Body Language For Dummies®, 2nd Edition

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Table of Contents

Body Language For Dummies®, 2nd Edition



About the Author

Elizabeth Kuhnke holds a Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Communications from Northwestern University, and a Masters degree in Theatre Arts. For over 20 years, Elizabeth has worked with individuals and groups to bolster their personal impact and communication skills.

Before moving to Britain, Elizabeth acted throughout the United States on the stage, radio, and television. In addition to designing and delivering university programmes in voice and movement, she also taught acting skills to students and professionals.

In the United Kingdom, Elizabeth applies her theatrical expertise and psychological insight with a rock-solid business approach. She works at top level with FTSE 100 companies and leading professional firms to provide both one-to-one and group coaching in key areas relating to interpersonal communication and image projection. Coming from diverse backgrounds including accountancy, law, construction, and telecommunications, Elizabeth’s clients consistently achieve their goals and have fun getting there. Her keys to communication are based on the simple principle of demonstrating respect, establishing rapport, and achieving results.

A highly entertaining speaker, Elizabeth is a popular choice on the conference circuit, and is often quoted in the media addressing issues concerning confidence, voice, body language, and communication skills – all the ingredients that create a positive impact.

For further information about Elizabeth, visit her website at .

Author’s Acknowledgements

They say you should be careful what you dream for, as it may come true. When I wrote the first edition of Body Language For Dummies, I harboured an unspoken dream that the book would be a runaway bestseller with translations across the globe. My dream came true – and then some! Apps, DVDs, enhanced e-books, and international speaking engagements all followed.

Thank you, Kate, for introducing me to the wonderful world of Wiley, and for helping me to surpass my goals. My thanks also go to Kaiser Karl, whom I love with all my heart, for supporting me in weird and wonderful ways; to my precious angels, Max and Kristina, who bring me peaceful love and nurturing challenges; to Katie and Charlotte, who keep me on track and bring joy to my days; to Tom, who keeps his eye on the pounds and pennies; and to Kerry, Steve, Jo, and the whole For Dummies crew. You’re stars.

Most of what you read in these chapters I have learned from valued colleagues, clients, friends, and family members. To name them all would take more pages than I am allowed, so those of you who know me, know you’re in my heart as I write these words. Finally, to you, my readers. My wish for you is that you enjoy the read, gain some knowledge, and free your expressive bodies in the name of clear, congruent communication.

Publisher’s Acknowledgements

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments at . For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Vertical Websites

Project Editor: Steve Edwards (Previous Edition: Rachael Chilvers)

Commissioning Editor: Kerry Laundon

Assistant Editor: Ben Kemble

Development Editor: Andy Finch

Proofreader: Kim Vernon

Production Manager: Daniel Mersey

Publisher: David Palmer

Cover Photo: © iStock/hammondovi

Photography: Stephen Walby ()

Cartoons: Rich Tennant ()

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Kristie Rees

Layout and Graphics: Carrie A. Cesavice

Proofreader: Jessica Kramer

Indexer: Christine Karpeles

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Kathleen Nebenhaus, Vice President and Executive Publisher

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Body language speaks more loudly than any words you can ever utter. Whether you’re telling people that you love them, you’re angry with them, or don’t care about them, your body movements reveal your thoughts, moods and attitudes. Both consciously and sub-consciously, your body tells observers what’s really going on with you.

All day, every day, your body is relaying messages about your attitude, your mood and your general state of being. You can determine what messages you relay by the way you use your body.

Although body language began with our ancient ancestors and long before vocal sounds turned into sophisticated words, phrases and paragraphs, only in the last 60 years or so has body language been seriously studied. During that time, people have come to appreciate the value of body language as a tool for enhancing interpersonal communication. Politicians, actors and high-profile individuals recognise the part that their bodies play in conveying their messages.

Each chapter of this book addresses a specific aspect of body language. In addition to focusing on individual body parts and the role they play in communicating your thoughts, feelings and attitude, you discover how to interpret other people’s body language, giving you an insight into their mental state before they may be aware of it themselves. Remember that you need to read body language in clusters and context. One gesture doesn’t a story tell any more than does one word.

By performing specific actions and gestures, you can create corresponding mental states. By practising the gestures, you experience the positive impact of body language and discover how to create the image you want. You may actually become the person you want to be.

Are you ready? Read on.

About This Book

For a subject that’s relatively new to the study of evolution and social behaviour, you can find a sizeable amount of research on body language. As businesses expand across the globe and international travel is more accessible than ever before, people are recognising the impact of culture, gender and religious customs on body language and communication. While I’ve written the second edition of Body Language For Dummies from a mostly English-speaking western perspective, Chapter 15 has been expanded to include body language in different cultures – what’s acceptable and what could cause offence. Because of the vastness of the subject, I’ve been selective in what I’ve chosen to include and focused on using body language to enhance your non-verbal communication for your personal and business relationships.

