Each person expresses has a personal and individual manner of expressing a message. And if there are patterns and rules to follow in a conversation, depending on its context, environment and purpose, there are also different stances of one's body language to support the spoken word.
Body language, commonly referred to as non-verbal communication, is a key element in conveying any message, complementing and reinforcing verbal communication. A person's body language can tell much more about him/her than words could ever say, it can express thoughts, feelings, states of mind, character, disposition and so on. Moreover, sometimes a person's body language is more honest than what he/she is verbalizing. You can lie with words, but your body is most likely to betray you.
The body is like a movie screen, projecting the information inside and displaying it through gestures and mimics. Whether you're anxious, sad, happy or excited, your body will project your feelings and show the observers what's going on inside. And if you pay attention to details and observe closely a person's body language, you can detect a whole lot more than what is spoken, for example:
People who feel insecure, threatened or unsure of themselves tend to touch themselves as a means of self-comfort or self-restraint. Rubbing the forehead, crossing the arms and holding and rubbing the fingers in front of the mouth are typical gestures that provide comfort and protection;
People in a state of elation often breathe in deeply and gesture outwards with their arms expanded. For example, if you look at a picture of a winning athlete, you'll most likely notice an open position, with his arms extended, his head thrown back, while his eyes and mouth are open in ecstasy;
People feeling down or depressed, or even in despair, generally reveal their thought and attitudes by their hesitant steps, drooping heads, or their eyes cast downwards. On the other hand, positive people reveal their thoughts and attitude with an upright stance, a bouncy step and a positive gaze, with lively eyes;
However, not every bent heads means depression. Sometimes it just means that a person is reflecting, thinking hard about something, concentrating on something or absorbing information. If a person is asked to mimic someone who is thinking really hard, he will most likely demonstrate it by resting his hand on his fingertips, with a tilted head and a scrutinizing gaze;
If you see someone with his head down, and his hands clasped behind his neck, it's obvious to everyone that he's upset or worried. The position of the hands is a comforting gesture;
These are only a few examples of common gestures in certain situations, but in fact there are thousands of physical reactions, mimics and gestures that can reflect with amazing accuracy what's going on inside. Body language expresses far more than you can express through words, and sometimes even more than you would want to show. But if you know how to use it in your advantage, body language can become an extremely powerful tool in interpersonal communication.