Your Torso – It Does More than Connect Our Arms and Legs

For those of you who read last month’s post on arms, did you notice you were you more aware of how people used their arms as communication aids?

I promise that today’s post will increase your knowledge of your torso and the signals it broadcasts.

So, what is a torso? The torso includes our shoulders, chest, belly, and back. It is the largest body part component by mass. Generally, the torso is not considered an expressive part of our bodies, and its body language centers around protection. While it is most often overlooked or ignored, it houses our vital organs making it very important.

Take note – the torso is all about power.

The most common body language action is to protect the torso. Medieval knights went knight in armor 1to great effort to protect their torsos with elaborate armor. In today’s business world, we are more often protecting ourselves from verbal or psychological attack, allowing the armor to become almost invisible. However, the brain does not immediately distinguish between physical pain and negative emotion sending out signals to protect the vital organs.

Today’s business world shields take various forms – crossing the arms over the chest, buttoning a jacket, reaching one arm in front of the chest to adjust a wristwatch, fixing a tie knot, or touching jewelry.

Two primary body language signals emanate from the torso. The first is that the person is confident, comfortable, or in charge; the second is that the person is protecting his body, feels uncomfortable, lacks confidence, or is trying to disappear.

What do these gestures look like?

Confident, comfortable – body is erect; arms relaxed; shoulders are either squared or pulled back.body language - torso 2Not confident, uncomfortable – chest is caved in; shoulder are rounded and curled forward; arms crossed in front of body or playing with a tie, watch, jewelry or buttons.

body language - torsoThe two different levels of power are easily differentiated. You can validate torso body language by observing facial gestures, the arms, and the hands.

There are also non-business signals from the torso. When a male pushes out his chest, he marilyn monroeis saying that he is powerful, big, and strong. When a female pushes her chest out, she is sending sexual/romantic messages that she is available and interested.

What if you want to project a neutral message from the torso? Your torso should be straight but relaxed with your arms at your sides. Your full body is still sending out the message that you are interested in interaction and ready to engage. This neutral position is not as easy as it sounds. You may need to practice holding that stance for several minutes before it becomes natural.

Your torso’s first job is protection and demonstrating power. Your intentional body language can help the torso project a range of emotions.

Have an enjoyable month and remember to periodically check to see that your body language actually mirrors the message you want to send.


  1. Over the next month, watch several people standing in a line waiting for service. What are their torsos saying about the situation? Are they open or closed to the interaction that is to come?
  2. What is your typical torso stance? Do you approach the world projecting a closed image (arms crossed) or are you open/neutral and inviting interactions? Does your work situation require an open or closed approach?

Originally published on

These arms…

Welcome to this month’s insight into business body language. It’s a place to get tips to help you better understand the signals your body is sending and how to modify your body language to match your message.

For those of you who read last month’s post on feet and legs, were you more observant of others’ feet and leg placement? Did you think about how you were standing while in conversation with a group? Remember, if you want the truth, look at the feet and legs.

Arms are another interesting body language feature. They are attached to two other body language messagthese arms of minee centers – the hands and the torso – but they are very expressive in their own right. In order of prominence, arms are the third most important area for deciphering body language.

Otis Redding knew how important arms were in building relationships. He charmed millions with “These Arms of Mine” and showed how expressive arms could be.

Some tips on arm body language:

  • Many arm gestures are only interpreted correctly if you also include the accompanying hand movements. Additionally, facial expressions add to the message that the arms are sending.
  • Arms raised to their full extension can express joy, victory, or surrender, depending on the accompanying hand motions, as well as facial expressions. These are extremes of emotion and are not easily confused.

arms up

Crossed arms can signal that the individual is:

  • Closed – as in not open to new ideas
  • Being protective
  • Reassuring themselves in a classic “self-reassurance” posture
  • Comfortable sitting or standing in that position
  • Cold and trying to warm up

arms crossed

Once again, facial expressions will add the rest of the information for you to correctly understand (or send) the message.

  • Hands behind head, elbows pointing forward, is a territorial gesture and one of dominance.
  • An individual with arms behind the back can be:
    • Uncomfortable and unsure about what to do with their arms and hands
    • Hiding something – literally or figuratively
    • Trained that arms behind the back and a wider stance is “at ease.”

The preferred – or “neutral” – standing position is relaxed with arms and hands at your sides. If you are uncomfortable with this, holding your arms behind your back is much preferable to the “fig leaf” position.

fig leaf positionHugs are primarily arm movements and are defined by duration, pressure, facial expression, cultural norms, and gender. Because it is a contact body movement, it often feels awkward because the two individuals are not in sync.

best friendsHave an enjoyable month and remember to periodically check to see that your body language actually mirrors the message you want to send.


  1. Over the next month watch someone making a formal presentation. Are their arm movements helping or hindering the message of the presentation?
  2. Which arm movements do you make most often? Are those movements congruent with your message? What changes might you consider?

finger hug

Originally published on

What do you mean that your feet don’t lie?

Welcome to this month’s insight into business body language. It’s a place to get tips on the signals your body is sending and how to modify your body language to match your message.

Before we jump into feet and legs, let’s reflect back on last month’s post on smiles. What did you learn as you observed people smiling in different situations? How did you differentiate between a genuine smile and a “fake” smile? How did your selfies turn out? Did you real smile look genuine? Did you fake smile look like a grimace? Periodically check in to see which message that smile is really sending.

