Understanding Body Language: How To Better Communicate With The People Around You

Updated May 4, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Understanding body language can be one of the most crucial aspects of being social. If you don't have a clear comprehension of what the visual cues around you mean, you might find it hard to respond appropriately or connect with others. However, this is not to say that having a hard time understanding or using body language means it’s impossible to navigate healthy relationships. Instead, it means being aware of how body language works and what you can do to make use of it can be a helpful skill. In this article, we're going to talk about some possible reasons that people might miss out on visual cues and how you can get better at picking them up, thereby possibly enriching your life in a variety of settings.

Do You Find It Hard To Approach Social Behaviors And Encounters?

Why Might A Person Miss Out On Body Language Cues?

There are several reasons why an individual might not be the best at picking up the body language cues that those around them are sending. One of the common ones is if they are somewhere on the autism spectrum. A person with autism may say or do things that might not be considered appropriate in conventional settings. That is because autism affects the area of the brain that controls social interactions. Similarly, things like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may impact a person’s ability to pick up on cues or socialize in the way others might. Neurodivergence doesn’t mean a person is unable to communicate effectively with others, but it may mean that they do so differently, which can make seemingly obvious things like body language feel much harder to navigate. 

Brain Injuries

Another possible reason that a person might not respond to body language or social cues is because of a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. In these situations, the individual in question may have a hard time regulating behavior as well as they used to, and they may also experience changes in cognitive or social functioning that can lead them to miss subtle social cues. They might talk too loudly in a restaurant, for instance, even despite annoyed looks from others.

The Potential Perks Of Picking Up Visual Signals

If your aim is to become better at picking up the signals that people are giving you, it may help to know how it can benefit you. Having a tangible goal can be an important part of motivating yourself to learn more about and practice body language. Let's start by talking about how this can help you in a workplace environment.

Visual Cues At Work

The way you communicate with others in the workplace can directly impact your experience and how you are perceived by your peers. There are lots of ways to use your body to show your intentions; you might, for example, send out clear indications of how seriously you take your job by dressing professionally each day. You may also choose to speak politely and smile often to let others know you’re a friendly person who’s open to talking. 

Things like good eye contact, good posture, and a positive demeanor can help you let coworkers know you’re engaged, willing to listen, and eager to collaborate with them. It can also show that you’re a good fit for promotions, special opportunities, and more. Even if these sorts of cues don’t necessarily mean much or seem arbitrary to you, they can help you create an outside image of yourself that reflects the way you feel on the inside.

Do You Find It Hard To Approach Social Behaviors And Encounters?

Visual Cues In Your Romantic Life

Being able to read body language can be very important when it comes to dating and pursuing relationships. For instance, if you're sitting at a bar and a person smiles at you from a few seats over, being able to return the gesture may help you communicate your interest. If, on the other hand, they frown when you look at them, and they turn away, you may be able to recognize that your time may be better spent elsewhere. 

Look out for signs like dilated pupils, hands and feet pointed in your direction, and smiles or laughs. Cues like these can show a person likes you or is interested in talking to you. Noticing signs of both positive and negative body language can help you navigate social situations without overstepping boundaries; even if it takes some practice, it can be useful to learn to identify common cues so that you can add them to your arsenal.

Visual Cues With Your Family

Sometimes, even the people we’re closest to can be hard to read. Conflict and confrontation can be difficult to approach, so it’s not uncommon for others to use their bodies to show us when they’re upset, sad, or angry.

If your spouse is mad at you, for instance, they might not always tell you so, but they might cross their arms when they are speaking to you or look out the window rather than meeting your gaze. Little things like these can be easy to miss or brush off as unrelated, but if you notice changes to the way someone stands, speaks, or carries themselves, it may be worth noting. 

Try To Be Mindful Body Language, But Know It’s Not The Only Option

Body language is something that many people use to express themselves, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to learn a person’s true feelings or even necessarily the “norm.” Regardless of where you stand with using and interpreting body language, it may not be fair to expect yourself to be able to use it as a guide to conversation; after all, it doesn’t allow you to read minds. It’s also true that not using body language the same way as others doesn’t have to mean you’re unable to socialize or that there’s anything wrong with you. You may never quite pick up on cues the way others might, and that’s okay. Instead, it can be helpful to simply be aware that how you present yourself can matter, and finding ways to connect and communicate with others in a way that works for you may be an important journey to take.

Do You Want To Learn More About Expressing Yourself?

Whether you’re hoping to learn more about body language, want to practice your skills, or simply want to know why you might tend to have a hard time interpreting it, it can be helpful to speak to a professional like a therapist. Despite being an almost necessary part of the human experience, socializing can be confusing and stressful, especially for those who may not have the same mental toolbox as others. That’s where the guidance and support of a therapist can come into play; feeling confident enough to navigate social situations can make a huge difference. 

You may find that online therapy makes it especially easy to pursue professional support. Because you can join sessions from home, work, or wherever else you can find an internet connection, online therapy may be one of the most accessible and convenient ways to seek help. Plus, you can save time and money by avoiding commutes to in-person offices.

Online therapy can help you address your concerns regardless of where they stem from. One literature review of studies on online CBT found it could lead to significant improvements in symptoms related to anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health disorders. Even if you don’t live with a mental illness, it’s likely that online therapy can offer you resources that can help you feel more comfortable approaching social situations and other challenges in life.


With the help of body language, you can say a great deal without ever opening your mouth. If you're mindful of the version of yourself that you are presenting to the world, then you may find yourself rarely surprised by the way that it reacts to you, which can be a powerful skill to have.

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