25 Common Body Language Types | Plus Examples in Action

Body language types can be easy to overlook. 

But they offer us clear clues and indications of thoughts, feelings and emotions without saying or hearing one word.

Making body language vital to any social interaction, especially in professional settings.

In this post, we'll cover what nonverbal cues really are, 25 common body language types and examples in action. 

Person using different body language types at work

This post covers:

What Are Non-Verbal Cues? 

Nonverbal cues are unspoken signals that are used to communicate an action or feeling with another person. Examples of nonverbal cues include:

  1. Facial expressions (there are many facial expressions used sometimes intentionally or unintentionally, but all of them express something). Quick fact: The human face has 43 muscles which can make up to 1,000 facial expressions.
  2. Head tilts (can indicate you're trying to listen or pay attention)
  3. Eye contact or movement (wide eyes often mean surprise or shock)
  4. Hand gestures (moving your finger up to your mouth can indicate the need for silence or to stop talking)
  5. Posture (slouched posture can show a lack of energy or motivation)
  6. Eyebrow or mouth movements (a raised eyebrow can show suspicion of a person or situation)

The list could go on. But we'd be here for a while longer!

All these nonverbal cues give others an insight into how we're feeling and how others are feeling, giving us the opportunity to react or change our behaviour accordingly.

Not using nonverbal cues in the workplace might leave you misunderstood and others confused about your true thoughts. But we understand they can be hard to spot and know the majority of meanings used widely in the workplace or outside of work. That's why we've listed 25 common types below to help.

25 Common Types of Body Language

Here are 25 common types of body language listed in groups to show how the importance of reading body language and calculating what feeling it could mean:

Aggressive 

  1. An overly firm handshake.
  2. Invading personal space.
  3. Hands-on hips or legs too wide.
  4. Eye contact to the point of staring.
  5. Aggressive physical movements like finger-pointing.

Defensive (Closed Body Language)

  1. Crossed arms or legs.
  2. A lack of eye contact.
  3. Leaning away.
  4. Hunched shoulders.
  5. Eye rolls.

Nervous

  1. Biting nails.
  2. Fidgeting.
  3. Coughing.
  4. Weak handshake.
  5. Putting hands on head.

Bored

  1. No eye contact.
  2. Excessive fidgeting.
  3. Yawning.
  4. Shifting weight and sitting uncomfortably.
  5. Rubbing face.

Engaged (Open Body Language)

  1. Good eye contact.
  2. Confident stance.
  3. Positive gestures.
  4. Nodding in agreement.
  5. Smiling.

Body language isn’t an exact science and someone who’s feeling bored or engaged might not show all of the traits listed above.

However, when speaking to someone, keep an eye on their stance, body movement and how much eye contact they give to gain a better understanding of how they perceive you. 

Read more on why body language is important here.

Examples of Body Language Types - in Action

Open Body Language

Watch the below clip from The Graham Norton Show. Instead of listening to them talk about llamas, pay attention to their body language. How are they sitting? What gestures do they make when talking?

Notice how relaxed the guests are? Even though they’re in front of cameras and an audience, they might as well be chatting in a small room by themselves. They’re laid back, at ease and very comfortable. 

As Robert Downey Jr begins to speak, he opens up his body to include everyone. If he were to just face the host, he’d have his back on some people who would feel excluded. Graham interacts with the screen behind him but turns when speaking to the guests so they can see his face. 

Everyone is given their chance to speak and no one person ever dominates the conversation. It’s a great example of relaxed and open body language, even in front of an audience. 

Boost your communication skills with our verbal communication courses

Closed Body Language

Time for another clip now. Same rules, keep an eye on the body language. 

So obviously, football manager Pep Guardiola isn’t very happy with a journalist’s question here. What’s interesting is he never raises his voice or uses overly negative language. It’s his gestures and movements that really outline how seething he is. 

Did you notice how little he blinks as he talks? Go back and have another look. He keeps very strong eye contact with the person he’s berating in a kind of showdown sort of way. But that eye contact breaks when he finishes speaking as if he’s disgusted with what he’s seeing. 

He seems to be grinding his teeth and almost recoils at the question he’s been asked. 

One final example. 

So the title is a bit of a giveaway.

This person is very nervous before they’re about to perform for an audition. Before she’s told the judges that she’s afraid, it’s easy to spot how she’s feeling. 

As she walks on stage, her arms are tight to her side and she’s holding her hands. Her shoulders are hunched and she’s almost shrinking into the background. She fidgets as she answers questions and keeps taking deep breaths to try and calm her nerves. 

Her voice is quiet and she’s clearly unsure of herself. The crowd can feel her nerves and that has even more of an effect on her. 

Then she starts to sing and she’s fantastic. Her body language was warping the audience’s opinion of her before she’d even really gotten started. This shows just how powerful body language can be. It can shape opinions about us no matter what we say.

Have you felt like this during a presentation? Worry no more. Read our post on the importance of body language during presentations for some good and bad examples.

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