Body Language 100 Final Thoughts and Index

November 15, 2020

I sized this series of articles on Body Language to be 100 articles. This will be the final installment. It took me two years to complete the project by publishing one article in the series per week.

If you would like to scan the various topics I have written about on body language, the best way to do it is to go to the index at the end of this blog. Each article is presented as a link, so you just click on whatever interests you, and you will immediately be able to see the original blog.

I started studying Body Language in 1978, when my bride bought me a fascinating book on the topic. It was “How To Read a Person Like a Book,” by Gerard Nierenberg. The book was first published in the 1960s, and the current release was done in 2010.

I have been studying the subject of Body Language for over 40 years. There is no end to the learning, because the topic is truly endless, and new insights come along on a regular basis.

The Importance of Body Language

Way back in 1967, Albert Mehrabian did a series of experiments at UCLA. He wanted to determine what percentage of meaning came from the words being used when two people were face to face discussing their feelings or attitudes. He measured that only 7% came from the spoken words, 38% came from the tone of voice, and a whopping 55% of meaning came from body language.

If we knew all along that the majority of information was contained in body language, I wonder why there were no courses in grade school or high school to teach us how to interpret the body language of others and how to control our own. Most of us learned the skill by trial and error through our formative years.

The errors we made in interpreting the meaning of body language set us all back a huge amount in terms of building strong relationships of trust with other people. That is why all my leadership courses over the years have been heavily laced with content and practice on body language.

Most Body Language is Subconscious

What most people don’t realize is that the vast majority of signals we send to other people with our Body Language are completely subconscious. Some signals, such as facial expressions, are done consciously, but most body language is hidden from our own view. For example, you have no idea the dilation of your pupils at any point in time, unless you are looking in a mirror.

The thought patterns in our subconscious mind have major impact on how we communicate to others with our bodies.

Likewise, when we are anxious, our adrenal glands and a small number of neurons in the medulla oblongata instantly secrete the hormone Adrenaline, which causes all kinds of unconscious changes in our body reactions. It creates the famous “fight or flight” response to a stimulus. This all happens automatically, and we have little control over it, but other people can easily observe it in us.

Sending Conflicting Signals

The most vexing problem with body language is when we send conflicting signals about how we are feeling. We may be anxious about a new job possibility but trying to hide that anxiety with BL that exudes confidence. In doing so, we send an incongruent set of Body Language signals that the other person will pick up on. He or she may not know exactly what is going on with us, but for sure something is wrong.

The more you know about Body Language, the better you will be able to accurately decode the actions of others and control your own signals. That is why I wrote this series. It is a gift of some basic knowledge of how this complex science works with human beings. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and can use it to enhance the quality of your life.

Links to Chapters in Body Language Series

1. Starting New Series
2. Five C’s of BL
3. Body Position
4. Facial Expressions
5. Steepling
6. Folding Arms
7. Finger to Side Of Nose
8. Chin Gestures
9. Finger In Collar
10. Scratching Head
11. Drumming Fingers
12. Pulling on the Ear
13. Wringing Hands
14. Hand Gestures
15. Pinching Bridge Of Nose
16. Looking Over Glasses
17. Playing With Hair
18. Head In Hands
19. The Eyes
20. Language of the Eyes
21. The Mouth
22. The Forehead
23. Micro Expressions
24. Jaw & Chin
25. Ears & Hearing
26. The Nose
27. Sitting Positions
28. Arm Movements
29. Verifying What You See
30. False Signals
31. Silence
32. Using Volume
33. Mirroring
34. Proximity
35. Head Tilting
36. Crossing Ankles
37. Head Nodding
38. Sour Face
39. Rolling Eyes
40. Double Point
41. Strange Handshake
42. Animals
43. The Bully
44. Comfort
45. Children
46. Clenched Teeth
47. Conflict
48. Concentration
49. Babies
50. Clothing
51. Slouching
52. Winking
53. The Tongue
54. Doubt
55. Evasion
56. Thumbs Up
57. Time Out
58. Embarrassment
59. Okay
60. Behind Your Back
61. Air Kissing
62. Victory
63. Fist In The Air
64. Hand Slap
65. Fist Bump
66.  Mirroring 2
67. Afraid
68. Shock
69. Worried
70. Talking With Your Hands
71. Guilt
72. Exasperation or Rage
73. Coy
74. Pondering
75. Pride
76. Contempt
77. Compassion
78. Faking Emotions
79. Skeptical
80. Bored
81. Search Me
82. Shy
83. Handshake Post COVID-19
84. Zoom Eye Contact
85. Zoom Lighting
86. Zoom Distractions
87. Zoom Administration
88. Conscious and Unconscious Bias
89. Clusters
90. Blinking Rate
91. Ready to Make a Deal
92. Plastic People
93. Small Hand Gestures
94. Head Nodding
95. Liars
96. Lasting Relationships
97. Twelve Layers
98. Head Shaking Side to Side
99. Overacting
100. Final Thoughts

