18 Examples Of Female Body Language

Updated April 1, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Researchers agree that while words are used as primary communication, body language does a better job of conveying attitude and emotion. In some cases, body language may be a substitute for verbal communication. Because of this, it is important to be able to interpret the body language and nonverbal communication of the women in your life accurately, including if you are trying to determine emotional attraction or even love interest.

Understanding and reading female body language can also help people understand women better. Let’s take a look at what body language actually means and how women in the U.S. often convey their emotions and attitudes through their body language cues. Keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to reading body language. What female body language and facial expressions mean to one person might mean something else to another. Even the person exhibiting the body language might have a different interpretation of why they’re standing or using their arms a certain way.

The Science Of Body Language

Are You Misreading Signals?

The American Psychological Association defines  body language as “the expression of feelings and thoughts, which may or may not be verbalized, through posture, gesture, facial expression, or other movements.” The study of reading body language is called kinesics. This is a largely understudied area of psychology, although there are an increasing number of studies being done to define and examine body language across cultures and life experiences. Clinical studies, like those carried out at Webster University, have shown that body language sometimes contradicts verbal messages, making it an important for people to study, including as a sign of attraction.

An important aspect of the science of body language for those interested is that it changes across world cultures. You have to read body language in its cultural context. The body language we notice in people in some parts of Europe, for example, may differ greatly from body language exhibited in the U.S. This article focuses on the body language typically conveyed by women in the U.S..

Body Language Of Women In The U.S. 

The most common body language of females in the U.S. is based on centuries of cultural biases and expectations. Many subconsciously still feel the need to be polite and perhaps even meek in their verbal communications due to the roles that women traditionally held in society. However, their body language will often tell the tale of how they are feeling, even if they happen to feel the opposite of what they’re expressing with their words. Following are 18 examples of body language often used by women in the U.S. 

1. Head Tilts

The tilt of the head can show people that you are listening to them or encouraging them to continue speaking. Many women tilt their heads when having conversations with people, especially in conversations with people who they feel hold authority over them.

A head tilt can also be read as a sign of submission. Men often interpret a woman tilting her head as an indication that she assumes that the men are in positions of control. The woman may not mean to convey this, but it is often how men in authority read that signal. If you want to exude self-confidence and authority, keep your head straight when talking to a person you perceive to be in a position of control. Confidence and authority often comes from a straight head.

2. Height And Space

The height and space that a person takes up can show a lot about their attitude and emotions. Many women condense themselves to take up as little space as possible. This is a form of female body language that has been passed down through generations, as women have historically been submissive to men and typically not in positions of authority. This behavior is a direct result of the cultural expectations that women hold. Women condensing themselves into a small space or having a slouching posture indicates that they are submissive and not in control.

On the other hand, sitting or standing very straight, shoulders back, and feet spread apart shows an air of commanding and authority. Using this body language shows that they are in control of the situation and demanding respect. They’ll want people to pay more attention to them, and they expand the physical presence of their body by putting their arms out, keeping their legs tall and straight, holding their head high, and showing an overall air of control with a strong posture.

3. Pacifying Gestures

Gestures during talking or listening to others, such as playing with hair or jewelry, grabbing upper arms, or touching the neck can often mean that the woman is nervous or stressed. A person might misread the twirling of hair or rubbing of shoulders to mean that she’s attracted to them. In reality, physical touch or fidgeting of hair or jewelry is usually a sign of distress. It can show that women want more space, or that they are nervous in the current situation. It’s important to be able to read this body language for what it is and make them more comfortable with the conversation or end the conversation entirely. 

4. Smiling

Are You Misreading Signals?

Most people assume that when someone smiles, it is a sign of friendliness and happiness. However, what many people don't realize is that many women smile (or at least curve their lips upwards) when they are nervous, like when they exhibit preening behaviors. This means that some women may smile excessively or at inappropriate times, making their emotions and nonverbal cues hard to read. 

In most cases, it is important to listen to the words of the person you are talking to rather than just paying attention to their smile. Pay close attention: watch, listen, and determine if the smile is genuine or just put on. Look for other body language cues that might let you know that they are distressed rather than happy and friendly. Nervousness will usually show itself in other ways, as discussed above, like playing with hair.

5. Nodding

Many women nod more frequently than men. When men nod, it usually means that they agree with what is being said. This could be true of a woman as well, although a head nod might also mean that they are listening or encouraging you to continue speaking.

