Body Language 75 Pride

April 19, 2020

The gestures associated with pride seem simple enough, but you need to be careful because there are other emotions that can have similar features. In this article I will give some tips on how to spot true pride.

Signals that demonstrate pride can also be seen in a person experiencing simple satisfaction. The two emotions are not the same at all, but the body language is similar. Also, hubris can have many of the same characteristics.

Curiously, the gestures for contempt are very close to those of pride, so you need to be a bit careful.

Let’s pick apart the specific gestures and see if we can isolate those that are most associated with pride as opposed to other emotions.


The most important part of the body associated with pride is the chin. When a person is proud, the angle of the chin will be up. The head is generally slightly backward but vertical from side to side and not tilted at all. If the chin is down, then you may be looking at satisfaction rather than pride.

The mouth

A person experiencing pride will have a slight smile associated with a symmetrical pulling back of both cheeks. If only one cheek is pulled back then the smile is gone, and the gesture is probably that of contempt or distrust as opposed to pride.

This would be like the famous gesture of “unimpressed” that McKayla Maroney made while receiving the Silver Medal in gymnastics in 2012 and later mimicked with President Obama, as in the attached photo.

Eyes and gaze

A person who is proud will have a fixed gaze and make good eye contact with the person he is facing. Someone experiencing hubris may have more shifty eyes indicating lack of confidence. With pride, the eyes will be relaxed and steady, but that can also be said of someone experiencing satisfaction.


When a person is expressing pride, the eyebrows are relaxed and not furrowed at all. Pride carries a connotation of confidence and sometimes even dominance, so there is no indication of worry or stress in the eyebrows, as would be the case with hubris.


A person demonstrating pride will not be slouched over. His shoulders will be erect and slightly back. The back will be arched. Pride often reflects a kind of military stance that is often seen with service members on the assembly field. Similarly, if a proud person is seated, his back will be straight and his shoulders held high with no sign of a slouch.

Hands and arms

With many emotions, the hands are somehow involved touching various areas of the face or head. Pride rarely calls for interaction between the head and the extremities. It would be unusual to see a person who is feeling pride holding his jaw or putting his finger in front of his mouth.

What to do

When you see a person showing body language signals reflecting pride, the first thing to do is see if you can, if need be, through dialog, uncover the source of the pride. Quite often, when a person is experiencing pride it is pretty obvious why that is the case. You can make an affirming statement or gesture indicating you agree with the person’s right to be proud and endorse that emotion. That gesture of support will tend to enhance the trust between you both.

The only caveat here is that if you support the person’s pride, it needs to be genuine. If you are putting on an act to avoid conflict, then the other person is likely to detect that, and you will do damage to the relationship.

On the other hand, you may feel that pride is not warranted in this situation. That becomes a delicate situation, because there is lack of agreement that the person should be proud.

In our highly polarized society, there can be disconnects between the way two people will view an issue, so it is important that if you detect this is the case to proceed with caution. An open discussion may draw out the true source of pride and whether it is false pride. It could also mean that you did not understand the background well enough so you felt the person didn’t have a right to be proud when he really did. Either clarify the disconnect, or it may be a good strategy to agree to disagree on this particular issue.


Pride is rather easy to spot when you see it, but you need to be careful because several other emotions have some of the same characteristics. Whether it is true pride or something else, an appropriate response is important. This brief article attempted to sort out a few key differences.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”

Body Language 3 – Body Position Tells a Lot

November 25, 2018

Interpreting body language is an extremely complex science, as we will see in this series. However, we can pick up huge clues as to what is going on simply by observing the position of one’s body in space. Later in the series we will add details of facial expression and gestures, but this article focuses on grasping the big picture first.

We take in a lot of information simply by observing how the person is sitting or standing. For example, I was once meeting a good friend for lunch. We knew each other very well and were meeting to catch up on what was happening for each of us. I entered the restaurant and saw my colleague sitting in a booth with her back to me. She did not see me come in. As I made my way to the table, I said to myself, “Oh dear, Jane is having a crisis.” I could only see the back of her head and the angle of her shoulders, but I accurately observed a woman who was deep into a personal crisis in her life.

The trick here was knowing her habitual posture of sitting tall with head held high. When I observed her bent-over shoulders and bowed head, I figured either she way praying or feeling a great weight. Since it would be not like her to pray in public, it was easy to deduce she was in crisis.

Here is another example: I was once approaching a young man whom I had not met yet. I immediately observed that he: 1) took care of himself physically, 2) was an educated, polite, and articulate person, 3) knew how to dress properly for the occasion, and most importantly 4) was anxious to meet me. All of these traits were easy to spot, even before I observed his facial expression or we had shaken hands or spoken any words. All these clues were evident by the way he was walking and carrying himself.

Let’s imagine a female, but blank out her facial expression for an experiment. She is standing at a slight angle to you, but mostly directly facing you. Her hands are on her hips. Her head is erect and her shoulders are slightly to the rear. Her legs are straight and rigid. If that image of a woman does not cause you to cower a bit, whether you are male or female, you are not paying attention. We do not need the detail in her fingers or facial expression to accurately deduce that she is upset, and since she is facing you, it is pretty obvious you had better do some serious groveling.

Just for fun, let’s do another example. We see a picture of a man who is sitting in a straight chair with one hand on the arm of the chair and the other one extended with palm up. The man’s legs are crossed at the ankle in a relaxed position but his back and head are straight upright. We cannot see anything else, but could quickly deduce a few things about this scene.

It is implied that there is a second person here because of the man’s outreached hand. He is making a point to the other person, and, since his palm is up, he is advocating something (if he was pointing or had clenched fist we would deduce something different). There is an implied table or desk between the two people due to the way his legs are crossed. Since he is advocating something and is sitting erect, it is easy to guess that this is not a casual conversation about the weather or something trivial. This is an important conversation for the man. It could be a performance appraisal or a job interview. Notice how much meaning is implied from just a few nebulous clues and no detail.

In the real world, we have the general shape of a person to get us pointed in the right direction, then we add the more specific clues of facial expression or gestures to fill in the picture and increase our accuracy of decoding the scene.

Exercise for you today

Notice today how much information you can gather about a person’s mental state even before you take into account the more precise clues of facial expression and gestures. Also notice how something seems off kilter when you observe a person and the body position is incongruent with the facial expression.

Notice also how much more likely you are to trust your initial reaction to a person if his or her body language is easy to interpret and not ambiguous. We sense these things instinctively and at a subconscious level before we are even aware of them consciously.

Congruence in body language is a huge element, because we verify accuracy by the clusters of body language. For example, if the woman I approached in the restaurant at the start of this article had on a broad smile when I got close enough to see her face, I would immediately assume she was trying to deceive me. The smile would not appear to be genuine. In that case, I would need to dig and test in a number of ways before ascribing any specific emotion.

Try to become a master of taking in both the big picture and the minute details of body language, and you will grow in your ability to decode information correctly.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at, or 585.392.7763