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Nonverbal Cues. R. Bruce McNellie, Ph.D.,LCSW,LPC, LMFT,DCSW. Cue 1. Withdrawal of chin into chest. 2. 'Dogface' Expression 3. Nodding affirmatively . Interpretation 'Go away. You are intruding.

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Nonverbal Cues

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Nonverbal Cues

R. Bruce McNellie, Ph.D.,LCSW,LPC, LMFT,DCSW

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1. Withdrawal of chin into chest.

2. 'Dogface' Expression

3. Nodding affirmatively


'Go away. You are intruding.

The Prisoner's expression: wearing a masking expression that is apathetic, characterless. Says: Don't notice me

Agreement (Does it match verbal output?)

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Nodding negatively

One eyebrow lifted

Rub nose (or chin)


Head signal toward another

Head and eyelid up at the end of statement

Disagreement (Does it match verbal output)

Skepticism, disbelief



'It's your turn to talk.'

A question

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Head and eyelid down at the end of statement

Biting or chewing lip

Gritting teeth

Taking off glasses, looking away

Direct eye contact

Avoidance of direct eye contact

A statement

Anxiety, nervousness


'I don't want to see or know.'



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  • The eyes are one of the most potent communicators that the body has. Use the checklist below to describe the eyes of the person you are observing:

  • Steely

  • Knowing

  • Piercing

  • Glowing

  • Sleepy

  • Mocking

  • Burning

  • Staring

  • Awkward

  • Bedroom eyes

  • Owlish

  • Invading

  • Angry

  • Coquettish

  • Friendly

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  • Cue Interpretation

  • Playing with a ring or jewelry -Nervousness, anxiety, embarrassment

  • Covering mouth with hands -Feelings of inadequacy of distaste for subject

  • Covering eyes with hands -Withdrawal or shame

  • Touching others:

    A. Firmly on arm -To make point, emphasize

    B. Friendly, arm around - Friendliness, shoulder warmth

    C. Invasion of territory -Touch for control

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Touching, fondling inanimate ob­jects

Shoulder shrug

Hunching of shoulders

'I am lonely' 'I am starved for companionship‘



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Tapping fingers

Slapping forehead

Stroking thighs

Rotating feet Toes or feet turned upward



Sexual invitation

Sensual come-hither movement

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Toes or feet turned upward

Other Sexual Gestures:

Flirting glance, fluttering eyelashes, putting head to one side, rolling hips, putting hand on hip, exposing wrist or palm

Sexual invitation

Sexual invitation

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Tightly clasped hands

Open hands with fingers spread wide

Tapping or stirring feet

Need for self-reassurance

Acceptance, openness

Annoyance, impatience desire to end conversation

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  • Cue Interpretation

  • Arms crossed over chest-Defensive position

  • Bodily invasion of another's -Attempt

    territory (sitting too close, to control

    moving aggressively toward


  • Moving back physically -Feeling threatened

  • Shrinking body movements -Depression

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  • Bracing arms on chair -Anxiety

  • Leaning against wall or -Need for

    on table emotional support

  • Holding body stiff and rigid -Not flexible, defensive

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a. making oneself tallest in Dominance


b. 'bowing and scraping' Submission

body positions

c. Bowed shoulders Carrying a heavy weight or burden

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  • Leaning forward in chair -Interest, involvement

  • Slumped in chair -Disinterest

  • Tightly crossed legs -Defensiveness

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  • Listless posture, almost no movement -Passivity, depression

  • James Bond posture, stolid, un- -'Cool', loving unemotional

  • Moving back, turning back on

    person or group --Disagreement or disconnecting

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  • Spread hand across chest -'I feel pain or stress.'

  • Leaning back, hands behind

    head elbows extended like wings -High status, set apart from others

  • Imitative body language -'I support you, I am with you

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  • Female: legs slanted, parallel, slightly crossed at ankles

    -Ordered mind, or 'charm-school training'

  • Excessively jerky movements -Frustration

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  • Snapping forward of head and whole body including arms and shoulders -Forcefulness

  • Head rested at angle, fingers agitated or drumming


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  • Intense gaze, wrinkled forehead, downcast look


  • Sitting on edge of chair -Ambivalence, tension, desire to end conversation

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