can be driven by affection ('you are so wonderful') or fear ('you might hurt me if I look at you'). Lowering the head whilst maintaining eye contact can also be a strong flirting signal, typically by women. It says 'You are superior and I just can't take my eyes off you'. It can also be a sign of defiance or caution, for example when showing respect to an enemy ('You are strong and I do not trust you'). Sometimes, lowering the head is just a sign of exhaustion. The head is rather heavy and a tired person's head will sag. Lowering the head can be a part of ducking as the person reflexively pulls the head down to avoid a real or imagined hazard. This makes the body smaller and protects the neck. A single short lowering of the head can be an abbreviated nod. This is a common greeting, perhaps as a small bow. It may also be a signal of power ('I am so powerful people are paying will notice even a small nod'). Again it may be a deliberate concealment, sending covert agreement to a colleague. Raising When the head is low, raising it may be a sign of interest as the person moved to looking at the point of interest. This is typically accompanied by other expressions of interest such as raised eyebrows. From a level position, a quick flick upwards can be a sign of query ('What do you mean?'). Raising the head and looking at the ceiling may signal boredom. It may also indicate a visual thinker who is looking at internal images. Another alternative is where a person wants to focus on the sound and is thus averting the eyes in order to concentrate on the sound. Tilting Tilting the head sideways can be a sign of interest, which may be in what is said or happening. It can also be a flirting signal as it says 'I am interested in you!' Tilting can similarly indicate curiosity, uncertainty or query, particularly if the head is pushed forward, as if the person was trying to look at the subject in a different way in the hope of seeing something new. The greater the tilt, the greater the uncertainty or the greater the intent to send this signal. A tilted head pulled back tends to indicate suspicion, as the uncertainty of the tilt is combined with a defensive pulling back. The tilted head exposes the carotid artery on the side of the neck and may be a sign of submission and feelings of vulnerability. If the head is propped up by the hand, it may be tiredness or an expectation of continued interest ('This is so interesting!'). Oscillating (nodding and shaking) Nodding up and down signals agreement in most cultures and may well be accompanied by smiling and other signs of approval. A vigorous nodding probably indicates strong agreement, whilst slow nodding may indicate conditional agreement (and so may be questioned if you want full agreement). Turning the head from side to side usually indicates disagreement or disapproval and may originate in infant refusal of food. Again, speed of swinging indicates strength of feeling. A head tilted down whilst swinging may signal particular disapproval ('I don't even want to look at you'). Alternately tilting the head at an angle to each side can say 'I'm not sure', though in Southern India it means 'Yes'. Nodding or shaking the head whilst talking is an encouragement for the other person to agree (which works surprisingly often). Nodding whilst the other person is talking sends approval signals and encourages them to keep talking. Shaking the head shows disagreement and they may either stop and seek your view or redouble their attempts to persuade you. A nod can be used when emphasizing a point. The may range from a subtle encouragement to agree to a rapid and aggressive tilt. A short, sharp nod can symbolize a head-butt, indicating the desire to strike the other person (this may be in emphasis or for other reasons). Shaking the head when saying something positive is a negative signal and may indicate the person does not believe what they are saying. Rotating Rotation of the head in a circle is a relatively rare gesture and may just be the person exercising a stiff neck (if they should be paying attention, this may thus indicate boredom). Turning the head away removes attention and thus may say 'I do not want to communicate with you'. This can be very insulting as it denies the existence of the other person. Turning the head slightly to the side points the ear at the other person, perhaps better to hear them. This is usually accompanied by continued eye contact and the hand may be cupped behind the ear. A slight head turn also puts one eye in the middle of your head as the other person sees it. To make eye contact they thus have to focus on one eye. This can be very disconcerting and this 'one-eye' gaze may be used as an act of dominance (It may also be used in the act of 'giving the evil eye'). A slight rotation on top of oscillation may indicate incomplete agreement or disagreement, for example where a nod has a slight additional side-to-side movement, indicating primary or external agreement but with a certain amount of disagreement too (which may be significant if they feel coerced into agreement). Pointer We tend to point at people and things in which we are interested in some way. Pointing the head and face at another person shows interest in them. In groups and meetings, you can often see power people as others often look at them. Likewise, the less significant people are not looked at often. We can also point with a twitch of the head in any given direction. Pointing at a person in this way without looking can be insulting and can be subtle, for example where you do not want the indicated person is being pointed at. Touching We can touch the head in many places. Touching the face is a common sign of anxiety and people tend to have preferred places they touch or stroke when they are concerned. This is a classic pattern that poker players look for in other players as signs of having good or bad hands. Covering eyes, ears or mouth may say we do not want to see, hear or say something. We may touch the side of the nose or stroke the chin when we are thinking, making decisions and judging