A smile is worth a thousand unsaid words. So is a glance to the left or to the right. A squint of the eye. A crossing of the feet. A firm or a limp handshake.
Your body language reveals almost everything about you. It conveys whether you are happy, confident or friendly. It shows whether you are nervous, uncomfortable, under stress, hiding a secret or lying.
“Body language is totally spontaneous,” expert Renate Mousseux said. “Sixty-five percent of anything you say comes across with body language. That’s huge.”
This non-verbal form of communication, which often is more expressive than words, can impact your personal and professional lives. It can be empowering. It can make a difference in a job interview — and in personal relationships.
If it’s an interview, you should walk into the room erectly with a purposeful, not sluggish, step to indicate you want to be taken seriously, said Julie Theroux, a former Valley resident who has written several books on face reading. Shake hands firmly but don’t hold on too long.
When you sit down, cross your legs at the ankles in front of you and keep your hands open on your lap for a positive effect.
If you wrap your feet around the chair, it often mean you are hiding something or are tense. Keeping your hands behind you indicates you’re not interested, said Mousseux, a Fountain Hills resident who has studied human expression. A retired teacher turned body-language consultant, she now gives seminars and talks on the subject.
Phoenix life coach Ginger Korljan, however, says not to obsess about your body language during an interview, “or you won’t come across as you.”
Korljan, whose website is takechargecoaching.com, recommends smiling more than you think you should during the interview and to practice ahead.
Have a friend ask you questions and critique your actions, she said. If you can’t find anyone to help you, stand or sit in front of a mirror and watch your face and body movements.
Body language can be telling on a witness stand. If giving testimony, don’t touch your nose, which could indicate you are saying something untruthful. Biting both lips at the same time indicates you are keeping a secret, said Theroux, whose website is timetofaceit.com.
Body language can start, stop or keep a relationship going. If you are playing the dating game, Theroux has advice:
“A lot of times with men and women, you see them lick their lips,” Theroux said. “It means they’re interested.” Other indicators include a coy sideways glance, leaning forward to listen to what you are saying and looking you in the eye.
If they look away when you are talking, well, perhaps you should change the subject.
“If somebody pulls on an earlobe, they want to hear more,” Theroux said. But it can also mean they aren’t sure about what is being said or that it affects them negatively, she added.
Body language can change the mood of another person.
“If somebody comes in with a bad mood, they can influence everyone around them to have a bad mood,” said Mousseux, whose website is bodylanguage4success.com. On the other hand, if others exhibit positive body actions, they can influence the cranky person to feel better, she said.
Even the length of time of a body movement can be telling.
“Every expression should be eight seconds,” Mousseux said. “If it’s longer, it’s fake. A smile that is more than eight seconds is fake.” A lip-curling or smirking smile, or one that is dramatically uneven, also is phony.
“The left side is always the honest side,” Mousseux said, explaining that a person looking up and to the left is trying to connect to the artistic side of the brain.
Although body language is telling, it doesn’t always reveal the whole story. When observing someone’s movements, it’s important to consider the whole body, not just a single gesture, Mousseux said.
“Assess somebody from top to toe,” she said. For example, if someone is crossing his or her arms, don’t assume the person is being negative or closed off to what you are saying. This stance can also indicate a bad back, Mousseux said.
There is, however, one action that is universally telling.
“A smile is so cheap,” Mousseux said. “It’s the best communication you can have anywhere in the world. A smile creates wonders. And it’s so easy.”
What your body says about you
Blinking. “If somebody blinks fast, that usually means they’re uncomfortable with a topic,” said body-language expert Renate Mousseux.
She has been known to count the number of blinks candidates make during presidential debates.
Eye-rolling. If you are talking with someone who rolls his eyes, he doesn’t believe what you are saying.
Nose-touching. If the person talking to you touches her nose, she may be lying. (She also could be scratching because her nose itches.) If you are discussing something important, be sure to ask more questions or delve deeper to get to the truth, recommends face-reading expert Julie Theroux.
Lip-biting. When someone bites the top and bottom lips at the same time, he is keeping a secret.
Pencil-tapping. This action indicates that the person is trying to recall something.
Squinting. If someone squints while you are talking, he doesn’t trust what you are saying. In this case, ask whether he needs more information or clarity, Theroux said.
Copycat actions. If someone mimics your body language, she is trying to develop a familiarity or common ground. This can be beneficial during a job interview, Mousseux said.
Hands in pocket. This person is not receptive to what you are saying.
Handshakes. A close, tight handshake indicates confidence and self-awareness. If you want to indicate power, put your hand on top. A person who shakes too hard will dictate your life, Mousseux said.
“A nice, firm handshake, web to web, is what it should be,” she said.
Hair touching. If someone does this while talking, he is trying to calm himself.
Stroking the neck. Like hair touching, this is called an adapter. It is an indicator that the person is trying to reduce stress.