Types of Body Language

What types of body language can be distinguished?

Body language is usually grouped along two lines...

  1. Parts of the body
  2. Intent

So what types can be found in each group?

Parts of the body

From head to toe, here are the groups when grouped for body parts:

  • The Head - Movement and placement of the head, back to front, left to right, side to side, including the shaking of hair.
  • Facial Expressions - The face has many muscles (anywhere between 54 and 98, depending on who you ask) that move several areas of the face. Each combination of movements of the following face elements communicates a state of mind:
    • Eyebrows - Up, down, frowning.
    • Eyes - Left, right, up, down, blinking, eye dialiation.
    • Nose - Wrinkle (at the top), flaring of the nostrills.
    • Lips - Smiling, snarling, puckered, kissing, opened, closed, tight.
    • Tongue - In, out, rolled, tip up or down, licking of lips.
    • Jaw - Open, closed, clinched, lower jaw left or right.
  • Body Posture - The way you place your body and arms and legs, in relation to each other, and in relation to other people:
    • Body proximity - How far or close to other people.
    • Shoulder movements - Up, down, hanging, hunched.
    • Arm placement - up, down, crossed, straight.
    • Leg and feet placement - straight, crossed, weight placement, feet towards speaking partner or pointing elsewhere, dangling of shoes.
  • Hand and finger gestures - How you hold and move your hands and fingures are particularly insightful in reading people.
  • Handling and placement of objects (eg. pens, papers, etc). - The odd one out... technically not a body part, but objects do play a big role in reading body language.


Another way to group types of body language is along Intent:

  • Voluntary/Intentional movements - Usually called "Gestures". These are movements you intended to make, like shaking a hand, giving the finger, blinking with one eye...
  • Involuntary movements - Usually called "tells", but "ticks" also fall into this category. Any body movement you have no cotrol over falls in this category. While technically not a body movement, sweating also applies.

So where is Tone of Voice?

While usually seen as body language, tone of voice and intonation are a separate group from body language.

For completeness sake, these are the groups that are found in tone of voice:

  • Pitch of voice - high voice, low voice, intonation.
  • Loudness - Everything from shouting to whispering.
  • Breathing - Slow, fast breathing, shaky voice.

Back from Types of Body Language? to Nonverbal Communication

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