15 Body Language Gestures With Hidden Meanings — How Many Of These Did You Know?

Written on Sunday, September 6th, 2015 by @Paul Harrison body language gestures


Body language tells you more than you might like to know. Here are 15 gestures with hidden meanings. How many of them did you know?


The 15 Body Language Gestures With Hidden Meanings


1. This one arm-touching strategy will make people feel intimate with you

  1. 1. Start with a comfortable but firm and level handshake.
  2. 2. Next, move to the wrist. Perhaps touch a watch to ask for the time, or another piece of jewellery
  3. 3. A little while later, touch higher up the arm, perhaps when indicating something.Next, touch on the shoulder. This touch can be quite intimate if you want it to be.
  4. 4. Finally, wrap your arm around them and you’re done! The best strategy for touching arm! This one move makes even strangers trust you!


2. If you touch people under the elbow when asking something they’ll be more likely to say yes.

It’s amazing how much a tiny body language gesture like this can make in interpersonal relationships. This is a fantastic gesture for illustrating exactly how powerful body language is, especially the touching the elbow thing. Seriously, try touching someone’s elbow when you ask for something just in order to try out the power of body language. You will be amazed exactly how much of a difference it makes. I got this tip from Joe Navarro’s What Every Body Is Saying, which is one of the best books on body language that I have personally read. I recommend it!



3. The width of your nostrils changes based on your mood

Widened nostrils allow for more air to be breathed in and out and thus prepares a person for a fight or flight response. In this way, flared nostrils is an indication of distinct displeasure. Flared nostrils body language can be a sign of anger (the fight response) or of fear or anxiety (flight).

Note: We also flare our nostrils when suddenly taxed with a heavy thought.

If you are talking to someone and you see flared nostrils you surely stop talking immediately because you have likely said something to offend the other person. If you continue to aggravate them they will only get angrier and you could potentially get into a fight. It is possible that they will simply walk away from you, but of course this is less than desirable too. If you wish to continue speaking, at least take your foot off that gas mouth a little so they can chill. Spotting this one gesture and dealing with it appropriately will help you to avoid arguments and conflicts.



4. Touching the nose can mean a lot of different things. 

  • The most obvious meaning of touching the nose is that someone has noticed a bad smell they wish to escape from.
  • Much as we grip our chin when evaluating, we may also grip our nose, pinching at the bridge of the nose. This is most usually related to a negative evaluation or frustration.
  • Touching the nose is also a sign that someone is lying. Lying causes the nose to itch, leading a person to touch it.
  • We often rub a finger along our nose when disagreeing with someone.





5. What you do with your hair says everything

Hair, it’s such a serious matter that millions get hair implants and hair replacement , yet somehow we can’t stop playing with it and, in doing so, showing nervousness through hair twirling body language. We’ll uncover why we can’t stop doing this hair twirling body language as we cover the essentials of hair twirling body language.

The Essentials of hair Twirling Body Language

Playing with your hair is often a sign of nervousness, just as fidgeting and nail biting are. You’ll often see children with low self esteem displaying these body language gestures, but why?

 Our parents likely played with our hair when we were young, making the gesture feel reassuring as it reminds us of being in our parent’s arms. As we grow older and our parents stop playing with our hair we adopt this gesture for ourselves with an associated sense of comfort and reassurance.

Our parents may also have played with our hair when prettifying us, literally saying, “Look how pretty your hair is” as they twirled it. This gives the gesture a second quality of attention seeking, which when we become teens and adults may be used in courting. only where our parents may have said “Look how pretty you look” we now say to potential mates “Look at this hair. Do you see how pretty I look?”

So we have two main meanings of the hair twirling body language. The first is that a person is twirling their hair to provide comfort when feeling nervous or insecure, and the the second meaning is that a person is attracted to someone and seeking to gain their attention. To determine which of these readings is the right one when reading a person, it is necessary to take into account the other gestures they are performing with it (for instance, are they licking their lips? If so it is a clear attraction signal. If they are looking at the floor while crossing their arms over their chest, however, it’s a save bet the hair twirling represents a need for comfort and reassurance).

Many people have a compulsive habit of twirling their hair, in which case they may not be nervous at the time when you see the gesture, but instead have developed nervous body language as a result of repeated stress and insecurity perhaps taking place over many years.




6. The arms and shoulders show openness and closedness 

Putting the hand on the opposite shoulder is one way to create a barrier in front of your chest and so is a sign of protectiveness and often insecurity.

Women will often lift their arm up with their hand on their shoulder momentarily to expose the armpit. This is important in courtship and is a sure sign that a girl is sexually interested in someone

People will often walk with one shoulder pointing slightly forward and their body turned a little to the side. This is a protective stance most commonly seen in very busy areas.





7. Holding your hands in your pockets makes people distrust you

When people are comfortable and confident about what they are saying they will gesture with their hands. This creates an air of openness and trustworthiness.