others. Tapping the head can be self-punishment and hence signal regret, for example tapping the forehead with the heel of the hand ('I'm stupid!'). Note that, depending on context, this can also be a signal that somebody else is considered stupid. The head is heavy and when tired we may prop it up, either under the chin or at the side. Boredom makes us tired so propping the head may indicate this. Propping up the head also happens when a person is thinking or evaluating. In some cultures, the head is considered the part of the body that is most spiritual. Touching the head can be considered wrong in such contexts. Face body language Techniques > Use of body language > Parts-of-the-body language > Face body language Color | Moisture | Emotions | See also The face has around 90 muscles in it, with about 30 of these purely for expressing emotion. It can thus be used to send many non-verbal signals, using its various features in concert. Color Red A generally red face may indicate that the person is hot as the blood come to the to surface to be cooled. They may heat up either from exercise or emotional arousal, for example when they are excited and energized. A red face is typical of a person who is angry. This is a clear danger signal, warning the other person that they may be harmed if they do not back down. People blush with embarrassment in various ways. Some people's neck goes red. With others it is mostly the cheeks. Sometimes the whole face goes red. White White skin may be a sign of coldness as the blood goes deep to avoid cooling further. White skin is also an indication of fear, often extreme. This happens as the blood abandons a surface that might be cut, going to muscles where its power is needed more. Blue The skin can also take on a bluish tinge. This can also indicate coldness or extreme fear. Moisture Sweating is the body's natural cooling mechanism when it gets hot, possibly from excitement and emotional arousal. Sweat is also associated with fear, perhaps to make the skin slippery and hence prevent an opponent from taking a firm grasp. Emotions Here are some of the facial signals that you might see for different emotions. Do note that these are only possible indicators: not all signals are needed and not all signals indicated here necessarily indicate the associated emotion. Emotion Facial signals Anxiety Eyes damp; eyebrows slightly pushed together; trembling lower lip; chin possibly wrinkled; head slightly tilted down. Fear Eyes wide, closed or pointing down; raised eyebrows; mouth open or corners turned down; chin pulled in; head down, white face. Anger Eyes wide and staring; eyebrows pulled down (especially in middle); wrinkled forehead; flared nostrils; mouth flattened or clenched teeth bared; jutting chin, red face. Happiness Mouth smiling (open or closed); possible laughter; crows-feet wrinkles at sides of sparkling eyes; slightly raised eyebrows; head level. Sadness Eyes cast down and possibly damp or tearful; head down; lips pinched; head down or to the side. Envy Eyes staring; mouth corners turned down; nose turned in sneer; chin jutting. Desire Eyes wide open with dilated pupils; slightly raised eyebrows; lips slightly parted or puckered or smiling; head tilted forward. Interest Steady gaze of eyes at item of interest (may be squinting); slightly raised eyebrows; lips slightly pressed together; head erect or pushed forward. Boredom Eyes looking away; face generally immobile; corners of mouth turned down or lips pulled to the side; head propped up with hand. Surprise Eyes wide open; eyebrows raised high; mouth dropped wide open with consequent lowered chin; head held back or tilted to side. Relief Eyebrows tilted outwards (lowered outer edges); mouth either tilted down or smiling; head tilted. Disgust Eyes and head turned away; nostrils flared; nose twisted in sneer; mouth closed, possibly with tongue protruding; chin jutting. Shame Eyes and head turned down; eyebrows held low; skin blushing red. Pity Eyes in extended gaze and possibly damp; eyebrows slightly pulled together in middle or downwards at edges; mouth turned down at corners; head tilted to side. Calm Relaxed facial muscles and steady gaze with eyes. Perhaps mouth turned up slightly at sides in gentle smile. The eyes are often called, with some justification, 'the windows of the soul' as they can send many different non-verbal signals. For reading body language this is quite useful as looking at people's eyes are a normal part of communication (whilst gazing at other parts of the body can be seen as rather rude). Looking up When a person looks upwards they are often thinking. In particular they are probably making pictures in their head and thus may well be an indicator of a visual thinker. When they are delivering a speech or presentation, looking up may be their recalling their prepared words. Looking upwards and to the left can indicate recalling a memory. Looking upwards and the right can indicate imaginative construction of a picture (which can hence betray a liar). Be careful with this: sometimes the directions are reversed -- if in doubt, test the person by asking them to recall known facts or imagine something. Looking up may also be a signal of boredom as the person examines the surroundings in search of something more interesting. Head lowered and eyes looking back up at the other person is a coy and suggestive action as it combines the head down of submission with eye contact of attraction. It can also be judgemental, especially when combined with a frown. Looking down Looking at a person can be an act of power and domination. Looking down involves not looking at the other person, which hence may be a sign of submission ('I am not a threat, really; please do not hurt me. You are so glorious I would be dazzled if I looked at you.') Looking down can thus be a signal of submission. It can also indicate that the person is feeling guilty. A notable way that a lower person looks down at a higher person is by tilting their head back. Even taller people may do this. Looking down and to the left can indicate that they are talking