8 body language clues that someone is genuinely listening to you

by Brendan Brown | February 21, 2024, 9:45 pm

We’ve all been in conversations where we’re pouring our heart out, but there’s a nagging doubt: “Are they truly listening?”

During a heart-to-heart with an old friend last week, I felt heard and understood, not just by her words but by her subtle, reassuring gestures. 

It was a moment of genuine connection. 

It got me thinking: How can we truly tell if someone is truly tuning into our words?

The answer often lies not in what they say, but how their body responds. 

Dive in to discover the 8 body language clues that someone is genuinely listening to you.

1) They maintain eye contact

Recall a time when you spoke to someone whose gaze was fixed on a distant point, their phone, or perhaps even over your shoulder. 

Did you feel valued? Probably not.

One of the strongest indicators that someone is deeply engrossed in your words is consistent eye contact.

My friend’s eyes were like a calm pool, absorbing every word I uttered, reflecting empathy and understanding.

When someone looks into your eyes while you speak, it’s a silent affirmation: “I’m here with you, right in this moment.” 

It’s also telling if their eyes stay focused, rather than glazing over as if they’re pondering what to have for dinner.

2) They turn their body fully towards you

While sitting at a cozy café corner with my friend, I couldn’t help but notice how she pivoted her entire body to face mine as our conversation deepened. 

The alignment of someone’s body is a powerful, often subconscious indicator of their focus

When a person turns their shoulders, torso, and even feet in your direction, it’s as if their entire being is saying, “You have my undivided attention.” 

I can compare this to my colleagues at my old job, when we would have lunch together. Sometimes we would go down to a pub down the street and sit at the bar.

While talking, I tried to genuinely connect with my colleagues because I wanted to build relationships at work.

And at one moment I realized that my colleague’s body was entirely facing the bar, with not even their upper torso turned towards me. They just craned their head a little, even though it looked uncomfortable for them. 

It was as if they wanted to be turned as little as possible towards me, and made me feel super awkward for actually turning in my seat towards them when they spoke. 

Definitely not the best way to make someone feel heard!

3) They have open posture

Even as we went through a variety of topics, I noted how my friend’s posture always remained open and inviting.

Arms uncrossed, hands relaxed, and shoulders at ease, her body language spoke of receptivity. She never tightened her arms or slumped in her chair, as if she was getting defensive or uncomfortable. 

Of course, if someone did show signs like that, it’s not something we should blame them for — it’s something we should take note of, and perhaps adjust the topic of the conversation.

However, when someone adopts an open posture, it’s like they’re creating a welcoming space for your words, inviting them in without barriers. 

You know you can feel free to develop what you’re talking about further, and that the other person is genuinely invested in understanding your perspective. 

4) They lean towards you

Aside from turning their body towards you, another body language clue that tells you someone is genuinely listening to you is that they lean forwards, or towards you.

This can seem like a small detail, but it’s a significant one, because it happens subconsciously, and because of that it’s very hard to fake.

When people disengage, they tend to lean back, or further away from whatever they’re disengaging from — and since they’re not even paying attention, they don’t notice that they’re doing it.

On the other hand, when someone leans towards you, it’s a profound sign of interest. It’s like they’re trying to catch every syllable, every nuance of your narrative.

They might as well be saying, “tell me more!”

5) They make responsive comments and gestures

This fifth clue isn’t purely about body language, but it does include it.

When you tell a story, people often show you they are listening by making little responsive comments — like “Mmhmm,” “Right,” “Got it”.

But you might have seen that a lot of people say these on autopilot even if they’re not actually listening. 

So that’s where responsive gestures come in. This is the body’s equivalent of those little comments, and they are much more specific to what you’re talking about.

At moments of surprise, their eyebrows will raise slightly, or they might pull back or widen their eyes. When you mention something sad, their face will soften or they might cover their mouth.

They might even engage with you directly, such as putting a comforting hand on your arm.

These gestures are like a visual echo of your words, or silent replies to what you’re saying. It shows they’re not only genuinely listening to you, but also truly empathize with your story. 

6) They don’t engage in distractions

At some point during our conversation, my friend’s phone started ringing.

I don’t blame her at all — it’s not like I expected her to turn it off, and I paused in my story thinking she would answer it.

But I was surprised and touched when she reached down, and without even looking at the screen, pressed the “silent” button to turn the ringing off.

She slipped it into her bag and turned to me expectantly, waiting for me to continue where I left off.

That was an incredible show of dedication to being present with me. 

She continued to show it throughout the conversation by never looking out the window to watch passersby or cars driving by, or glancing at the clock to check the time. 

When someone actively chooses not to engage in distractions like this, it’s a clear sign they prioritize your shared moment above all else. 

7) They mirror your body language

This one is a little harder to notice, and in fact not everyone will do it.

So just because someone doesn’t show this body language clue, it doesn’t mean they’re not genuinely listening to you.

However, it can still happen on a subconscious level, so it’s worth mentioning as something else you can look out for.

It’s the ways a person can subtly mirror your body language, such as the position of your arms or the way you’re sitting. Or, when you shift in your seat, so do they.

This is a psychological phenomenon where one person subconsciously imitates the body language of the person they’re interacting with. It’s a natural way we build rapport and show empathy.

But watch out, because some people read about tips like this on the Internet, and then try to fake them on purpose. If it seems like the person is copying your body language too closely, this could be the case for them. 

8) They make reflective movements

Lastly, a person might also show you they’re genuinely listening by making reflective movements.

This is highly individual, and for some people, it’s just not natural to do this at all. But some others may engage in it a lot. Be sure to consider each person’s individual style and way of expressing themselves when thinking about this clue.

Basically, it’s body language movements that people make when they’re thinking about something.

Think about the philosopher statue pose, and you’ll get the picture.

It can include them touching or rubbing their chin, brushing their lips with their fingers, pursing their lips, nodding their head a little, or frowning slightly. 

Many people also look towards a corner when they think deeply about a topic. 

Gestures like these can show they’re not just hearing your words, but truly digesting and reflecting on them. 

Deepening your bonds with active listening

Now you know 8 body language clues that someone is genuinely listening to you.

These will help you know who is truly connecting to you during a conversation.

But remember the other beautiful side of the coin — you too can use these 8 body language tips to show someone else that you’re genuinely listening.

When you are fully present with other people, you’ll be sure to notice a profound and positive difference in your conversations and by extension, your relationships. 

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