What does your posture say about your personality?

A body language expert explains the deeper things you can tell from a person’s body language and posture. If you know what you’re looking for. 

It turns out Ronan Keating had it right when he sang “you say it best when you say nothing at all,” because non-verbal behaviours such as body posture and body language can provide great insight into a person from their personality, to their mood and emotions.

According to nonverbal language and body language expert Sophie Halliday Zadeh nonverbal behaviour can be even more accurate than spoken words in determining these factors.

“In a similar way that our facial expressions signal our emotional state, our body language can also reveal a host of information to an observer. This is a significant part of communication, which is typically overlooked,” she says.

“Looking at the bigger picture, spending more time observing nuances in behaviour over time, can give us insight into personality. For example, seeing somebody expressing fear continuously, suggests they would score high for neuroticism. It can also give us a true reflection of emotion. This is because most people aren’t honest about their feelings, concealing emotions and feelings for many reasons—like to fit in with social norms, to protect themselves or to protect others,” she explains.

To make understanding body language easier, Halliday Zadeh simplifies emotions into feelings of comfort (positive emotion) and discomfort (negative emotion), doing this provides a good level of insight she says.

“Behaviours relating to discomfort are typically distancing, blocking and stress behaviours (including: leaning back, or having your head turned away). These behaviours tend to be absent when people are feeling positive, confident and happy.”

But what do different nonverbal behaviours indicate about a person’s specific emotional state or personality? body+soul asked Halliday Zadeh to break it down.

Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.


“Confident body language is seen in an upright, extended posture–when a person takes up more space than their body size. Sometimes we refer to this as a ‘power-pose’,” she explains.

Examples of this include:

  • Arms are open (no blocking behaviours) or extended to some degree.
  • Upwardly outstretched arms
  • Head and chest pointing towards the sky


Halliday Zadeh says “the opposite of pride is the universal body language of defeat, where the body closes in on itself. When we experience a negative emotion, we often feel defeated and our body reflects that. “

Body language or posture examples of this include:

  • Hands together or arms crossed over the torso in a self-hug.
  • Posture would be slightly stooped, with the head pointing slightly downwards.
  • The head drops, arms, torso and legs are drawn inwards.


The emotion and expressions of worry are usually present when people don’t feel confident, often it’s the root cause.

Body language or posture examples of this include:

  • Raised/tense shoulders and stress behaviours.
  • It can also be seen in the hands, with straight and/or interlocked fingers.
  • Tense fingers gripping hold or something, for example, the arm of a chair.


A person who is relaxed would show body language is more likely to be open, without blocking behaviours.

“Fingers are a good place to look to see if tension is, or isn’t present. When relaxed, movements would typically be slower and calmer and of course, no other negative behaviours or expressions would be present.”


“As soon as we feel the slightest discomfort, whether it’s from the cool air of the aircon, the thought of something we haven’t performed well at, or the fact that there’s a stranger in the room–we block with our body or objects.”

Typically, these behaviours are displayed around the torso, because that’s the area of the body which contains vital organs.

“It’s a survival mechanism–the body responding to a threat which could be real or perceived.”

Halliday Zadeh says “When observed, blocking behaviours are generally perceived negatively, coming across as cold, unwelcoming and unapproachable, so it’s best to avoid these behaviours yourself. And be mindful, when observing them, that you are not necessarily the cause of the discomfort. This holds true for any nonverbal behaviour you observe–just because you’re interacting with someone when you spot a negative emotion, doesn’t mean it stems from you.”

Understanding these various examples of nonverbal communication can be a very insightful and powerful tool.

“When you take the time to observe nonverbal behaviour, you gain a deeper understanding of others. It’s empowering because it allows you to adapt your own behaviour and offer a response which is more appropriate than one which takes words at face value. Naturally, communication improves as you ‘listen’ and respond better. Empathy and emotional intelligence also improve and interactions and relationships become more positive.”