Why is body language important to understand? 🙂
- Body language is used to assess people’s characters. It is one of the first ways we assess a stranger’s character (First Impression!)
- Body language is used to communicate directly with someone when language is not possible.
- Body language is commonly used and assessed at work and interviews.
- Body language is an essential part of friendships and relationships.
- Body language can lead to great misunderstanding between different cultures.
List of Body Language
Below is a list of body language that is common in the Western society with their common meaning.
- Avoiding eye contact = shy, worried, lying
- Crinkling nose = disgust
- Deadpan face (without any expression) = emotionless or hiding feelings
- Direct eye contact = confidence
- Eyes staring into the distance = dreamy, not concentrating
- Pressing lips together (tight lipped) = annoyed, angry
- Raised eye brows = doubtful, disbelieving
- Smiling = friendly
- Arms behind back, shoulders back = confidence
- Arms crossed = defensive or insecure but sometimes it means being angry
- Bowing (bending at the waist) = greeting someone new (in some countries)
- Biting nails = nervous
- Blushing (going red in the cheeks) or stammering (speaking with hesitations and repeated letters) = embarrassment
- Eye rubbing = tired or disbelieving
- Hands covering gaping mouth = scared
- Putting arms up with palms facing forward = submission
- Scratching one’s head = confused
- Shaking the head = negative, no
- Shrugging shoulders (moving shoulders up and down) = don’t know, doubt, confused
- Stroking one’s chin = thinking deeply
- Nodding head = agreement, yes
- Firm handshake = strong and decisive / limp handshake = weak
Misunderstandings that may be caused by Body Language among different cultures
Nodding head = In some countries, it means “yes” but in other countries it means “no”. Likewise, a shaking head means “no” in some countries but “yes” in others.
Silence = In the West, this can be negative and be a problem between people. However, in other countries, such as China or Japan, it can be a sign of agreement or femininity.
Personal space = In countries, such as England, people should stand a respectful distance from each other but in other countries, such as Spain, people touch each other when talking. In Japan, the person space is often bigger between people than in England. Respectful space between people changes depending on countries.
Eye Contact = In the West, this is a sign of confidence and is important when listening actively to someone. On the other hand, there are countries where this might be a sign of aggression and confrontation.
Practice Using Body Language Vocabulary
Fill the gaps of these sentences with the suitable words:
1. I had no idea what she was talking about. Then suddenly she asked a question that I couldn’t understand so I just ………….. my shoulders and walked away.
2. My boss always tells tall stories. Yesterday he came to work with another unbelievable story but the only response I could give was to ……….. my eyebrows.
3. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being late. Once I was in a really long meeting at work and by the time we finished I was late to meet my friend. During the meeting, I could feel myself getting impatient and my foot started ……………. on the floor.
4. I can’t stand watching films at the cinema because you can’t relax like you can in private, particularly when watching an action movie full of surprises and shocks. When there is a really sudden unexpected scene, my eyes ………. and my mouth ……… open which I find really embarrassing in public.
5. I remember once I was late for an appointment. When I arrived, which was over 1 hour late, I …………. deep red and stammered an apology.
- shrugged (the answer isn’t “shrugged off” because that means to get rid of – usually a feeling – and does relate to shoulders)
- tapping (the answer isn’t stamping because stamping is when you are very angry not impatient)
- widen gapes (don’t forget the “s”)
Using Body Language vocabulary in IELTS Writing or Speaking
Q) In what way is body language a form of communication?
A) Well, people use body language to send a message or to indicate something so it is definitely a way to communicate. For example, when people raise their eyebrows, it often means they are incredulous or disbelieving and when they tap their foot on the floor, you know they are impatient. So, using facial expressions and physical actions can communicate things to other people.
Q) Do you think it is possible to misunderstand someone’s body language?
A) Yes, definitely. When someone avoids your eye, it is possible to think that they are avoiding your question and don’t want to talk to you. But really, it might be that they are just shy. So, it’s quite easy to grasp the wrong meaning in people’s actions.
Q) Describe a time you were late for an appointment.
A) I recall, about one year ago, I was organising to meet someone in the town center at 9pm. Unfortunately, I was delayed because of traffic and didn’t arrive until about 9.30pm. My friend was really angry at me. She had her arms crossed and was tapping her foot impatiently on the ground. I was so embarrassed and blushed a lot. I expressed my sincere apology but felt really uncomfortable because she was staring at me with angry eyes. Anyway, we sorted out our differences and have been really good friends ever since. (this is an example of part of a talk for speaking part 2 – add details and descriptions)