Body Language Reading: Understanding People Beyond Words

by Percival J. Meris on July 4, 2010

Body Language

Photo Courtesy of Microsoft Office

BODY LANGUAGE READING IS A SKILL WE HAVE TO LEARN if we want to truly understand other people. Otherwise, we could be misled by their words and receive incorrect information as a result. Basically, body language tells us whether we can rely on the words the other person is saying.

People do not always say what they mean and mean what they say. Fortunately, body language reading is a way we can bypass reliance on words to gain accurate understanding in communication.

Body Language Principle

Body language is a language of the emotion. Through the body’s display of emotions, usually occurring unconsciously, we are able to read the minds of others.

Upon the occurrence of thought, the brain sends electrical impulses throughout the body through the nervous system. The nerves stimulate physiological reactions, generating emotions that manifest themselves through the body.

We cannot perceive thought directly, but we can see and hear its emotional effects on the body. In body language reading, we look for these effects, and try to interpret them correctly. Word utterance is not necessary to detect them.

Cloaking Body Languages

People sometimes try to cloak these effects by behaving otherwise. However, they cannot totally be successful in doing so.

Actual videos taken of some celebrity captured unconscious gestures and split-second lapses in their pretenses during unguarded moments. They betray to the trained eyes true emotions.

Criminals try to deceive their investigators by “acting” up to hide the truth. Fortunately, technology understands that there are leakages in their pretenses, and hopes to capture these subtleties through a lie detector machine.

Why We Should Learn Body Language Reading

I shall give only two reasons that I consider most basic:

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Do you know that verbal language comprise only 7% of the entire communication? The remaining 93% is body language: voice tone, 38%; facial expressions and physical gestures, 55%.

So, why rely on words alone? In communication, face-to-face is best. Seeing and hearing a person give us fairer chance at more accurate decoding of his message.

Knowledge Is Power

The power to decide correctly is only possible with the knowledge of correct information.

If you were an employer interviewing an applicant, would you hire him solely on the basis of his resume and oral responses to your questions? Why in the first place did you require his physical presence?

If you were a guy attracted to a girl, would you believe her pretend words of denial, when what she is merely trying to do is to mask her true feelings for you? Not, if you know how to read the body language of love.

As a public speaker, how would you know if your audience is bored? As a salesman, how would you know if your prospect is ready to buy?

Correct Body Language Interpretation

A specific body language presentation should NEVER be interpreted in isolation.

It should be interpreted against the other person’s accompanying gestures and also his normal pattern of behavior. It should be interpreted in the light of circumstances, preceding and accompanying his act. It should be interpreted within the context of his cultural upbringing.

Failure to do so could lead to dangerous interpretations.

Listen with Your Eyes; See with Your Ears

In any successful communication, both verbal and physical languages should be present. They compliment one another. Message interpretation would be insufficient in the absence of one.

Words should not be discarded because of its small contribution to communication. They have to be validated anyway by what the body says. Conversely, body language alone may not suffice without the use of words to support correct interpretation.

In the absence of words, body language gives us hints on how to deal with the unspoken message. If you see signs of anger, back off for a while, and let him cool off first.


There are a lot of specific details to learn in the science of body language that this short article would not do justice to, if treated here.

If you want a beginner’s course on body language, this website is offering a free 5-day course on body language basics. You can enroll for this FREE ecourse by clicking here. You will also receive an ebook on this subject to supplement your course learning.

In the future, this body language course will extend into a more advanced course for those who have already signed up for the basics – again for free.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali (Soulful Body & Mind) July 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Wow Percival, this was a very interesting read. I, consciously, have always analyzed people's body language. But the stats that you provided on how it comprises most of our language, is amazing. I would have never thought that.

Thanks for the enjoyable read!

Sirpercy July 5, 2010 at 12:28 am

It's amazing, Ali, what body language reading can do. Once, I intended to interview a student of mine, suspected of stealing his classmate's property. When I called him to my office, I knew he would deny the allegation. So, as he entered my office, I observed his expression and gestures right from the door. He was unconsciously displaying emotions of fear and guilt. He did not have to speak a word for me to conclude he was guilty. Later, he had no choice but to admit it.

steveborgman July 6, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Percival, thanks for sharing this very helpful guide to better communication. “Listen with your eyes, hear with your ears,” is a great tip that I'm going to take away from reading this article. I believe this is going to be a very helpful article to refer my readers over at to.

Percival July 9, 2010 at 5:38 am

Thank you, Steve, for extending the reach of this article to your own readers. I hope they will find the ideas here useful. Thank you also for taking away a portion of this article for your own life application.

Valerie B July 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Hi! I like your blog. Have a great weekend!

Percival July 10, 2010 at 7:53 am

Hi, Valerie.

Thanks for dropping by. Thanks for appreciating my blog. I hope to see more of you in the coming postings.


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