An eyebrow speaks a thousand words. But if you've got no idea what it's trying to say, those thousand words might as well be Greek.
Fluency in body language comes easily to some people, just as some people need only sniff a phrasebook before they're chatting up the German air steward. But at least you can do a GCSE in German. Body language fluency is a more elusive talent, and it's arguably a lot more useful. It can make or break any human interaction, from a lovers' tiff to a job interview. And if you're fluent in body lingo, you can chat up that cute German without speaking a single word.
Take our quiz to find out if you're a natural-born body linguist.
1. You’ve arrived alone at a party full of near-strangers. How do you find someone to talk to?
a. Scan for whichever good-looking member of the opposite sex is looking at you, and cheekily raise your drink to them.
b. Hang out in the kitchen with a drink and a smile. Random conversations guaranteed.
c. You target whoever everyone else is talking to.
d. Sit sipping your drink. Let them come to you.
2. You spot a gorgeous stranger staring at you across a crowded room. How do you respond?
a. Hold their gaze until they're weak at the knees.
b. Smile, look away… then peek to see if they're still looking.
c. You offer up a smile, but inside you're a bag of nerves. Why do people have to unsettle you like that?
d. Look away.
3. You're chatting to an attractive stranger, and they won't stop twirling their hair or touching their neck. What does it mean?
a. They want you.
b. They're nervous or unsettled. Probably because they want you to like them.
c. They can't wait to get away.
d. They have infestation issues.
4. How do you respond to the hair-twirler/neck-toucher?
a. You slowly lick your lips whilst holding their gaze.
b. You offer to get them a drink, and give them a reassuring touch on the arm as you get up.
c. You smile and listen, because you want them to like you back.
d. You back away slowly.
5. It’s your first date with someone new, and you’re definitely keen. What are your hands doing?
a. Touching their thigh.
b. Staying as relaxed as possible, and occasionally touching your chin or lips.
c. Jiggling nervously in your lap, because your date's steady eye contact is making you feel judged and awkward.
d. You’re sitting on them. (Your hands.)
6. As your date talks, they lean towards you. Why?
a. They fancy you, and this is your cue to kiss them.
b. Because you're getting on really well.
c. They think you can't hear them.
d. You have no idea, but you back away to give them room.
7. When your date starts chatting too fast for comfort, how do you react?
a. You sense that they're keen and nervous, so you offer them some distraction. By rubbing your thighs, for example.
b. You try to engage in what they're saying. You get the feeling that they'd rather you interrupt than stay silent.
c. You smile a lot and let them get on with it.
d. With the scared, darting eyes of someone desperately seeking the exit.
8. You're leaving a restaurant at the end of a first date. It's a warm evening, but your companion has their arms wrapped around their body. You think…
a. They're not even trying to hide their lack of interest in you. You bark “'bye then” and catch a passing bus.
b. The signs aren't good. Chances are they're not after a second date. Better luck next time…
c. They must want you to hug them. So you do.
d. They're copying you.
9. As you leave the restaurant, your date is biting their lip, blushing slightly and hopping from foot to foot. You think…
a. Blimey, they want another snog already? Best get them into that taxi…
b. They're keen. Hm… invite them back, or not invite them back? That is the question.
c. They must want you to leave. You give them a peck on the cheek and tell them what a lovely time you had.
d. They must want you to leave. So you do.
10. How often do you make eye contact with people you don’t know?
a. As often as possible. Eye contact is infinitely more enjoyable than conversation.
b. Fairly regularly, if you like the look of someone.
c. All the time. Sometimes they do a double take, probably because they think you're a lunatic.
d. As seldom as possible.
What your answers mean…
Mostly A: Your understanding is good, but stop shouting!
You're the body language equivalent of that shouty person on holiday – the one who's swallowed the phrasebook and wants everyone to know about it. Shame, because you have a natural understanding of what people's signals mean, and you're wasting that valuable instinct by overdoing the signals you send in return. If your signals were more subtle, they'd be a lot more powerful. A brief glance can say much more than a stare.
Mostly B: You're a natural-born body linguist
The bad news is that you're not telepathic; the good news is that you're a brilliant reader of body language. You seem to know exactly what's going on in people's minds, and it comes so naturally that you're barely aware you're “reading” anything. You also have a good sense of the signals you should send out. At your best, you radiate self-confidence, friendliness and just the right amount of interest. At your worst, you're a sulky devil who knows that folded arms mean “go away”.
Mostly C: You mis-read signals
You “speak” body language better than you read it. Your own signals are friendly and positive, but you often misinterpret what other people's bodies and facial expressions are saying. This can be quite a problem if you mix up a “go away” glare with a “come hither” glance – or if you miss the “I like you” meaning in a double-glance. Pay closer attention to your friends' body language, and you'll soon gain a better awareness of what people's postures mean.
Mostly D: You lack body language confidence
You have enough self-awareness to know that you're not always sure what people are saying with their eyes or expressions, and this has made you quite insecure. Your response is to put up barriers: you avoid eye contact, you hug yourself and fold your arms. These signals make you feel safe, but they can be interpreted as aloofness or lack of interest. If you want to get ahead in life and love, try a little friendliness.