If you nod too frequently, your body language can be easily misread, and some might think you agree with them when in reality you are just listening intently to what they have to say.

When you see a woman nodding their head, you can respectfully ask if they are agreeing with you or listening and understanding you. When you nod back at them, tell them that you agree with what they’re saying.

6. Leaning Forward

Many women lean forward when they are involved in an intense conversation. However, this can often be misinterpreted as a way for women to draw attention to themselves. However, that’s usually not their reason to lean forward. Women also lean forward when they are flirtatious, and this is often how this female body language is interpreted. It is important to read this body language in context with the situation and the conversation. If in a professional environment and a heated or intense conversation, it is likely that the woman is simply engaged rather than actively flirting. 

7. Emotionally Expressive Hand Gestures

Many women "talk with their hands," meaning that when they get emotionally invested in a conversation, they use expressive hand gestures. Using a lot of emotionally-expressive hand gestures can convey to the other person that the woman is emotionally involved or invested in the topic of the conversation. It’s important to note that men may do this too. When men get emotional, they will usually puff out their chests, deepen their voices, and increase the volume of their voices.

It is important for women to understand that overly expressive hand gestures in the U.S. – particularly those at or above the shoulders – are often read as a sign that the woman is not in control of herself or her emotions. If a woman wants to be taken seriously or seen in a position of authority in a workplace that’s mostly made up of men, hand gestures should be minimal and kept at or below the waist.

8. Handshake Strength

How a woman shakes your hand can say a lot. A weak handshake can convey to the recipient that the woman is submissive, shy, intimidated, nervous, or all of the above. In another situation, a strong handshake lets the recipient know that the woman is confident and in a position of authority and control. It can also speak to her strong personality and presence of mind.

9. Eye Rolling

Many women are prone to frequent eye rolling, which is usually a sign of impatience or frustration. When women roll their eyes, but are verbally quiet or reserved, it could be a sign of trying to remain polite but losing patience. It is important to read this sign for what it is and change your tactic with the conversation or end the conversation completely.

10. Eye Contact

Direct eye contact, or the lack of, can be read in a variety of ways. When women hold direct eye contact, they are usually fully engaged in the conversation. They may be making eye contact to let you know that they are paying attention to you. Some read direct eye contact as a sign of attraction, but this is not always the case.

At the same time, a lack of direct eye contact in a woman might be read as a sign of submissiveness. When a woman looks at you then looks down, it can be considered flirtatious, but also a gesture of being submissive to the person they are talking to. Lack of eye contact can also be a sign that they’re keeping something to themselves. 

If you’re passing a woman in the hall at work, for example, and they don’t look at you directly in the eye after you say hello to them, that could mean that they’re letting you know they’re not interested in you. Your intention might not have been to convey this type of interest, but they don’t know that. They might avoid looking at you directly for conceern that you might misinterpret this behavior as interest. If they did look you in the eye though, you might then approach them with the hope of getting to know them better or even asking them out. Again, this might have been the furthest thing from your mind, but they don’t know that. Rather than take the risk of rejecting someone who could potentially and maybe dangerously retaliate against them, they avoid this situation altogether by not looking at you directly in the first place.

11. Crossing Arms

When women cross their arms (or her legs when sitting), it can draw attention to one of several things. Many people cross their arms when they are feeling defensive such as during an argument or in a situation where they feel threatened. Women also cross their arms to express disagreement with someone during a conversation or argument. Some women cross their arms when they are bored with the conversation and are ready for it to end. And some women, or people in general, cross their arms when they feel cold. It is important to consider the words they say when you read body language.

12. Tapping Or Drumming Fingers

The tapping or drumming of fingers on a table or other surface is usually a sign of impatience or boredom. When women drum their fingers on the table, they are probably tired of the conversation or situation that they are in. They may be tired of waiting, or they may be becoming frustrated with a one-sided conversation. Another reason for tapping or drumming fingers is when a woman is thinking about something or about to make a decision. So, if you see them tapping their wine glass, it might be time to drop or change the conversation, or to let her think.

13. Open Palm Or Exposed Wrist

Some women might expose a wrist or show an open palm when they feel submissive, often without realizing that they are doing so. They do it without a conscious input from their brain. A bared wrist or palm might be a sign that the woman is ready to do as you ask, which means bowing to your authority. Another reason for the bared wrist or palm is that they are open to suggestions of what you would like to do or say next.

