Ten examples of female body language

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated January 9, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Researchers generally agree that while words are used as primary communication, body language does a better job of conveying attitude and emotion

This can be because, in some cases, body language may be a substitute for verbal communication. Because of this, it can be important to be able to interpret the body language and nonverbal communication of the women in your life accurately.

Understanding and reading female body language can also help people understand women better as a whole. 

Let’s take a look at what body language can mean, and how women in the U.S. can convey their emotions and attitudes through their body language cues.*

*It can be helpful to keep in mind that there are no general 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. Verbal clarification can be helpful in these cases, ensuring that people communicate as accurately as possible. 

The science of body language

Getty/Luis Alvarez
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.” 

Before we begin, we do want to note that an important aspect of the science of body language for those interested is that it can change and vary across world cultures. 

The body language we notice in people in some parts of Europe, for example, may differ greatly from the body language exhibited in the U.S. 

For our intents and purposes, 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 considered by many to be based on centuries of cultural biases and expectations. 

Many subconsciously might 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 can 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.

Below, we’ve listed 10 possible examples of body language that may be 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 might 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, for example, might 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 can be how men or others in authority might read that signal. 

If you want to exude self-confidence and authority, you may consider keeping your head straight when talking to a person you perceive to be in a position of control. Confidence and authority often can be perceived from a straight head or erect posture.

2. Height and space


The height and space that a person takes up can show a lot about their attitude and emotions. Many women might feel as if they condense themselves to take up as little space as possible. 

This can be a form of female body language that has been passed down through generations, as women have historically been submissive to men or other authorities unless they were in positions of authority.

Therefore, members of U.S. society might believe or subconsciously note that women condensing themselves into a small space or having a slouching posture indicates that they are submissive and not in control—even if that isn’t true at all.

On the other hand, sitting or standing very straight, shoulders back, and feet spread apart can show an air of commanding authority. 

Using this body language can indicate that someone is in control of the situation and demanding respect. They may want people to pay more attention to them, possibly indicating this by expanding the physical presence of their bodies. This can look different for everyone and might include behaviors such as putting one’s arms out, keeping one’s legs tall and straight, holding one’s 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, or that the woman is feeling timid when she may not be.

It can be important to be able to read this body language for what it is and make the person exhibiting it more comfortable with their environment. For example: If you see this while you’re conversing with someone, you may choose to change topics within the conversation or end the conversation entirely. 

4. Smiling

Most people might assume that when someone smiles, it can be 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. 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 can be important to listen to the words of the person you are talking to rather than just paying attention to their smile. When you do this, you can watch, listen and possibly determine if the smile is genuine or just put on.

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, you can then 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 might not usually be their reason behind leaning forward. 

Women might also lean forward when they are flirtatious—however, it can be important to read this body language in context with the situation and the conversation. 

For example: If it’s done in a professional environment and a heated or intense conversation, it might be more likely that the woman is simply engaged rather than actively flirting. 

7. Emotionally expressive hand gestures

Many women might "talk with their hands," generally 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 she might be emotionally involved or invested in the topic of the conversation. 

Evaluating the context of the body language can help you to feel confident in this assessment and can help you to return the gestures to your level of comfort if you find that they are occurring in a mutual conversation. 

8. Handshake strength

How someone shakes your hand can say a lot. A weak handshake, for example, can convey to the recipient that the woman giving it is submissive, shy, intimidated, nervous or all of the above—even if this isn’t the case. 

Conversely, a strong handshake can let the recipient know that the woman is confident and in a position of authority and control. It can also speak to a strong personality and resilient mindset.

9. Eye rolling

Many women might be prone to frequent eye-rolling, which can be a sign of impatience or frustration. Context can add nuance to this form of body language.

For example: When women roll their eyes but are verbally quiet or reserved, it can be a sign that they are trying to remain polite but may be losing patience. 

In this context, it can be important to read this sign for what it is, and possibly consider changing your tactic within the conversation—or you may choose to end the conversation completely.

10. Eye contact

Direct eye contact, or the lack of it, can be read in a variety of ways. When women hold direct eye contact, for example, they may be fully engaged in the conversation. They may also be making eye contact to let you know that they are paying attention to you.

At the same time, a lack of direct eye contact with a woman might be read as a sign of submissiveness, even when this is not the case. Lack of eye contact might simply be a sign that they’re keeping to themselves or don’t wish to be bothered. 

Are you misreading signals?

Getting help with communication

If you find that you are regularly misreading your partner or someone else in your life, you might want to get some additional help with communication. An in-person or online therapist, such as BetterHelp, can help you learn how to better interpret female body language and facial expressions and may teach you how you can have more open and constructive conversations with your partner or spouse. You can enjoy this support in a possibly more available way, as many might feel overwhelmed by the concept of going in person or this type of support for their partners. 

Is online therapy effective?

Did you know? Online therapy has been clinically suggested 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 there were no major differences in results between those who pursued online or in-person therapy.   Online cognitive behavioral therapy was also shown to significantly reduce depression symptoms.


Body language can be difficult to master. However, it can give you a more nuanced look into what someone may be trying to communicate or may be experiencing. Online therapy can help you to feel more adept at navigating body language, specifically body language in a female partner. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
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