to themselves (look for slight movement of the lips). Looking down and to the right can indicate that they are attending to internal emotions. In many cultures where eye contact is a rude or dominant signal, people will look down when talking with others in order to show respect. Looking sideways Much of our field of vision is in the horizontal plane, so when a person looks sideways, they are either looking away from what is in front of them or looking towards something that has taken their interest. A quick glance sideways can just be checking the source of a distraction to assess for threat or interest. It can also be done to show irritation ('I didn't appreciate that comment!'). Looking to the left can indicate a person recalling a sound. Looking to the right can indicate that they are imagining the sound. As with visual and other movements, this can be reversed and may need checking against known truth and fabrication. Lateral movement Eyes moving from side-to-side can indicate shiftiness and lying, as if the person is looking for an escape route in case they are found out. Lateral movement can also happen when the person is being conspiratorial, as if they are checking that nobody else is listening. Eyes may also move back and forth sideways (and sometimes up and down) when the person is visualizing a big picture and is literally looking it over. Gazing Looking at something shows an interest in it, whether it is a painting, a table or a person. When looking at a person normally, the gaze is usually at eye level or above (see eye contact, below). The gaze can also be a defocused looking at the general person. Looking at a person's mouth can indicate that you would like to kiss them. Looking at sexual regions indicates a desire to have sexual relations with them. Looking up and down at a whole person is usually sizing them up, either as a potential threat or as a sexual partner (notice where the gaze lingers). This can be quite insulting and hence indicate a position of presumed dominance, as the person effectively says 'I am more powerful than you, your feelings are unimportant to me and you will submit to my gaze'. Looking at their forehead or not at them indicates disinterest. This may also be shown by defocused eyes where the person is 'inside their head' thinking about other things. It is difficult to conceal a gaze as we are particularly adept at identifying exactly where other people are looking. This is one reason why we have larger eye whites than animals, as it aids complex communication. Eye contact in many cultures is considered dominant or rude. Glancing Glancing at something can betray a desire for that thing, for example glancing at the door can indicate a desire to leave. Glancing at a person can indicate a desire to talk with them. It can also indicate a concern for that person's feeling when something is said that might upset them. Glancing may indicate a desire to gaze at something or someone where it is forbidden to look for a prolonged period. Eye contact Doe eyes A softening of the eyes, with relaxing of muscles around the eye and a slight defocusing as the person tries to take in the whole person is sometimes called doe eyes, as it often indicates sexual desire, particularly if the gaze is prolonged and the pupils are dilated (see below). The eyes may also appear shiny. Making eye contact Looking at a person acknowledges them and shows that you are interested in them, particularly if you look in their eyes. Looking at a person's eyes also lets you know where they are looking. We are amazingly good at detecting what they are looking at and can detect even a brief glance at parts of our body, for example. If a person says something when you are looking away and then you make eye contact, then this indicates they have grabbed your attention. Breaking eye contact Prolonged eye contact can be threatening, so in conversation we frequently look away and back again. Breaking eye contact can indicate that something that has just been said that makes the person not want to sustain eye contact, for example that they are insulted, they have been found out, they feel threatened, etc. This can also happen when the person thinks something that causes the same internal discomfort. Looking at a person, breaking eye contact and then looking immediately back at them is a classic flirting action, particularly with the head held coyly low in suggested submission. Long eye contact Eye contact longer than normal can have several different meanings. Eye contact often increases significantly when we are listening, and especially when we are paying close attention to what the other person is saying. Less eye contact is used when talking, particularly by people who are visual thinkers as they stare into the distance or upwards as they 'see' what they are talking about. We also look more at people we like and like people who look at us more. When done with doe eyes and smiles, it is a sign of attraction. Lovers will stare into each others eyes for a long period. Attraction is also indicated by looking back and forth between the two eyes, as if we are desperately trying to determine if they are interested in us too. An attraction signal that is more commonly used by women is to hold the other person's gaze for about three seconds, Then look down for a second or two and then look back up again (to see if they have taken the bait). If the other person is still looking at them, they are rewarded with a coy smile or a slight widening of the eyes ('Yes, this message is for you!'). When done without blinking, contracted pupils and an immobile face, this can indicate domination, aggression and use of power. In such circumstances a staring competition can ensue, with the first person to look away admitting defeat. Prolonged eye contact can be disconcerting. A trick to reduce stress from this is to look at the bridge of their nose. They will think you are still looking in their eyes. Sometimes liars, knowing that low eye contact is a sign of lying, will over-compensate and look at you for a longer than usual period. Often