Conference Workshop Handouts

Additional Body Language Basics for Writers

By Gina Ardito

**NOTE** These facts are not discussed in the workshop session, but are for personal reference in future writings.

The Head

An arrogant person will lift his head and tilt it slightly backward. Tilting to one shoulder can either be a sign of sympathy or, if done with a smile, flirtation.
If the head is lifted and the chin juts out, the person is violently angry. Think of a drill sergeant.
Ducking or dipping the head is a sign of submission. If a subject lowers his/her head when receiving a compliment, the person is shy or modest. If the head is lowered after speaking, the speaker isn’t 100% sure of his/her statement.
When bored, a meeting participant will often prop his/her head in one hand. But…check the eyes. If the eyes are bright, the person isn’t bored, but interested—perhaps even devising a way to interject him/herself into the discussion. If the eyes are flat, you need to rev up the subject matter! Or even better, stare at the bored person for several seconds. (S)he’ll become self-conscious and refocus on what’s being said.

The Mouth

The mouth gives lots of microcues: tics, twitches, twists that cannot be faked.
Lip biters are unsure of what to say or how to act in a situation.
Parted lips are big in flirtation.
Someone staring intently at your lips while you’re speaking is having difficulty understanding you.
If someone smiles while lying, the left side of the mouth is more pronounced than the right.
The tight-lipped smile is indicative of someone holding onto a secret.
The one-sided smile indicates sarcasm.
The lop-sided smile (one side up, the other side down) indicates a mixture of pleasure and pain.
A person who licks his/her lips is aroused. When we experience desire, our saliva dries up. Licking one’s lips moistens the mouth.
Before any important meeting, take a deep inhale and exhale through your mouth. This relaxes your neck and shoulder area, making you seem more confident.

The Eyes
Before a burst of anger, a person’s expression will become a long, hard stare. Eyebrows pull together and down, the forehead furrows, and lips tighten and turn down.
A normal blinking pattern is 6-8 blinks per minute, and the eyes are closed for about one tenth of a second. Extended blinking—where the eyes stay closed longer than average—is a subconscious method of avoiding scrutiny because the blinker is either bored or feels superior. Rapid blinking can occur when someone is feeling stressed.
Genuine smiles will always cause crow’s feet near the eyes. Fake or forced smiles do not.
In a meeting, the person who’s at the highest eye level is considered the leader.
If you want to be taken seriously (those of us doing pitches should remember this!), focus your gaze on the triangular area between the eyes and the center of the forehead. You’ll come across as confident and show less nervousness.

The Face

A person who touches his nose while in deep conversation is usually hiding a secret.
Nostrils will flare to show outrage, ire, or frustration.

Posture and the Body

A person’s posture often reflects the experiences of their past. Those who’ve suffered from prolonged depression slouch while those who’ve lived happier lives hold themselves upright.
If a man sits with his hands behind his head and one ankle resting on the opposite thigh, he’s trying to lull you into a false sense of security. It’s a typical posture for lawyers, accountants, and anyone who feels superior.
Want to sound more confident? Stand with your feet braced at hip width. A wider stance calms your nerves, straightens posture, eases breathing, and increases your volume.
We generally angle our bodies toward people we’re attracted to, or are friendly toward.

Arms, Hands and Fingers

Clenched hands indicate an attempt to hold back a strong negative emotion and retain control. The tighter the fists, the whiter the knuckles, the stronger the negative mood.
Any hand gestures where palms are exposed reflect an open and negotiable position. Palms down, the speaker feels strongly about the subject.
Steepled fingers near the chin indicate confidence. Lower the steepled fingers near the chest to convey someone listening intently.
Drumming fingers indicate boredom, frustration or irritation.
Raking the fingers through the hair indicates frustration.
Rubbing the palms together is a sign of anticipation. And the speed matters! When a person rubs his/her palm together quickly, (s)he’s anticipating something beneficial to all. Slowly? It’s all about him/her.


The bone crusher who squeezes your hand until your skeleton screams has an overly aggressive attitude meant to hide his ineffectualness.
The limp handshake is an indication of self-importance and aloofness.
The double hand shake (one hand covering the handshake) is popular in business and politics. This position increases the amount of physical contact and restricts opposing action from underlings, indicating the person doing the covering is in control.
The space invader not only shakes your hand, but puts the other hand on your upper arm to draw you into his terrain. He’s in charge and you’re his minion.
Leaders will always want to be on the left during a handshake or photo op. It makes them appear more dominant.

Legs and Feet

Stepping into the middle of a conversation? If the other members twist only their bodies toward you, they’re blocking you from joining them. If they turn their feet toward you, you’re welcome to join their circle.
If you suspect someone is lying to you, again, check out their feet. More signs of fraud happen below the waist than above. Because the feet are farthest away from the brain, impulses take longer to arrive. So the feet of a liar might flex, bounce, or flick from side to side. Their toes will curl. Liars pay more attention to what they’re saying, their hands, and their faces because that’s where most people scrutinize.
Tightly crossed ankles indicate you’ve taken a position and won’t budge. Locked ankles reflect a closed, insecure attitude.
Want to remember more details in a lecture? Uncross your arms and legs! You’ll retain up to 38% more info.

Eyeglasses and Other Props

Someone constantly pushing their glasses up during a discussion disagrees with the speaker.
Playing with any prop near the mouth (glasses, pen/pencil, fingers) indicates nervousness and an uncertainty to speak one’s mind.
Generally speaking, people who wear eyeglasses are perceived as more intelligent, conservative, and genuine. Thicker frames make the wearer appear more authoritative than thin-framed or frameless glasses.
Glasses perched on top of the head is meant to give off a youthful vibe.
Repeatedly touching objects offers a sense of reassurance. (Think “touchstone.”)
Props that close you off: books, newspapers, headphones, cell phones, and a purse strap across the chest all make a person less approachable.

Sole Deep Workshop Handout

By Gina Ardito

Begin every writing session with a relaxation exercise.
Sit upright. Inhale, exhale. Start at the scalp and work your way down to your toes.

Create sense memories using character props and all five senses.
A coffee cup, a piece of jewelry, a food item, a key ring. Any prop will do. Make sure you can fully describe how it looks, sounds, feels, smells, and tastes.

Assign a spirit animal to your character.
What kind of animal does your character represent? Use astrology charts, zoology facts, mythology, and ancient lore to embrace all the traits of your characters’ spirit animals.

Play Three Word Improv.
Choose random locales, moods, and situations to write new scenes for your characters.

Justify your characters’ actions/reactions.
Choose a random line of dialogue from an unread book and incorporate it into a scene for your character.

Dig up your sins for affective memory.
Reflect on your past for specific examples of how your characters might react to the situations you’ve placed them in.

Repetition – ask open-ended questions.
Choose a question such as, “How are you feeling now?” or “Did you see that?” and acting as your character, come up with as many different reactions as possible.

Your plotline is a road map.
You decide where it goes, but be prepared for detours.

Use the “Magic If.”
The actor’s version of “What if…?”

Speak out!
Use a recording device to say aloud what’s got you blocked, which focuses your brain on the problem. Walk your “stage” and talk about possible solutions.
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