If you want your body language to show you’re listening to another person, make eye contact. But limit it: An overly aggressive eye lock can be read as threatening. “When you give more than 80 percent, the person you are communicating with will feel uncomfortable,” explains Janine Driver, author of the New York Times best seller You Can’t Lie to Me. Give too little (40 percent or less) and it can be a sign of deceit. The magic number? 60 percent, or a little more than half. “Give them eye contact, then slightly glance away.” Knowing these body language tricks will give you exactly what you want from life.
Crossing your arms? Others may read that to mean you’re distant, insecure, anxious, defensive, or stubborn, according to Barbara and Allen Pease in The Definitive Book of Body Language.
But arm crossing has its pluses, too. Driver points out that it can make someone better at sticking to a difficult task, citing a study that found adults who crossed their arms and then were asked hard math questions were 30 percent more likely to keep trying to solve them than those who kept their hands on a table. “The act of crossing your arms utilizes both your left and right brain, creating higher cognitive function,” says Driver.
So the next time you confront someone with a tough question and they cross their arms, don’t assume you’ve made them mad; they might just be trying to come up with an answer.