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

Leadership Barometer 34 Skip the Sandwich

January 20, 2020

There are literally thousands of leadership courses for managers. In most of them, one of the techniques advocated is called the “sandwich” method.

The recommended approach when a leader has a difficult message to deliver is to start with some kind of positive statement about the other individual. This “softening up” is followed by the improvement opportunity. Finally, the leader gives an affirming statement of confidence in the individual.

Some people know this method as the C,C,C technique (compliment, criticize, compliment)

The theory behind the sandwich approach is that if you couch your negative implication between two happy thoughts, it will lessen the blow and make the input better tolerated by the person receiving the coaching.

The problem is that this method usually does not work, and it often undermines trust along with the credibility of the leader. Let’s examine why this conventional approach, as most managers use it, is poor advice.

First, recall when the sandwich technique was used on you. Remember how you felt? Chances are you were not fooled by the ruse. You got the message embodied in the central part of the sandwich, the meat, and mentally discounted the two slices of bread.

Why would you do that? After all, there were two positive things being said and only one negative one. The reason is the juxtaposition of the three elements in rapid fire left you feeling the sender was insincere with the first and last element and really only meant the central portion.

A manager might be able to slip the sandwich technique past you at the start of a relationship. At that point, you do not have a pattern to guide your subconscious thought. Later, if the manager has a habit of using the sandwich, you will become so adept that you will actually hear the second and third part of the sandwich coming up before they are even uttered by your manager.

This interesting phenomenon also occurs in e-mail exchanges. Managers often use the sandwich approach in an e-mail. It might sound like this:
“Your review of the financial information this morning was excellent, Mike. The only improvement I can see is to use more charts and fewer tables of figures to keep people from zoning out. Given your strong track record, I am sure you can make this tiny adjustment with ease.”

If you know this boss well, you can anticipate there is going to be a “but” in the middle long before the boss brings it up. The last part is a feeble attempt to prop you up after the real message has been delivered.

If you received this message, chances are you would have internalized the following: “Stop putting everyone to sleep with your boring tables and use colorful charts to show the data.” You would probably miss the compliment at the start because it was incongruent with the second message, and you would certainly discount the drivel at the end of the message because it was insincere.

It is not always wrong to use a balanced set of input, in fact, if done well, it is helpful. If there really is some specific good thing that was done, you can start with that thought.

Make the sincere compliment ring true and try to get some dialog on it rather than immediately shoot a zinger at the individual.

Then you can bring the conversation to the corrective side carefully. By sharing an idea for improvement, you can give a balanced view that will not seem manipulative or insincere.

Try to avoid the final “pep talk” unless there is something specific that you really want to stress. If that is the case, then it belongs upfront anyway.
Examine your own communication with people, especially subordinates, to reduce the tendency to use the sandwich approach mechanically, particularly if you have to stretch to find the nice things to say.

You may find it hard to detect the sandwich in your spoken coaching, but it will be easier to spot in your written work. The habit is particularly common when writing performance reviews or when trying to encourage changes in behavior.

