Posted by on January 23, 2019

.Kinesics: the study of body language

We often say avoidance is the best self defense.  Avoiding involves being aware of signs of danger.  Vital to this is the developing field of kinesics. The body can indicate when a person is angry and/or preparing for assault.  Some of these indicators are obvious while others are more subtle.  It should be noted that some body responses can indicate various emotions and intentions so context is important.  Flared nostrils, for example, can indicate anger or sexual arousal.  Hence, our use of the term “potential” signs. 

So, here are some potential indicators of aggression.

A Red Face.  A red face is prompted by adrenalin and can indicate anger and aggression.

A Sudden Widening of the Eyes.   See pic for an example.

Rapid blinking.  Another indicator of stress.  As David Givens, director of Nonverbal Studies writes, “When you see rapid blinking in someone who seems upset or angry it is time to take a step backward, beyond harm’s reach. (88)

Increased Breathing Rate.  More oxygen is required to fuel a fight or flight. Listen and watch for rapid breathing. 

Nostrils Flaring. Flaring his nostrils allows him to take in more oxygen in our lungs and blood with oxygen so we have the energy to attack.

Clenched Jaw or Baring of Teeth When we are feeling angry we naturally grit our teeth. Baring our teeth is a more overt expression of anger.

Mock Attacks.  Shaking a clenched fist as if to punch or showing an open hand as if to slap are two obvious examples.  Sometimes, he might have an object in his hand (think of someone waving a hammer).

Gestures Large and/or Sudden: Hands chopping the air, sweeping arms, shaking the head, finger pointing…. Signs of agitation and possible attack. 

Chest Puff.  Like primates we want to get bigger and intimidate. This could be a simple display or a lead-in to an assault.

These are some obvious signs of aggression. These indicators do not necessarily predict an assault but they should offer you tangible cues to avoid a potential assailant.

Further reading: David Givens, Crime Signals: How to Spot a Criminal Before You Become a Victim. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008


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