Conversely, hiding your hands in your pockets makes you appear closed and dishonest. While you might be telling the complete truth, while your hands are in your pockets people are unlikely to believe you.

Hands in pockets with thumbs out is a sign of comfort and confidence. Some people, however, take this as a sign that you are hiding something.

The best way to stand is simply with your hands relaxed at your side. It’s comfortable, confident and looks trustworthy.

8. Crossed legs body language can show nervousness or “shielding” 

  • Sometimes legs crossed can simply indicate that a person is comfortable where they are and has no intention of moving anytime soon
  • Tense legs crossed body language, where a person is notably holding stress in their legs, is either a sign of high stress levels or a sign that the person simply needs to use the washroom
  • A woman standing with her legs crossed is showing a lack of sexual interest coupled with insecurity
  • 9. Sitting legs-crossed body language can mean several things:
  • Where a person is sitting with one leg comfortably wrapped over the knee of the other, they are showing confidence and arrogance
  • Sitting with the ankles crossed around or underneath a chair is a sign of high stress levels and insecurity
  • Sitting with the legs comfortably crossed and in front of the chair shows minor insecurity in an otherwise comfortable person.

Remember to look at the rest of their body for more clues before making a judgement call because, as always, body language gestures have a number of different meanings and must be read in clusters. 






10. Raised eyebrows show emotional “punctuation”

Raised eyebrows occur principally when a person is surprised. It happens as part of the eyes widening in order to take in more information. The more surprised a person is the higher their eyebrows will rise.

People will also raise their eyebrows on meeting someone as a friendly way of saying hello.

Raising eyebrows is regarded as a slightly submissive body language gesture and will also happen in courtship when a person is attracted to someone or something.





11. You touch your hair when you need to chill 

Most of the time, the body language gesture of touching your own hair is a preening act. People touch their hair to check they look okay, most notably when flirting or when preparing for an important event (such as right before a job interview)

A person will also run their hands through their hair in a moment of exasperation or of disbelief.

Many people run their hands through their hair when relaxing, most likely as it creates the feeling of being in the shower.





12. Touching the lips can have several meanings in body language:

A person touches their lips often when they lie or when they try not to say something, almost as though they are physically holding the word back.

A person may nibble their lip when they are attracted to someone or when trying to seduce someone.

A person may touch their lips when deep in thought





13. Yawning means a lot more than just being tired 


  • When we are tired. Of course, this is the one reason for yawning that everyone focuses on. It is not however, the only reason why we yawn
  • When we are too hot. this means you should be less offended when you are talking to someone in a warm room and they yawn. They’re probably not bored of you. They’re just hot!
  • In reaction to someone else yawning. Yawning is contagious. Test this by intentionally yawning. Other people around you will yawn too.
  • When we think of yawning (you will probably yawn while reading this page simply because I’m talking about yawning). We may also yawn if we think about things associated with yawning. For instance, if you’re talking to someone and telling them how tired you felt after your long day yesterday, do not be surprised if they yawn.
  • Periodically to refill our lungs. You have to be aware that sometimes yawning might just be physiological. This is yet another reason why you shouldn’t be offended when someone yawns when you’re talking as they might just b naturally yawning to get air in their lungs.

Given that we can’t be completely certain why a person is yawning, it seems absurd to be offended by it. That is, unless the person goes out of there way to make clear to you that they are yawning.

By the way, did you know that horses, cats and dogs can catch your yawn too? 






14. Touching the neck can show extreme discomfort and insecurity 

  •  Touching the front of the neck can be a sign that a person is worried about what they are saying, possible because they’re lying or because they are uncomfortable with the subject or with the info / opinion they have to give. This may also cause the neck muscles to tense, affecting the voice.
  • Discomfort also causes sweat to be produced, in which case a person will pull at his collar. They may try to disguise this by looking as though they are just adjusting their collar, but if they are getting air to their neck they are feeling uncomfortable.
  • Covering the throat is a sign of protection and insecurity. The throat, of course, is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body so it is little surprise that when we feel insecure we protect this area .
  • If a person raises their hand then suddenly grabs their neck, they were likely angry and about to last out when they thought better of it and disguised their action by holding the neck. Many times in body language, we experience a certain feeling only very momentarily, so we begin to perform a gesture associated to that feeling only to then stop it before completion when are feelings change again.
  • Finally, a person will hold the back of their neck when in shock.



15. People hide their heads when they’re scared 

When a person ducks their head down into their neck they are assuming a protective stance because they are feeling insecure.

You may notice increased swallowing in the neck too, which is a sign of concern or sometimes embarrassment.

Again, the throat is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body so when someone performs these body language neck gestures they are most likely protecting themselves. If you see body language neck gestures that indicate insecurity, be empathetic and try to get the person feeling more comfortable.



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Paul M Harrison is a journalist and author specialising in lifestyle and relationships. The author of more than five books, you can find Paul's works via his Amazon Author Page Obviously, add him on Twitter andFacebook too.

Related Categories: body language, Interpersonal Communications Course