Nonverbal Signs of Anger

Clenched fists might reveal preparation for violence.
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The ability to read body language is the ability to find messages even when those around you aren't talking. A person's gestures, posture, tone and eye contact all contain messages that you can use during your interactions. For example, when deciphering angry body language, you can learn when to back off or when to ease the tension with a joke. Understanding nonverbal signs of anger can furthermore help you avoid unnecessary fights and approach sensitive topics with tact.

1 Facial Cues

The mouth can reveal several signs of anger, usually in the form of tension. The jaw might appear tense, or the teeth clenched, suggests Pierce College in an article, "Behavioral Cues For Violence." In addition, lips might be pursed, frowned or quivering. Eye contact might be intense, without the usual glances away that reduce tension. A furrowed brow might make the eye contact all the more menacing. Additionally, people with lighter skin tones may appear reddened, suggests Pierce College.

2 Posture Cues

The posture of an angry person usually implies he is ready for a fight. He might 'square off' against you, as if sizing you up. Open displays, such as moving the arms away from the torso, might serve as a dare for you to throw the first strike. Even if the anger isn't directed at you, you can look at the chest area and assess the person's breathing pattern. Shallow or rapid breathing indicate strong emotions, so watch the rise and fall of the chest.

3 Signs in the Extremities

The extremities, particularly the hands, will often reveal tension. For example, clenched fists often reveal frustration or a readiness to fight. The person might begin pacing the room, or she might combine yelling with rigid finger points in the direction of whatever is angering her. In cases of extreme anger, the person might use sudden movements to throw, slam or kick nearby objects. In this last case, leave the room if safety is a concern.

4 How to Respond

Anger often arises from a sense of hopelessness. Show the angry person you are on her side. Keep your cool and avoid mirroring angry nonverbal cues. Instead, show interest in the angry person's problem. Allow her to vent, use attentive body language, such as nodding and maintaining eye contact, and try to understand her point of view, suggests the University of California, San Francisco in the article "Dealing with Anger." Watch for her body language to indicate a decrease in anger, then help her seek a solution to the problem.

Mitch Reid has been a writer since 2006. He holds a fine arts degree in creative writing, but has a persistent interest in social psychology. He loves train travel, writing fiction, and leaping out of planes. His written work has appeared on sites such as and GlobalPost, and he has served as an editor for ebook publisher Crescent Moon Press, as well as academic literary journals.