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Reading Body Language - Common Hand Gestures

Walking on two feet and thus having free hands (fore limbs) gives us an unique ability to make different gestures. They are very advantageous during social interactions. There are different categories of under which different gestures fall. Only manipulative, pointing, declarative and territorial gestures are quite common cross the globe.

Symbolic and Emblematic gestures vary from one culture to another. Also, meaning of same gesture might have entirely different meaning in two cultures.

Directing ("This way."), Pointing ("It's the thing.") or Blaming ("You are a culprit.")
Skyward/Upward, Ruler's Finger or "One God"
Allowing ("Come here.", "Let it approach.")
Stopping ("It's enough.", "Don't come.")
Blessing or Suppressing
Submission or "Give me."
Powerful, Strong or Winner
Questioning or Demanding
Offering or Picking
Clarification ("Believe me.", "Nothing to hind.")
Helping Hand or Making Clear
No Arms In Hand or Hand Wave ("I'm here.")
Symbolic Pistol or Sign of Shooting
Symbolic Punch ("Beat you") or Power Fist
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Reading Body Language - Common Facial Expressions

Human face is unique among all animals that can express various emotions and feelings. Surprisingly, we all express them in quite similar ways across the globe because we inherit them from common group of ancestors.

43 muscles of our face help us to portray over 10,000 different configurations. Dr. Paul Ekman has made a great contribution in science area of facial expressions and their decoding.
Following are some common expressions (including basic emotional expressions):

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Reading Body Language - Common Postures

Posture has great significance in interpreting body language. Postulating (adopting a posture) is very general approach for adjusting – relating with and defending ourselves from various physical environments, social situations, objects and persons. Posture speaks loudly.

Adopting a posture has been hard coded in our subconscious minds since millions of year as primary defense and adaptive mechanism. Our aquatic ancestors started adopting postures and we got them in genes. Unlike facial expressions or voice, posture can be observed or sensed from long distance thus it has power to convey message to many.

Following are some commonly observable postures in our day to day life:
Alert/Attentive - This posture is automatically adopted when we are looking or listening with elevated interest or surprise.
May I go? - After discovering no reason to seat anymore, we put hands on knees or thighs to prepare ourselves to stand and walk away.
Hidden aggression - Unlike authoritative stance, we grip upper arm on back to control ourselves from punishing somebody.
Waiting for relief - This posture can be seen adopted by person who wants to get out of troublesome or disturbing situation. Person may not want to seat at same place any longer.

Defensive/Suppressive - Arms are crossed over chest to defend, suppress emotions or keep away something or somebody. This posture is also adopted while waiting also. In cold climate, crossing arms over chest is done to retain body heat that leaks from armpits and palms.

Exhausted/Discouraged - While lacking energy and courage, we cannot stand perfectly upright and eventually arch in back. This posture is also adopted under threat or while feeling vulnerable.
Nervous/Stressed - Opposite to aggressive stance, putting hands in pockets or tightly clasping them alongside torso is sign of insecurity, anxiety or nervousness.

Self-control - For keeping self in check, we clench fingers with each other near abdominal area. We try to manage ourselves in the situation with reasonable patience.
Waiting - When we eagerly wait for something to finish, we rest palm rests on hips. We may not be actively involved with particular a person or situation.
Authoritative - To exert authority, we clench palms behind our back. By doing this, chest is pushed forward as a sign of warning against any misconduct. Invisible palms pose threat by possibility of holding any weapon for attack. Many security personals, officers or higher authorities adopt this posture.
Can’t seat longer - Under disinterest or impatience, we can barely seat and unconsciously prepare ourselves to stand and walk away.
Comfortable Standing - Unlike standing on both legs preparing to go somewhere,  we tend to stand on one leg while relaxing.
Comfortable Seating - This is normal sitting posture that a woman adopts quite often. Unlike legs put parallel on ground by male, she rests one leg on another.
Comfortable Recline - In relax mood, we tend to rest our back near horizontal position. Legs are also stretched to mimic asleep.


Ready to walk away - We unconsciously starts pointing by leg at the direction we want to move or go.
Thinking - This is very classical posture we adopt while seriously thinking or planning about something.
Under-confident - When somebody lacks confident and courage, torso lowers towards ground. It’s a sign of submission or surrender also.
Leave me alone - This is typical posture adopted when person gets frustrated, sad or ruminates on something.
Ready for action - Under aggressive mood, hands are rested automatically on hips to bluff the overall body size in appearance. Resting either hand on hip is sing of insularity or even frustration.
Friendly and Fearless - While we feel relaxed, friendly, open, welcoming, confident and social, we stand perfectly upright, keep hands parallel to torso and let palms to remain open and visible to other.
Let's Argue - This is classical posture we adopt while arguing or during verbal combat. One leg is put on another to secure vulnerable parts of body from being hurt and torso is elevated to appear bigger/taller opposite of others.

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