this is done without blinking as they force themselves into this act. They may smile with the mouth, but not with the eyes as this is more difficult. Limited eye contact When a person makes very little eye contact, they may be feeling insecure. They may also be lying and not want to be detected. Staring Staring is generally done with eyes wider than usual, prolonged attention to something and with reduced blinking. It generally indicates particular interest in something or someone. Staring at a person can indicate shock and disbeliefs, particularly after hearing unexpected news. When the eyes are defocused, the person's attention may be inside their head and what they are staring at may be of no significance. (Without care, this can become quite embarrassing for them). Prolonged eye contact can be aggressive, affectionate or deceptive and is discussed further above. Staring at another's eyes is usually more associated with aggressive action. Following The eyes will naturally follow movement of any kind. If the person is looking at something of interest then they will naturally keep looking at this. They also follow neutral or feared things in case the movement turns into a threat. This is used when sales people move something like a pen or finger up and down, guiding where the customer looks, including to eye contact and to parts of the product being sold. Squinting Narrowing of a person's eyes can indicate evaluation, perhaps considering that something told to them is not true (or at least not fully so). It can similarly indicate uncertainty ('I cannot quite see what is meant here.') Squinting can also be used by liars who do not want the other person to detect their deception. When a person thinks about something and does not want to look at the internal image, they may involuntarily squint. Squinting can also happen when lights or the sun are bright. Lowering of eyelids is not really a squint but can have a similar meaning. It can also indicate tiredness. Lowering eyelids whilst still looking at the other person can be a part of a romantic and suggestive cluster, and may be accompanied with tossing back the head and slightly puckering the lips in a kiss. Blinking Blinking is a neat natural process whereby the eyelids wipe the eyes clean, much as a windscreen wiper on a car. Blink rate tends to increase when people are thinking more. This can be an indication of lying as the liar has to keep thinking about what they are saying. Realizing this, they may also force their eyes open and appear to stare. Blinking can also indicate rapport, and people who are connected often blink at the same rate. Someone who is listening carefully to you is more likely to blink when you pause (keeping eyes open to watch everything you say). Beyond natural random blinking, a single blink can signal surprise that the person does not quite believe what they see ('I'll wipe my eyes clean to better see'). Rapid blinking blocks vision and can be an arrogant signal, saying 'I am so important, I do not need to see you'. Rapid blinking also flutters the eyelashes and can be a coy romantic invitation. Winking Closing one eye in a wink is a deliberate gesture that often suggests conspiratorial ('You and I both understand, though others do not'). Winking can also be a slightly suggestive greeting and is reminiscent of a small wave of the hand ('Hello there, gorgeous!'). Closing Closing the eyes shuts out the world. This can mean 'I do not want to see what is in front of me, it is so terrible'. Sometimes when people are talking they close their eyes. This is an equivalent to turning away so eye contact can be avoided and any implied request for the other person to speak is effectively ignored. Visual thinkers may also close their eyes, sometimes when talking, so they can better see the internal images without external distraction. Damp The tear ducts provide moisture to the eyes, both for washing them and for tears. Damp eyes can be suppressed weeping, indicating anxiety, fear or sadness. It can also indicate that the person has been crying recently. Dampness can also occur when the person is tired (this may be accompanied by redness of the eyes. Tears Actual tears that roll down the cheeks are often a symptom of extreme fear or sadness, although paradoxically you can also weep tears of joy. Weeping can be silent, with little expression other than the tears (indicating a certain amount of control). It also typically involves screwing up of the face and, when emotions are extreme, can be accompanied by uncontrollable, convulsive sobs. Men in many culture are not expected to cry and learn to suppress this response, not even being able to cry when alone. Even if their eyes feel damp they may turn away. Tears and sadness may be transformed into anger, which may be direct at whoever is available. Pupil size A subtle signal that is sometimes detected only subconsciously and is seldom realized by the sender is where the pupil gets larger (dilates) or contracts. Sexual desire is a common cause of pupil dilation, and is sometimes called 'bedroom eyes' (magazine pictures sometimes have deliberately doctored eyes to make a model look more attractive). When another person's eyes dilate we may be attracted further to them and our eyes dilate in return. Likewise, when their pupils are small, ours may well contract also. Pupils dilate also when it is darker to let in more light (perhaps this is why clubs and bars are so dingy!). The reverse of this is that pupils contract when we do not like the other person, perhaps in an echo of squint-like narrowing of the eyes. Rubbing When a person is feeling uncomfortable, the eyes may water a little. To cover this and try to restore an appropriate dryness, they person may rub their eye and maybe even feign tiredness or having something in the eye. This also gives the opportunity to turn the head away. The rubbing may be with one finger, with a finger and thumb (for two eyes) or with both hands. The more the coverage, the more the person is trying to hide behind the hands.
posted by Santosh Singh Santosh at 7:37:00 AM