Read Body Language like the FBI in Your Next Meeting

We summarized a few experts’ perspectives on how to read the signs.

"I wonder if my coworkers even like what I have to say." Turns out, you can pick up some pretty good clues just by reading their body language. We studied up on a few expert summaries, including the writings and interviews of veteran FBI agent Joe Navarro. See what your colleagues might be trying to nonverbally communicate in your next meeting.

How to tell if colleagues are excited and supportive


  • Mirror your behavior, body language, and facial expressions. They shouldn’t be imitating you Simon Says-style but enough so that you know they’re picking up what you’re putting down.
  • Lean in to take in and physically welcome your information.
  • Nod along to your speaking points. Not to be confused with nodding off to sleep.
  • Smile warmly and authentically at points throughout the meeting.
  • Make regular eye contact with you. But if they’re nonstop staring at you with wide-open eyes, there might be something wrong.
  • Open their arms and hands in your general direction.

How to tell if coworkers are uncomfortable or feeling other negative emotions


  • Bite their lip.
  • Touch the side of their neck with their hand.
  • Interlace their fingers together with the fingers of one hand between the fingers of the other, or actively wring their hands.
  • Furrow their forehead and squint, as if they don’t understand.
  • Crinkle their nose, almost as if they are smelling something unpleasant.
  • Lean forward too far, slouched over slightly.
  • Agree to something but then cover and rub their eyes. This is a behavior that occurs even in children who are born blind - meaning it is that innate.
  • Close off their body with their arms, hands in various ways

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source: the office, nbc[/caption]

How to tell if your attendees are feeling confident when it's their turn to speak


  • Have their chin up, head high.
  • Keep their shoulders back.
  • They lean forwards when talking, but not so much so that they become too closed off.
  • Steeple their hands, where each finger touches its counterpart on the opposite hand.

Tip! Can’t easily fake this - you'll need to feel naturally confident in some way.

How to tell if your colleagues are nervous or lack confidence while speaking


  • Creep their shoulders up towards their ears.
  • Look down.
  • Move their hands and feet close together.

How to tell if you’re starting to anger or frustrate your colleagues


  • Start to flare their nose.
  • Place their hands on their hips, if standing.

How to tell if someone is lying through body language


  • Will give you clues if you watch how the person first reacts to your question, processes your question, and then answers. Look for speech errors, neck touching, lip biting, and squinting appearing throughout the whole process.

Tip! It is very difficult to accurately tell if someone is lying.


Keep in mind, body language reading is not an exact science. Some people exhibit signs purely due to external factors. But an analysis could help show you what you need to work on in your presentation, or what type of follow up meeting you should have with a direct report if you were observing them. If you find yourself a natural, maybe it's time to sign up at the Bureau.If the meeting is happening over lunch, we put together a few tips on what to do there for general etiquette.And if your body language isn’t accurately portraying your anger towards meeting room theft, check this out.