The second most important broadcast center of the body is the feet and legs. They don’t lie, but rather express your true feelings, so they provide powerful indicators of what is really happening. We may think we’re using our face to deceive or conceal, yet we tend to ignore our feet, which are broadcasting loud and clear.

feet plantedSome tips on what your feet are saying:

  • Look at the direction your feet are facing. We turn to what we like and turn away from what is disagreeable.
    • If you are standing while in a conversation, make sure your feet are pointing toward group cchatthe person speaking; this indicates that you are paying attention
    • If you walk into a room and observe a group of people standing and talking, observe where all the feet are pointing – toward the most important person!
  • Foot jiggling is a telltale sign of nervousness or discomfort. If you have a tendency to jiggle your foot, try to sit with both feet on the floor.
  • The ankle lock – legs crossed at the ankles – is a form of “biting one’s lip” and signifies holding back a negative emotion, uncertainty, or fear. For example, in a study of 319 dental patients, all the patients locked their ankles while in the dentist’s chair.

dentist's chairHave an enjoyable month, and remember to periodically check to see that your body language actually mirrors the message you want to send.


  1. Over the next month, observe several conversations among people standing in a group. Can you tell which individual is the leader or most important person? Is there evidence that any person is unhappy participating in the group chat? What are the key clues for you?
  2. During the month, take a look at what your feet and legs are doing while you are:
  • at a dinner table with friends
  • seated in a meeting
  • standing with two or more individuals and talking
  • sitting and taking with someone in a one-on-one situation.

Think about the message your feet and legs are sending. Is it the message you want people to receive?

Originally published on

Is that smile really a smile?

Last month’s post provided an overview of facial business body language. Today we’ll spend time on two individual facial body language broadcast areas – the smile and eyebrows.

Think of the last photographs taken of you. Were you happy with your smile? Did it look more like a grimace? Differentiating between a genuine smile and a fake one tends to be pretty straightforward.

Characteristics of a genuine smile include:

  • Eyes crinkle, especially at the outside corners
  • Nose may be slightly crinkled
  • Corners of lips turn upward naturally and the lips part, revealing teeth
  • The “apples” of the cheeks raise and look puffy
  • It is a broad grin

Characteristics of a fake smile include:

  • Lips tend to move laterally toward the ears instead of upward
  • Teeth and jaws are clenched together even when revealing teeth
  • Mouth may be closed and tight-lipped

The differences between the two types of smile, as shown in the comparison photo, are slight, but the message conveyed is vastly different.

smile styles1smile styles2Another place to look for big clues about what the other person is feeling is to check out the eyebrows. Now, we are not evaluating whether they are well groomed eyebrows or unruly. Our focus is on the eyebrow movements. Yes, that thin line of hair above your eyes is very expressive.

If you are meeting someone for the first time, watch their eyebrows! If they smile and the eyebrows “flash” – that is, rise rapidly and then return to the neutral position – then the conversation will likely go well. Interestingly, this phenomena occurs only the first time you meet someone.

Things to observe about eyebrows and what they might mean:

  • “Knitted” eyebrows (raising the eyebrows and moving them together) signals displeasure, unhappiness, or anxiety.
  • Raised eyebrows accompanied by widely opened eyes may signal surprise, worry, or fear.
  • Lowered eyebrows with crease lines between them signifies anger or displeasure.


eyebrowsAs with all body language, you should not draw a conclusion based on just one component or body part broadcast. Look at the whole face, or if possible, the whole person and evaluate what you see as a whole.

Next month we’ll learn more about feet and legs. They don’t lie, so they provide powerful indicators of what is really going on.

Have an enjoyable month and remember to periodically check to see that your body language actually mirrors the message you want to send.


  1. Over the next week observe several dozen people smiling. Can you tell if the smile is genuine or fake? What are the key clues for you?
  2. Take two selfies this week – one with a genuine smile and one with a fake smile. Which one comes more naturally for you? If you aren’t happy with your smile, practice it!

Originally published on

Look at that face!

Yes, make sure to take many good looks at a person’s face during any conversation. The face is the most expressive body language “broadcast center” because there are so many separate features sending out messages.

A short laundry list of which facial areas to observe for body language messages includes:

  • Foreheadgroup-of-happy-people-2
  • Eyebrows
  • Eyelids
  • Eyes, in general
  • Creases around the eyes
  • Irises
  • Nose
  • Nostrils
  • Mouth
  • Upper lip
  • Lower lip
  • Smile
  • Chin
  • Overall positioning of the face

If each of these features is capable of a minimum of five different expressions, creating the potential for more than 50,000 different combinations of facial expressions!

Happy face 3Take a moment and think about a situation where you were with a person who was very happy. How did you know that? More than likely their facials features showed:

  • Wrinkles/creases around the eyes
  • Sparkling eyes
  • Slightly raised eyebrows
  • Raised cheeks
  • Corners or the mouth lifted

Now, they did not think about each of those five facial expressions and you did not process each of them separately. All that action took place in less than one second for each of you – the expression of happiness is almost immediate and your interpretation occurred in a split-second.

This one example illustrates the power of facial body language, as well as how fleeting each expression can be. It is amazing that we rapidly and continuously process the ever -changing messages without having to stop and think about each Happy face 1component. Much of our translation ability is “automatic” and can catch each message quickly.

A warning: Some of the differences in facial expressions/messages are very subtle. By observing facial body language and learning some of the finer points, you will greatly improve your ability to accurately receive the message being sent.

Next month, learn how to differentiate between a genuine smile and a fake smile, and how eyebrows can give you great insight into a conversation.

TAKEAWAY: Several times a week, take a moment to observe two people in conversation. What are their facial expressions telling you? Think about each of the items in the list above and describe the expression specifically. Breaking down the emotion into its facial body language components will help you understand the subtleties of the communication.

Have a great month and remember to SMILE.

Originally published on