The sad thing for the boss is that he or she was actually taught that the sandwich technique is normally a good thing to do. That makes it easy to fall into a pattern of doing it subconsciously and not realize that it is actually lowering your own credibility, unless it is used very carefully, because you come across as insincere.

How can you reduce the tendency to use the sandwich approach if you already have the habit?

The first antidote is to become aware when you use it. That means you need to be especially alert when giving verbal input. It also means proofreading notes where you are rating people or trying to change behavior.

When you see the sandwich being used, change it. Give the request for modified behavior with no preamble or postscript in the same breath. Just frame up the information in as kind a way as you can, but be sincere in your words.

Do share a balance of positive and negative things as they apply, but do it naturally, not in a forced, 1,2,3 pattern.

A second way to stop using the technique is to teach others to stop using it. The best way to learn anything is to teach it to others. As you help others see their bad habit, it will remind you that it sometimes shows up in your own communication.

If you can reduce your tendency to use the sandwich approach by 50-80%, you will become a more polished and effective leader.

The third way to prevent this problem is to encourage the teachers of “Management 101” to stop suggesting this technique in the first place. It is not an effective method of changing behavior.

Instead teach leaders to give both positive and corrective feedback in a natural way and only include sincere and specific praise, never force something to butter up the other person.

People have a keen ability to sniff out insincere praise, especially if it is just after being corrected for doing something wrong.

Robert Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust

Stifle Your Worst Critic

May 28, 2019

In my leadership classes I always ask the participants, “Who is your worst critic”? It is no surprise that nearly 100% of the people say, “Myself.”

Only once did someone blurt out immediately, “My Wife!” Even he had to agree that he is also pretty hard on himself.

When we engage in negative self talk, even at the unconscious level, it often undermines our self esteem and can lead to physical and mental ailments.

It is good to be realistic about our shortcomings so we can improve performance as we learn and grow, but it is not a healthy thing to constantly beat up on ourselves for not being perfect.

If you are 48 years old, you have likely spent 48 years practicing negative self talk that limits your performance and may even shorten your life.

The good news is that we humans have a remarkable ability to retrain the brain in a short period of time to form new habits. Research has shown it takes only about a month of conscious effort to permanently change a lifelong habit.

Here is a simple three-step process that can quickly change the quality of your life, if you give it an honest try.

Step 1 – Catch it

My mental image here is that we all have a kind of beehive of thoughts about ourselves in our subconscious mind. Most of these thoughts are negative.

This mass of energy is whizzing around all the time, and we are not even aware of it.

Every once in a while, often for no reason we can identify, one of these negative thoughts about us jumps up into our conscious mind. We are aware of our inadequacy and thinking about it.

For most of our lives these thoughts have made us feel kind of sick as we muse on why we are not more perfect. Finally the thought is supplanted by some other thought or a phone call or something, and the episode is over.

But what if we decided to be proactive and actually catch the thought when we are first aware of it? My mental image here is one of reaching up with a catcher’s mitt and catching the thought – plop – there it is. We have it firmly in hand now. Step one is completed.

The fascinating part of step one is that by simply reading this article, you will have increased your ability to catch the thought while you are having it (that is the key) . In essence, this article is giving you that catcher’s mitt.

As of now, if you start a stopwatch it will be less than one hour until you have caught your first negative thought using this procedure. By the time you go to bed tonight you will have caught from 3 to 12 of these in your mitt. Wow, that is 3 to 12 opportunities to go on to step 2!

Step 2 – Reject it

I need to be careful here and clarify that not all negative thoughts should be rejected. There are times when something you thought or did was truly wrong or unkind. In those instances, you need to hold yourself accountable and not pretend there was no violation. Understand the problem and resolve to do better in the future.

The majority of times we beat ourselves up it is just being negative about our imperfections. In those cases, rejecting the negative thought can help shape the future.

Here I use the mental image of hitting the thought with a tennis racket back into my subconscious mind. I reject the thought just like a tennis player serves the ball over the net. As many tennis players do, I often grunt while doing this using the words “No! I am not doing that any more!”

