What does a frown signify? That's not so hard to figure out. Ditto for hands on hips or crossed arms. But not every example of body language is so easy to interpret, and that's where Patti Wood (shown here) comes in. The Atlanta-based consultant teaches people the subtleties of body language - and was just in the news for teaching employees of a New York City hotel how to figure out guests' needs simply by looking at them.
What's Wood "saying" in this photo? Holding the chin in the fist may show an objection to what's just been said, Wood says. Keep clicking as Wood gives her take on 22 more body language cues...
"Wiping my worries away"
Wiping the face in a downward motion suggests a desire to "wipe away" a problem or concern, Wood says.
"I can't believe this"
A variation of the attempt to "wipe away" emotions, spread out fingers may express disbelief, says Wood.
"I don't want to say"
Sucking in lips may suggest a reluctance to express certain thoughts and emotions.
"I'm interested but nervous"
A tilted head may be saying, "come hither" - but interlocked hands at the pelvis may show nervousness, says Wood.
"I feel pressured"
Wiping beneath the collar as though there is a lot of heat may mean that person is under pressure or in a stressful situation.
"I am nervous but excited"
Open eyes show excitement, but a tight smile may indicate nervousness.
"You hurt my feelings and you need to apologize"
Here Wood has positioned her feet, pelvis, and upper body in a way that suggests a desire to end the situation. The position of her right forearm suggests she feels the need to form a protective barrier, and her downward gaze may show a desire to end the conversation.
"I am interested"
Women tend to face people to show interest and a desire to listen and connect. Toes may point "where your heart wants to go," says Wood. Reaching out, with fingers splayed, may show an openness to touch.
The man is leaning in a way that suggests interest, but the position of his feet suggest a desire to flee. Arms draped over the belly may mean he is holding back.
Interlocked fingers are a way of holding one's own hands for comfort while also protecting the body.
"I am tired of listening"
A weary lean may mean that the subject is tired of listening.
"We are relaxed with each other but not with you"
Standing side by side signifies alignment in mood. Feet in a "toe stop" show relaxation. But tension in the upper body and face, with hidden hands, show a lack of comfort with whomever the person is facing.
"I don't want to fight"
The forward-jutting head shown by the man on the right amplifies the facial expression (in this case irritatation). By turning his body to the side, he may be showing that he feels attacked - but holding his arms at his side suggests he has no intention of getting into a fight.
"I am sizing you up"
When heads are pulled back and people look down at one another, they are "sizing each other up," Wood says. A broad stance may signify defensiveness.
Are these men arguing or just joking around? A relaxed elbow or raised palm shows that any "stabbing" action is just in good fun, says Wood.
Wood says there are over 60 different recognized arm crosses, each with its own subtle meaning. When the body is curled in toward the belly, this may signify retreat, Wood says. Some arm crosses protect more of the body than others.
"I am mad"
This is a resistant arm cross - the arms are restrained from going out to attack, says Wood. If the hands were visibly curled into fists, you could see an even stronger desire to attack.
"I need protection"
Shielding oneself may be a sign of vulnerability, as though the person wants to be protected.
"I say it from my heart"
A hand on the heart may indicate sincerity.
"Oh my goodness!"
This is a comforting gesture in response to stress, Wood says.
"You've got to be kidding me"
Thrusting the hip out may be a defensive move in response to criticism, says Wood.
"I'm just saying"
This backward hand flip may mean, "Don't get mad at what I just said." The hand is raised as if to fend off attack, says Wood.
"I am not happy to be seen with him"
Look like a happy couple? Not so much. Wood's inward-pointing toes suggest a feeling of discomfort with the situation, and although Wood has her hands around the man, tension in her arm suggest a feeling of distress.