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Body Language Basics

From a flip of the hair to hands on your hips, how you move, gesture, and make expressions can say as much as what comes out of your mouth.

Body Language ABCs continued...

Posture. "Posture can be sign of dominance or submissiveness," says Buck.

Shoulders back with an erect posture can be a sign of dominance, he explains, while being slumped can mean insecurity, guilt, or a feeling of shame.

Eye contact. "While the rules of eye-contact engagement vary from culture to culture, in the U.S., it can mean honesty and forthrightness," says Buck.

The eyes are a powerful part of our body language cues and can express everything from sexual interest, to annoyance, to happiness and pain, he explains.

Playing with your hair. When a woman cups her hand, palm out, and tucks her hair behind her ear, it can be an expression of flirting, and can mean openness and interest, explains Wood. But be careful: It can also mean her hair is in her eyes.

Using Body Language to Your Advantage

"If you want to better manage your own body language, you need to think about every aspect of your day and how you behave," says Wood.

While you might think you are friendly person, if you go straight to your office and avoid eye contact with anyone, it can send the wrong signals to your co-workers, she explains.

Go through your morning routine -- what you do at lunch, how you spend your afternoon and evening -- and ask yourself questions like: Do I smile? Do I make appropriate eye contact with people? Once you better recognize your body language, you can start to manage it in a more meaningful way.

On the flip side, how can you use the body language of others to your advantage? Most important is to trust your gut.

"Body language says so much, that you can use it to gauge the sincerity of what a person is saying," says Wood.

If a person is telling you something, and he's covering his mouth, he might be lying, she explains. If a person's hands rub from his forehead down across his face, he could be wiping away an emotion, like stress or anxiety. Either way, if what a person is saying contradicts his body language, your intuition might be picking up on something that is not quite right.

Still, whether you are trying to manage your body language better, or understand that of others, remember the value of words.

"If you become too attentive to body language, instead of what you are saying or someone is saying to you, you miss out on the larger process of communication," says Buck.

Body Language Put to the Test

A basic understanding of body language, combined with verbal communication, can come in handy in almost every situation in your daily life. Here are some common scenarios in which body language can have a big impact, plus tips for putting your best foot forward while you watch what others around you are saying with their silent signs.

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