Of course I only utter the words verbally when I am alone, like in the car or out mowing the lawn. If I am with people, I utter the words silently, but I actually use the words just the same. This has a profound effect because I am training my mind to form a different thought pattern.

Step 3 – Reward yourself

This is the most important part of the approach, because this one gives you the impetus to do more of it in the future. Think to yourself, “Hey, that was a good thing. I am actually growing here in my capacity to think more positively. That feels great!”

That is all there is to this simple method of self improvement. Now you just wait for the next negative thought to come along and repeat the process.

The impact of doing this

At first, this will feel awkward or hokey. Do it anyway because you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you can do it for one day, that will give you enough momentum to do it on day 2.

Similarly, by the end of day 2 you will feel some exhilaration as you praise yourself and continue through day three. By day 4 it will be pretty easy to keep doing it.

If you persist using this method for 30 days, you will have permanently changed your thought pattern about yourself. You will use this method instinctively for the rest of your life.

Here is the likely result. If you can do this for 30 days, sometime during that process someone you love or work with will say something like this, “You have changed. I can’t put my finger on what is different, but you really are a changed individual and you wear it well.”

Of course the most important person to notice a difference in you is yourself. You will feel better because you really are better. You have beaten a life long habit of thinking negative thoughts about yourself.

Yet you still maintain the ability to see your true flaws accurately and learn from your mistakes. It is just that you have stopped punishing yourself over and over for not being good enough. What a burden lifted!

I urge you to try this simple three step approach. Look at it this way, it takes almost no time to do this, it is uplifting and fun, it improves the quality of your life, it is easy to do, and you can do it privately so nobody else has to know.

So, for no expenditure of cash or even effort, you will be shaping yourself into a new person. Once you see the benefits of this method, don’t hoard it for yourself. Teach others the wonderful relief of this technique, for as you help others you also help yourself.

The preceding information was adapted from the book The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, by Robert Whipple. It is available on

Robert Whipple is also the author of Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders. Contact Bob at or

Body Language 26 The Nose

May 4, 2019

Unless your name is Pinochio, your nose does not contain a lot of body language information by itself, but when you interact with your nose, how you do it can mean a lot of different things.

Of course, the most obvious body language with the nose is when we pinch it between our thumb and index finger. This gesture is always done in response to some situation or action, and it means “this stinks.”

According to M. Farouk Radwan, touching the nose is often a sign of a person having a negative reaction or feeling. It is often done without the person even being aware of it, since the gesture is done subconsciously.

When a person touches his or her nose while making a response to a question, it is usually a sign that the person is exaggerating or lying. Lawyers in the court room are quick to pick up on this signal if they see someone on the witness stand touch his nose while answering a specific question.

I never realized the connection myself until I once viewed a video tape of myself giving a presentation. All of a sudden, I was touching my nose as I answered a question from a participant.

Looking objectively at my response, while I was not telling a lie, I was not totally transparent with my answer either. There was another aspect that I could have discussed but chose to withhold in order to avoid going off on a tangent. I was pressed for time.

The curious thing is that I had no recollection of touching my nose at all. It was only when I reviewed the video that I saw myself making the gesture. Even though I gave myself a pass on truncating my reply because of the time constraint, my body knew there was more to the story.

As a general rule, only a small fraction of the body language signals we make are done consciously. That is why it is difficult to conceal emotions. Other people can see the small gestures that we are not conscious of making. Of course, most people are not well schooled on the various meanings of gestures.

That is why this series of articles can be a big benefit to you. The more you know, the more accurately you can interpret the signals other people make and the more you can be conscious of your own signals.

Sometimes you will encounter a person showing flared nostrils. This is an obvious gesture of displeasure. Physiologically, the person is trying to increase the air flow into the lungs. He may be preparing for either fight or flight.

Wrinkling of the nose is another gesture that signifies a negative reaction. It may be that what was just said does not pass the smell test, or it may be your reaction upon viewing your child’s poor report card. The implication is “this stinks.”

