It takes a blink of an eye to make a first impression.
An eye blink averages about 100 milliseconds, the same amount of time it takes to judge someone based on facial appearance alone, according to a study published in 2006 by Princeton psychologists.
This means it’s possible to figure out a person at first glance.
While they’re not the best indicators of someone’s personality, non-verbal cues help us understand others’ emotions and intentions in a given situation.
To help you read people through their body language, here are 19 things you can figure out about someone just by looking at them.
1) They’re really interested
If you’ve ever doubted whether someone’s actually interested in what you’re saying, here are some clues to help you out:
Look into their eyes.
If they’re making direct eye contact, that’s a sign of genuine interest. Either that, or you must have very enchanting eyes.
If you notice them leaning in closely or aiming their ears toward your direction, they’re interested, so carry on with whatever you’re saying or doing.
Finally, look at their feet. If they’re turned towards you, it means they’re engaged in the conversation, so keep going.
2) They don’t give a flying f***
Remember this: We point our feet where we want to go.
So if a person’s feet are aimed away from you, it’s time to wrap things up. They’re not interested.
You can also tell they don’t care when you notice them scanning the room or looking at something else.
But here’s the deal:
You have to be careful not to judge introversion as disinterest.
Here’s what I mean:
An introvert may only make occasional eye contact, but their face, body, and feet remain directed towards you. Introverts will also interact using subtle head nods every now and again.
On the other hand, the disinterested person will have their body entirely away from you and will not engage at all.
3) They’re confident in themselves
An erect posture with their head held up is a telltale sign of a confident person.
If a person is walking towards you briskly and purposefully, it’s also usually an indication that they have a healthy sense of self-confidence.
Greet them with a firm handshake, maintain eye contact and keep a straight posture to show them you have the same level of confidence as they do.
4) They feel a bit insecure
Did you know that hiding your hands inside your pocket can mean that you’re holding on to a certain level of insecurity?
Here are other subtle signs that a person may be insecure:
- They sit on the edge of the chair.
- They have a slouched posture.
- They stand in one corner of the room for a long time.
- They bite their lower lip.
5) They’re genuinely happy
We’ve all faked a smile.
But there’s one type of smile that’s extremely difficult to fake:
It’s known as the Duchenne smile, and it’s believed to reflect genuine happiness.
To distinguish a real smile, look for one that causes wrinkles around the corners of the eyes.
On the other hand, if the smile reflects more on the mouth muscles and less on the eyes, the person is probably being polite with a fake smile.
6) They’re comfortable in your presence
When a person tilts their head to one side and exposing their neck, they display their openness.
The neck is one of the body’s most vulnerable areas, so if they’re allowing you to see this, you’re doing an excellent job at making them feel comfortable around you.
7) They’re in defense mode
You know you’re making some uncomfortable when they cross their arms or feet while interacting with you.
Crossing your limbs is a defensive stance, like raising a shield before your body.
So when the person in front of you crosses their hands or ankles, they’re saying they’re uncomfortable enough that they feel the need to protect themselves.
8) They’re threatening you
If a person makes direct eye contact with you for a long time as if you were in a staring contest with them, it’s no longer a sign of interest.
Instead, this is a dominating behavior to influence or intimidate you.
Prolonged, direct eye contact without occasional glances away is the non-verbal version of “listen to me or else.”
9) They’re nervous
If a person clasps their hands or interlaces their fingers, it’s their way of relaxing their nerves or reassuring themselves.
This is because locking your fingers or hands together is considered a form of self-hug.
So when someone starts to do this while speaking to you, crack a joke to lighten the mood and help calm their nerves.
10) They’re angry
Anger is one of those emotions that’s very difficult to hide.
The exception is when a person has a resting b*tch face as their default expression.
In this case, look at other non-verbal cues for anger, like:
- Pursed lips.
- A nostril flare.
- A clenched fist.
When this happens, de-escalate the situation by remaining calm and displaying non-threatening body language.
11) Something’s frustrating or irritating them
Frustration is the slower and steadier form of anger.
You can spot a frustrated person by looking for cues like wrinkled eyebrows or scratching the back of the head.
Frustration is also why people rapidly rub their faces or eyes in certain situations (think Gordon Ramsay in Hell’s Kitchen).
Don’t fight fire with fire. Remain calm when dealing with someone’s frustration.
12) They’re bored
When a person starts slouching, fidgeting, and consistently playing with a pen or a similar object, it’s a deadly combination. This is because it means you’re boring them to death.
Yawning is also an obvious one – but you don’t need me to tell you that.
In your defense, these cues can also mean they’re tired, so taking five is probably a good idea.
13) They’re being sincere
A good clue to someone’s sincerity is their hand gestures.
When people open their palms when talking to you, they’re likely honest and sincere.
If we’re being pedantic about it, palms open at a 45-degree angle suggest openness and honesty.
I don’t know about you, but geometry is not my strong suit, so I’d settle for just observing for open palms.
14) They’re hiding something
One of my all-time favorite TV series is Lie to Mie. It’s about a deception expert that exposes lies by looking at body language and facial expressions.
But you don’t have to be a world-renowned human lie detector to know that someone is lying or guilty of something.
Here’s how you can spot deception even at first glance:
- They frequently look away.
- Rubbing or touching the nose with their index finger.
- Increased blinking.
While these cues are good indicators, the reality is there is no universal and foolproof way of telling that someone is lying.
15) They’re super stressed
People who are incredibly stressed often rub their necks to relieve the tension.
Other non-verbal cues for stress include: pacing, swaying or rocking, and fidgeting.
Stressed people can also turn to knuckle cracking or fingernail biting as a form of stress relief.
16) They want control over the situation
A person standing with their hands on their hips usually wants to assert themselves and their command over a situation.
You see this often with sports coaches, especially when the game gets intense.
It’s an aggressive pose, which is why it is also commonly used by mums (and dads) when they want their children’s attention.
But it can also sometimes be an innocent, relaxing stance, so always use context when interpreting this position.
17) They’re on the fence
A person pulling at their ears usually means they’re struggling to come up with a decision.
What does this mean for you?
Take their period of indecisiveness as the perfect opportunity to convince them to decide in your favor.
After all, what have you got to lose?
18) They’re getting impatient
Rapid finger tapping is 8/10 an indication that the person you’re talking to is becoming increasingly impatient.
However, fidgeting with their fingers can also mean the person is bored or frustrated.
Regardless of what it means, I think we can all agree that finger tapping is your cue to bring the interaction to an end before you completely lose the person’s attention – and patience!
19) They’re into you
Have you ever wondered whether someone is interested in you or not?
You’re in luck because I saved the juiciest for last.
Here’s how you can tell that someone is into you just by looking at them:
- Their pupils, or the black hole in the center of their eyes, dilate.
- They close the distance between you.
- They blush.
- They steal glances whenever you look away.
But before you get too excited, remember that these are just cues.
The only way to be sure that someone likes you is when they tell you (and we all know sometimes even that isn’t true).
Looks can be deceiving, but they can also be telling
People can dress up or down to portray a specific personality or status.
But you can still tell a lot about a person by looking at their eyes, face, and body language.
“Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.”
– Janet Lane