A new take on body-language, part 2 – what behaviour tells us about the intentions and feelings of others

The last blog explored how understanding body language is vital for creating a magnificent and exclusive relationship.  As luxury matchmakers we are committed to helping our members connect with other elite individuals, and understanding the non-verbal side of communication can be the catalyst for connection.  Therefore the second blog of this series focuses on specific behaviours, their origins and what these gestures reveal. 

Read the feet not the face

According to Novello, the most revelatory part of the body is not the face but the feet.  Millions of years of evolution means that our limbic brain has registered freezing, running or kicking as primitive responses to threat, and this still manifests in our behaviour today.  Feet don’t deceive, whereas we often compose our faces into expressions designed to conceal our emotions.  Turning the feet away signals disengagement and a readiness to leave a situation.  Standing with legs crossed is a sign of comfort, if comfort lessens, we tend to plant both feet on the ground, or if seated, lock our feet around the legs of a chair.  This is the limbic brain providing protection in readiness to freeze or run.  In contrast, in dating situations women will also engage in ‘shoe-play’ slipping shoes on and off.  This is a ‘notice me’ behaviour and should be taken as encouragement.  In dates and partnerships that are going well, the couple will place their feet close together, but watch this change if an uncomfortable topic surfaces! 

Soothing behaviours

If a situation is making a person uncomfortable, the brain requires the body to do something that will stimulate nerve endings, releasing calming endorphins in the brain to restore equilibrium.  Therefore self-soothing behaviours show us that someone is going through discomfort.  These self-calming gestures manifest as rubbing the forehead and touching the face, exhaling with puffed out cheeks and rubbing the arms.  Placing the hand over the throat or playing with a necklace is a behaviour which evolved from protecting this vulnerable area in primitive times.  Rubbing the neck is a stress relieving gesture as it locates the vagus nerve which slows the heart rate down.  Any of these behaviours can serve as a prompt to explore the cause of the discomfort and seek solutions.

Leaning and turning

For billions of years we have put distance between what harms or repels us.  Our brains are therefore hard-wired to turn away (in evolution to protect the vital organs), or lean away from people we find displeasing or threatening.  In presidential debates, the candidates lean away from each other even though they are seated at a distance.  Compare this with lovers who can often be seen leaning towards each other.  If your date is displaying this behaviour this is a sign of comfort and trust.  Chest-shielding behaviour in the form of arm-crossing, and even buttoning up a suit can signify discomfort – the limbic brain is driving these behaviours.

The lip purse

People purse their lips or press their lips together when they disagree with something being said.  The benefit in recognising this is vividly illustrated by Navarro & Karlins (2008) who was trying to secure a contract with a multinational corporation by presenting the contract points in order.  When negotiating a particular point, the director of the prospective corporation did nothing other than purse his lips.  Knowing this to be a sign that something was wrong, Navarro initiated discussion and negotiation immediately allowing an agreement to be thrashed out and sealing a multimillion-dollar deal. 

The face

Contrary to popular opinion, the face can be difficult to decipher.  We become proficient at composing our features from an early age in order to conform socially and hide what we do not want the world to know.  However, much is still revealed, and sometimes the contradiction between what is voiced and what is expressed on the face is astounding.  The eyes convey warmth and are wide with dilated pupils when we are in the presence of someone who sparks our interest.  However, they are the first thing to leave the other person when we are bored or unimpressed with a remark.  Eye squinting is also a distancing behaviour, with eye-blocking (hands over face or shutting the eyes) indicating a strong adverse emotional reaction.  And if your date tilts their head, this exposes the neck (a vulnerable area) and is a gesture often seen in courtship when bonds are being formed.

The last blog in this series will give you some tips on how we can make our body language work to our advantage.




Ekman, P. (2003). Emotions Revealed. Understanding faces and feelings. Pheonix, London.

Navarro, J. & Karlins, M. (2008).  What every body is saying.  Harper-Collins, New York.