If you do not have a cold, sniffing is another nose gesture that has a negative connotation. You may be trying to “sniff out the truth,” or you may be on a fishing expedition to see what the other person knows.

It is dangerous to ascribe meaning to a single gesture of the nose. The mucus membranes inside the nostrils are highly sensitive, and there is no way you will be able to feel what is going on inside of another person’s nose. The best way to interpret meaning from gestures that include the nose is to look for patterns or clusters of different signals that all point in one direction.

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.TheTrust 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

Communication Complexities

October 14, 2012

Most of us have played the campfire game where a bunch of kids sit around the fire and pass a message from one to the other. It never fails that the message coming out at the end bears little resemblance to what was started.

The same kind of phenomenon is going on when two people try to communicate. There are many steps in the communication process, each of which might be pictured as an individual cub scout sitting around the fire. Here are ten steps that happen each time we say something to someone else:

1. I have a thought that I want to convey to you.

2. I decide how I am going to convey that message to you with my choice of words.

3. I send the message according to my interpretation of how my words will translate my true intent. (I will discuss tone and body language below.)

4. The information goes out from me through the air in sound waves.

5. You then pick up some portion of those waves depending on your level of attention and your physical ability to receive them. You never get them all.

6. You process the information based on your interest in what I am saying and your current level of distraction.

7. You make an interpretation of the information based on your biases and filters about how you perceive the world and what you were expecting me to say.

8. You make a decision how to translate the input into reaction thought patterns in your brain.

9. You make a determination about what you are going to do with the information.

10. You then give some external reaction, comment, or action based on your thoughts.

In each of these steps, there is the potential for tiny modifications of the original thought. Each modification may seem insignificant, but just as in the case with the campfire game, if you add up all of the minute changes, the final meaning may be quite different from the original one.

If the communication is reasonably good, then the thought in my head would be planted in your head roughly intact. If one step in the process modifies the input slightly, the starting point for the next step will be different, and a significant distortion in the final received message is likely.

When you add in the infinite variety of signals included in tone of voice and body language, the complexity goes up exponentially. The complexity involved in getting the words right is a significant challenge, but studies show that the words contain only a tiny fraction of the meaning we get. In 1967, Albert Mehrabian measured that when talking about feelings or emotions, only about 7% of the meaning is contained in the words we use. The remaining 93% of content is in the tone of voice and body language.

If I say to you, “You couldn’t have been any better in that meeting this morning,” the message you will receive is highly dependent on my voice inflection and body language. The same words can have very different, even opposite, meanings.

Body language is so complex because we send signals on many different levels subconsciously. The meaning you get will be colored by my skill at accurately projecting the intent behind the communication and also your skill at picking up the signals and decoding them correctly. There may be cultural differences as well that can make the interpretation even more complex. That is why knowledge of and appreciation for the complexities of body language are essential for good communication.

When you consider the complexity of this process, it is not shocking that a fair percentage of meaning in direct communication does not even hit the target area, let alone accomplish a bulls-eye. I think it is amazing that we get as close as we do.

When miscommunication happens, it is a natural reaction to become frustrated and even angry. We may jump to conclusions about the worthiness of our partner in communication. We say things like, “You are not speaking so I can understand your message,” or “You never listen to me,” or “You just don’t pay attention to what I am saying.” All of these scape-goating expressions may make us feel better by putting the blame on the other person, but they do not identify or rectify the root cause.

What is needed when message content becomes garbled is a sense that the inevitable straying off message has occurred. It is not necessarily the fault of either person. It just may take more than one attempt to communicate a message. To mitigate the problem, we need to patiently verify the message internalized is the same as the message sent. That takes a verification step, either verbally or with body language. Since the original communicator is 100% sure of what he or she thinks was said, it seems redundant to go through a verification ritual, but it is really necessary, especially for important messages.

When communicating with another person, keep in mind the complex process that is going on. Use your powers of observation to detect possible visual or verbal cues that the communication did not work as intended. Try to not blame the other person, because the truth is, it is a system problem, and you are also part of the system. Work on improving your own system both on the sending side and the receiving side.