Body angling

June 23, 2011

I had a very nice e-mail this week, asking me to resume my blogging about body language. So here’s a bit more about proxemics.

It’s not just interpersonal distance that shows how comfortable you are with another person. The angle or orientation of your body is also very telling. Usually, we “point” our upper body at the people we like or agree with and angle away from the people we dislike or disagree with — giving them the “cold shoulder.”

If someone turns just his or her head to look at someone, but the body is angled away, it can indicate that the person doesn’t like the other person or what she has to say.

And as always, remember that body language can only be interpreted in clusters and in context. In the picture above, the locked ankles, crossed arms, and lack of eye contact of the woman on the right send the same message as the body angle: “Shut up already!”



  1. Watched my son’s body language when he was meeting with a Navy recruiter this week. Scene: He’s sitting in a chair at the left end of a desk with the recruiter facing him from the right. About 10 minutes into the conversation, which I can only overhear a little, my son throws his left arm over the back of his chair, effectively turning his torso away from the recruiter, though he’s still looking at him. I knew at that moment my son was “not buying what the recruiter was selling.” At the next desk a young man was leaned forward, engaging with that recruiter, eyes up and down from the recruiter to the pamphlets on the desk. That young man, I knew, was probably heading into the service by the end of the meeting. My son, probably not so much. Still, my extremely polite son took another 15 minutes to end the meeting, even followed the recruiter to the back area when he went to get something, but it was fascinating to watch.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lara. That’s a perfect example of body language saying more than words. All the best for your son’s future, no matter what he ends up doing.

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