This is how body language reflects the dynamic of our relationships

Posted by
Anna Brech
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

A compulsive new video has revealed exactly how body language reflects and influences the most important relationships in our lives.

Body language expert Chris Ulrich observed unsuspecting couples and friends interacting on a bench in a Los Angeles park, in an experiment for SoulPancake.

The subjects ranged from two women who’d been university friends for nine years to a couple who’d dated for just three months.

The people featured knew they were being filmed, but they didn’t know why. And Ulrich’s insightful reading of their body language is nothing short of fascinating.

Here are five universal poses he picked up on that mirror a particular kind of chemistry...

Closed circle

This touching representation is created by two pairs of legs faced inwards towards one another, creating a closed circle.

It reflects closeness, intimacy and a strong bond – as observed between the women who’d been pals for almost a decade.

Power zones

According to Ulrich, we all have three power zones; our necks, bellies and “naughty bits”.

When we “close” these areas off to one another – say, by crossing our legs, putting an arm across our stomach or resting our chin on our hand – we are translating feelings of insecurity and uncertainty.

The opposite is also true: so with these zones exposed, we come across as more powerful and open.

Figure 4 sitting posture

Not a million miles off man-spreading, this dominant pose reflects “power, intelligence and ownership of space”.

It’s literally commandeering an area. Documented between the couple who’d been together three months, the left arm here illustrates a protective gesture – a sharing of the man’s claimed space.

The belly button rule

This follows on from the fact that our belly counts as one of our core “power zones”.

When we angle our belly buttons towards someone when talking to them, it’s a sure-fire sign of admiration and trust.

The basketball steeple

This is a really interesting gesture, observed in the group who’d been friends for three years.

The middle woman kept using what Ulrich describes as “the basketball steeple” to accentuate what she was saying to the others.

This emphasis movement involves holding both hands out parallel, with palms facing one another (as if holding a basketball).

It’s often used by Barack Obama, and invokes power and authority balanced with compassion.

The steeple pose alone (holding two hands together in a triangular shape) is a symbol of power and authority, but it’s bad for rapport.

The basketball steeple is a more friendly, inclusive take on the stance.

Watch the video in full, below.

Photos: iStock and Soulpancake/YouTube


Share this article


Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.