In this book I explain ways of recognising and identifying specific gestures, actions and expressions that convey and support both the spoken and non-spoken message. By improving your reading of body language, understanding how your body conveys messages and recognising how mood and attitude are reflected in your gestures and expressions, you have the upper hand in your interpersonal communications. By recognising and responding to body signals, you can direct the flow of the conversation and facilitate meetings easily and effectively. I show you the impact of thoughts and feelings on gestures and expressions – both yours as well as others.

The point of the book is for you to become conscious of body language, whether it’s your own or that of other people. The book is also intended to help you interpret gestures, movements and expressions. Finally, this book identifies the signs and signals you can send out to enhance your communication.

Conventions Used in This Book

This book is a jargon-free zone. When I introduce a new term, I italicise it and then define it. The only other conventions in this book are that Web and email addresses are in monofont and the action part of numbered steps and the key concepts in a list are in bold. I alternate between using female and male pronouns in odd- and even-numbered chapters to be fair to both the men and women who read through these pages.

Foolish Assumptions

I assume, perhaps wrongly, that you:

check.png Are interested in body language and know a little bit about it

check.png Want to improve your interpersonal communications

check.png Are willing to reflect and respond

check.png Expect the best

How This Book is Organised

The cool thing about the For Dummies books is that you can dip in and out as you please. You don’t need to read the first chapter to understand the last and if you read the last chapter first you won’t ruin the story. The table of contents and index can help you find what you need. If you prefer to just dive in, please do – there’s water in the pool. Read on for what lies ahead.

Part I: In the Beginning Was the Gesture

In this part I explore the foundations of body language, the silent communicator. You discover the origins of body language, how it evolved and the impact it has on all your communications and relationships.

Part II: Starting at the Top

Focusing on the head and its parts and positions, I continue exploring body language and the messages it conveys. You discover how the tilt of your head, the lift of your brow and the tremble of your lip reveal more than the words that tumble from your mouth.

Part III: The Trunk: Limbs and Roots

In this part I explore the impact of your posture on your thinking, attitudes and perceptions. You see how feelings, behaviour and perceptions are intertwined. I look at the body’s limbs, its arms, legs, feet, hands and fingers and how their movements reflect inner states and create impressions. Finally, you see how your accessories add to the picture of who you are.

Part IV: Putting the Body into Social and Business Context

In this part you discover how to gesture effectively and appropriately according to the situation you’re in. You find out where to place and position yourself for greatest effect. You discover how to read and reveal signs of interest and dismissal and how to engage with a possible romantic partner. Back at the office, you discover the power positions and how to demonstrate confidence and positive impact.

Addressing cultural diversity, you get a glimpse into behaviours different from your own and pick up adaptive strategies for avoiding potential pitfalls.

Part V: The Part of Tens

If you’re keen to get a handle on body language quickly and concisely, start with Part V. Stop here if you want top ten tips for spotting when someone’s being economical with the truth. I also show you how to enlarge your fan base and engage with your admirers. For developing your skills as a silent communicator, gaining self-awareness and honing your observation skills, this is the place to be.

Icons Used in This Book

For sharpening your thinking and focusing your attention, let these icons be your guide.

anecdote.eps This icon highlights stories to entertain and inform you about people I know, or people I’ve observed and the clues they’ve revealed through body language.

peoplewatching.eps Here’s a chance for you to stand back and observe without being seen. By distancing yourself and taking a bird’s eye view, you can watch how others behave and reflect on the outcome.

remember.eps This icon underscores a valuable point to keep in mind.

tip.eps These are practical and immediate remedies for honing your body language skills.

trythis.eps Here, you can have a go at putting theory into practice. Some of the practical exercises are designed to enhance your image and create an impact.

Where to Go from Here

Although all the material in this book is designed to support you in being yourself at your best, not all the information may be pertinent to your specific needs or interests. Read what you want, when you want. You don’t have to read the book in order, nor is there a sell by date for covering the material.

If you’re interested in how body language conveys messages, begin with Part I. If you’re seeking to improve your body language for a job interview or for playing the political and corporate game at work, have a look at Chapter 14. If you’re curious about facial expressions have a look at Chapter 4. And if you want to know how to behave appropriately in cultures different from yours, turn to Chapter 15.

Now, flip to a page, chapter, or section that interests you and read away. Feel free to dip and dive from section to section and page to page. Most importantly, enjoy the read.

Part I

In the Beginning Was the Gesture


In this part . . .

Here’s where we explore the foundations of body language, the way of silently communicating that can improve your impact factor and relationships once you grasp the basics. In this part, we go back in time to the origins of body language, how it’s evolved, and its ability to reveal thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.