body_language

People show how well they know each other by how close they stand or how often they touch. It’s rude to stand too close to a stranger but normal to stand close to a best friend. The intimate zone is where people who know you well can stand while talking to you. The personal zone is for people who know you but aren’t close, such as teachers. The social zone is where strangers stand while talking to you.

Who’s in charge?

One of the things people signal with their body is whether they’re in charge or somebody else is in charge. Leaning forwards or looking relaxed are ways of appearing to be in charge.

Copying Good friends often mimic each other’s body language without realizing. They might walk in step, sit or stand in the same position, or copy each other’s hand movements.

Learning gestures

You pick up a lot of your body language from the people you grow up with. Your gestures and the way you sit, stand, and walk are probably similar to your friends and family.

Open or closed?

When someone feels relaxed or friendly, they have an “open” posture, with arms and legs apart. If someone is nervous or awkward, they have a “closed” posture, with arms and legs close to the body.

Talking to animals

Animals can’t understand speech but they often understand our body language. Dogs can sense who’s in charge from body language. They need to be treated strictly or will start to misbehave.

Use your hands

Most people move their hands as they speak, but what do their gestures mean? Some hand gestures mean the same thing all over the world, but others vary from place to place.

Speak to the hands

Hands seem to have minds of their own. When people talk, their hands move all over the place, even when they’re on the phone!

Thumbs up

A raised thumb means “good” or “well done!” in North America. In Germany it means “one”, in Japan it means “five”, and in the Middle East and Africa it’s impolite.

Making a circle

A finger touching a thumb means “OK” in North America, “worthless” in France, and “I want my change in coins” in Japan. In Turkey it can be rude.

Palms together

This is a sign of prayer in Christian countries, but in India it is used as a greeting. Indians place their hands together, make a slight bow, and say Namaste.

Shaking hands

Shaking hands is a common greeting in many countries, but there are slight differences. A firm handshake is a sign of sincerity in Europe but is thought to be aggressive in Asia.

Making a point Pointing is one of the first hand gestures that people learn, and it means the same thing all over the world. Babies ask for things by pointing at them before they learn to speak.

Talking underwater

Divers can’t speak underwater so they use a kind of sign language instead. They have special signs for marine animals like sharks and turtles.

  • Use your hands Pointing with an outstretched arm means something is far away.
  • OK is shown by a finger touching a thumb, making a circle.
  • Stay at this depth is shown by waving a flat hand from side to side.
  • Stop is shown by a clenched fist and a bent arm.

Making a point

Pointing is one of the first hand gestures that people learn, and it means the same thing all over the world. Babies ask for things by pointing at them before they learn to speak.

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