Gender Differences In Body Language

Body motion, gestures and non-verbal cues are a rich source of information for social understanding. An extensive number of studies have shown that men and women communicate in a different way. In most cases, the verbal communication style of women has been characterized as being more emotional than men. Women concentrate more on feelings and creating relationships while men concentrate on power and establishing their status. When it comes to non-verbal communications, men and women sometimes use different signals to express similar feelings and perceive same expressions differently.

Facial Expressions

Universal facial expressions are shared between both genders, but there are some differences in their use and perception. For one, women usually smile more often than men. They use their smile to express politeness or fulfil certain cultural expectations where men most often smile only when happy or when they want to engage someone’s interest. Also, the perception of the same facial expressions differs in men and women. 

Personal Space

The comfortable distance an individual wants to keep from another person differs to a great extent from one person to the other. Gender, however, is often another factor that affects one’s sense of personal distance. Men generally need more space than women, and they keep larger personal distances. They are less likely to stand close together, even when they are all good friends. They also tend to create larger buffer zones using jackets, mugs, papers, etc. They want their buffer zones to be respected and do not respond well to individuals invading their personal space.

Women usually employ smaller personal distances with other individuals. However, they are inclined to increasing personal distance with unfamiliar men. They also create buffer zones, but much smaller ones that men create. They are more prone to drawing back when their zones are invaded with their buffer zones being not as respected as the male ones. People are more likely to move a woman’s purse than a man’s jacket.

Female Body Language

Female body language changes in time, differs from culture to culture and it is not universal to all women. There are, however, some actions that most women have in common.

Posture: Many women use closed body language which could be a cultural convention to appear smaller. However, when they want to look more attractive, they will straighten their posture.

Leaning: When they are interested in something or someone women tend tol ean forward – they also lean away when offended, displeased or uncomfortable.

Eye contact: Eye contact and dilated pupils are a signal of interest (in what is said or the person saying it). 

Copying: Women frequently mirror (copy) the actions of each other and occasionally mirror even men.

Physical contact: Women are more inclined to touching each other than men are.

Tapping: Tapping, squirming or fidgeting is a sign that a woman is upset, annoyed or uncomfortable. 

Male Body Language

Just like female body language is not universal to all women, male body language is not universal to all men. However, certain aspects of body language are common to many men – they are often seen as more aggressive and dominating. Some women are encouraged to adapt male body language in particular workplaces.

Posture: In order to increase their size, men often choose wide stances. Wide leg position and a straight back (both when sitting and standing) demonstrates confidence.

Eye contact: Men do make eye contact, but it can often be seen as a dominating act if it lasts too long. Just like in women, dilated pupils are a signal of interest.

Copying: Men do not usually mirror each other, but ofttimes mirror women to show interest.

Hands: Men are more prone to fidgeting than women. The fidgeting doesn’t always indicate insecurity or boredom, it is often just a way to use their energy.

[1] “Gender Differences in Body Language – Vital Spark Training Consultants.” Vital Spark Consultancy: Sales and Business Training Cambridge, 3 May 2018,