“5 Body Language Signals To Avoid To Better Protect Your Safety” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Reading body language can be the secret silent sentry that helps you avert danger.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“5 Body Language Signals To Avoid

To Better Protect Your Safety”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

You see someone’s body language and sense something is about to go awry. What gestures do you perceive? You may not consciously know what your sensors are capturing, but something is registering. Is it impending danger, causing the prickly hairs to stand up on the back of your neck – who knows?  

Whether in a meeting, negotiating, walking down the street, or just out for a night on the town, reading body language can provide invaluable insights into a person’s hidden thoughts – some that may be a disadvantage to your well-being. And that can signal when one should take appropriate action to avoid impending danger.  

What follows are five body language gestures you should note when engaging other people or when you are in environments where mishaps are more likely to occur. By being aware of these signs, you can avoid the mischievous behavior of those that might entangle you in their dastardly deeds.

1. Narrowed Eyes

When someone views you through narrowed eyes, they are laser-focusing on you. That may not be a bad sign in and of itself. But it does mean that you have captured that person’s attention for what purpose should become your mission.  

To assess the potential intent of an individual focusing on you, depending on the situation, meet their attention in the manner they project (e.g., if they are smiling, smile – if they appear neutral, return neutrality. Whatever you sense, mimic their projected body language, and observe how they alter their gesture.

If the person intends hostile actions, that individual may increase the intensity of the signal, look away momentarily, and then fix their sights on you again. If so, heighten your sense of awareness per other gestures they direct at you. You are in their crosshairs. Prepare to protect yourself to ensure your safety.  

2. Hands

Someone’s hands convey added meaning to their words. Thus, hands lend insight to the degree that someone expresses their inner emotions and feelings. And that is why it is crucial to observe how someone uses their hands when you are in their presence. When danger is impending, someone’s hands will be the messenger that announces its arrival.

So, what might you observe:

a.) hands up, open, and away from the body

When you witness the combination of these body language gestures, it may imply that the emitter is contemplating what action they may take. They will likely take their queue from the gestures you display before engaging in their next movement. Thus, they may back down if they sense that you are unafraid. But if you flinch, that might be the signal that allows them to become more aggressive. So be aware of how you react. Your safety may hang in the balance.

b.) hands down, closed, and close to the body

These body language signs can signal a heightened threat to your safety – because someone can deliver a blow from this position with more impact. These displays can also be the actions of someone who has passed the contemplation stage. They are ready for action, and you should prepare for action, too.

3. Facial Expressions

Someone’s facial expressions will tend to be the forerunner to impending hostile actions. Pursed lips, nostril-flaring, lowered eyebrows, a piercing stare, and, as mentioned, narrowed eyes are definite signs of aggressive behavior that foreshadow danger.

By the time you see these facial expressions, if there has been limited interaction between you and the person displaying them, hostilities will likely follow shortly. If possible, vacate the environment to avoid physical contact. If you cannot escape the situation, prepare to defend yourself.

4. The Target Glance

Someone shows this body language gesture by looking at a specific area or part of your body. The person displaying this motion is assessing the avenue they may use to escape the environment after they accost you, before a confrontation, or the area of your body they plan to attack.

Either way, they are telegraphing their hostile intent. View this pre-attack indicator for what it is and prepare to exit the area. If that is not possible, stay in a place where others might assist in defusing any negative actions that might occur against you.   

5. Microexpressions

There are seven microexpressions generic to everyone throughout the world. That means they would react similarly to a stimulus regardless of where someone resided on the planet. They are fear, anger, disgust, surprise, contempt, sadness, and happiness. For our purposes, I will touch on disgust and anger.

Disgust – When you witness someone showing this gesture towards you, note their disdain for what you are saying or doing. It could be the starting point of heightening hostilities. Someone displaying disgust will have their nose scrunched – as though smelling something foul, upper lip pulled up, and eyebrows pulled down.  

Anger – Someone displaying anger will have their eyebrows down with glaring eyes and a narrowing of the lip corners. When you observe this gesture, hostilities may be imminent. To decrease the likeliness of danger, note the signs of disgust that lead to anger. That will be the alarm suggesting you take protective actions.  


Danger constantly lurks in our midst. By reading body language and being mindful of the foreboding signs mentioned, you can avert some pitfalls that might otherwise trap you. Your safety will be the beneficiary. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating! 

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