The Head Nod and Head Shaking

Oliver Jay

Head Nod and Head Shaking plays an important role in your overall body language. Now that we’ve explored the different head positions let’s look at the head nod and other more mobile head gestures.

When we speak or listen to someone we move our head almost all the time, it’s the feedback mechanism that show our mood and attitude towards what’s being said. Where you point your head and how fast and energetic it moves have a big impact on the flow of conversation.

Keep in mind that these gestures may have different meanings in various cultures and even opposite ones, so if you plan on traveling, check the local customs and appropriate body language before using them.

What is Head Nod?

the head nod

Almost universally it means “Yes”.
Nodding is a positive feedback, sending the message of “I understand, keep telling me more”. It’s a great way to build rapport in non verbal communication because we tend to like people who like us. So if you nod while others speak they think you like what they say and in turn start to like you too.

Now there’s a difference in the speed of the nod. A slow moderate nodding is an encouragement and a signal that you’re listening, or convinced in your own words if you’re nodding while you speak. If you practice your nodding you can use it to get more information from the speaker as you encourage him to tell you more than he normally would.

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A fast rapid nod, especially if the listener is touching his ear or rubs his face, usually means that the listener heard enough, let him say a word…

Be careful with the head nod though, too much of it may seem as submissiveness. “Yes master… I agree with every word” it’s the image you’re sending with too much head nod.

What is Head Shaking?

Almost universally means “No”.

The opposite of the nod, simple as that…

In adults it can be a very subtle gesture; sometimes seen only as a slight turn of the head to the side, like being hit by the words being said. Look for additional signals such as: Eyes narrowing to give a “cold” look and if the lips are pursed in disagreement.

If someone shaking their head while speaking it can be a sign of internal conflict and perhaps even deceit – this person doesn’t believe the things he says

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Point the Way

The head is the center of your sensors and therefore will point itself to see, hear and smell more of what it likes and away from the things it doesn’t like.

As a result, if someone tossing his head back away from you or looking the other way, it’s a sign that he doesn’t really like you, or what you say. If on the other hand he leans forward and nods as you speak – you’re his target of attraction and attention.

Closing the Heads Together

A body gesture of intimacy and affection between friends and couples. In this posture you share a close intimate space together, a sign of strong feelings and deep bond.

I recommend you to avoid doing that when in open social encounters, because you isolate yourselves from others and leave them “out of the loop”, something they may antagonize them and keep them at bay.

Closing head together can also be a sign of rivalry and anger– the opponents trying to intimidate one another, like in some kind of “Mortal Kombat” poster… or two rams bashing heads to prove who the alpha male is.

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Importance of eye contact

Head Forward Position and Head Retreat


The head thrust forward is part of an aggressive stance – like trying to head butt somebody. The shoulders and the neck will tense up and spearhead for attack.

Notice the difference between this stance and leaning forward as sign of interest. In the aggressive stance the whole body will tense up and usually invade the personal space of the defender. While in leaning forward to show interest, you keep distance and stay in relaxed position.

Some people however are not aware of the personal space of others and invade it accidentally by trying to show affection and closeness. If you’ll see that the other person is leaning back, and keeping his head away from you, there’s a good chance that you’re too close.

Need a Review?

Well we finished exploring the different head gestures and movements, I hope you enjoyed the reading. Visit and read more amazing articles about body language and how it effects your attitude.

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