It’s important for women to recognize these types of gestures so they can be aware of what others might misconstrue as submission or signs of affection. However, if women feel submissive, they can change their stance by pointing their feet toward the person they are listening to, keep their head straight, and keep hands by their side. If a woman is open to suggestions, then they can also verbalize that they’re open to suggestions. This won’t necessarily mean they’ll agree with those suggestions, though.

14. Locked Ankles

When women lock their ankles – either while sitting or while standing – it can be a sign that they are nervous or distressed by the conversation. If they are open to a conversation at first but then lock their legs at the ankles as they continue to sit, it might be a signal that the conversation has entered a place or topic with which they are not comfortable. However, this is not necessarily true of all women, as some cross their legs at the ankle naturally. Some were also taught that if they are wearing a dress and sitting, they should lock their ankles. Fortunately, this outdated idea of having to display “lady-like behaviors” is being replaced with  more progressive ideology.

15. Dilated Eyes

Research has proven that the eyes dilate when the individual sees something that they want. If you are talking to someone in a social setting and their eyes dilate when you ask for a date, they are most likely letting you know then and there that they are interested in going out with you. If you present someone with an option that they’re interested in, such as a promotion or a coveted project, you will often also get this response.

16. Rapidly Blinking Eyes

Some people think that blinking eyes are a sign that a woman is attracted to them. They see this as a method of flirting. However, this is generally not the case. Most often, women rapidly blink their eyes when they are nervous or uncomfortable in some way. If you approach a woman and their eyes are rapidly blinking, it may be a sign that they are anxious and possibly feeling threatened.

17. Lip Gestures

Women often bite their lips, including their lower lip, when they are stressed, worried, or anxious. However, many people incorrectly interpret biting lips to mean attraction and desire. Most often, if biting lips is meant to represent desire, it will be accompanied by intense eye contact. Otherwise, a body language expert might tell you to take biting lips as a sign that they are nervous or stressed.

One lip gesture that can almost always be interpreted correctly is the tightening or pursing of the lips. When someone tightens their lips, it means that they feel disapproving or distrusting of the person they are talking to. If you approach a woman socially and they tighten their lips when you try to talk to them, abandon the effort and move on.

18. Hands On Hips

Many men can relate to seeing women put their hands on their hips during an argument or when an argument is about to be launched. Putting hands on hips is universally seen by men as an act of aggression. However, hands on hips can also mean that women feel they are in control of the situation.

What Are The Signs Of A Woman Flirting?

Sometimes flirting can be done in a subtle way, it's not always straightforward with matching science pick up lines; this is why it is good to look at one's body language. Reading female body language in this context can be difficult, as not every woman will act or react the same. Some signs of a woman showing that they’re attracted or interested in you include smiling with more than their lips, displaying physical touch, strong eye contact, and laughter. However, as stated earlier, signs like smiling could indicate nervousness, so be sure to pay attention to other signals as well as to avoid making assumptions about any attraction or future potential relationship.

Another sign is a relaxed posture, where their arms might not be crossed and they are active in the conversation you are having. Another possible sign of sexual excitement is when they lick her lips. Licking lips is subtle, but it draws attention to sexually attractive features and may make you think about kissing them. However, it could also just mean that they have a dry mouth and lips – so don’t read too much into this signal.

Getting Help With Communication

If you find that you are regularly misreading your partner, you might want to get some additional help with communication. An in-person or online therapist, such as with BetterHelp, can help you learn how to better interpret female body language and facial expressions, and teach you how to have more open and constructive conversations with your partner or spouse. 

Studies have found that nonverbal cues are much a stronger indicator of confidence than verbal ones. If you’re a woman, you might want to explore how to garner more confidence in your body language and facial expressions so you’re not sending a submissive message to others. This can be especially beneficial in personal and work relationships for those interested.


Whether you want to learn how to respond to women better or you’re a woman who wants to exude more confidence to the outside world, online therapy has been shown to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy. In a study of 26 participants receiving online and in-person cognitive behavioral therapy (changing negative thoughts and behaviors) to treat symptoms of anxiety, stress, and low quality of life, results showed that online therapy was comparable to traditional therapy. Online cognitive behavioral therapy was also shown to significantly reduce depression symptoms.

BetterHelp has licensed online counselors and therapists with expertise and experience in how body language is used as a form of communication. With the help of a therapist, you will understand the role body language plays in your life and your relationships. You’ll learn how to use body language to improve your quality of life. You can meet with a counselor from the comfort of your own home or anywhere with an internet connection.

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