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Reading Body Language


Nonverbal Behavior



Brisk, erect walk



Standing with hands on hips

Readiness, aggression


Sitting with legs crossed, foot kicking slightly



Sitting, legs apart

Open, relaxed


Arms crossed on chest



Walking with hands in pockets, shoulders hunched



Hand to cheek

Evaluation, thinking


Touching, slightly rubbing nose

Rejection, doubt, lying

This is one of the most interesting lying gestures because of its real affects it has on the lying individual.  Sometimes the Nose Touch lying gesture can be several quick rubs below the nose or it may be one quick, almost imperceptible nose touch.  Women perform this gesture with smaller strokes than men, perhaps to avoid smudging their make-up.

The important thing to remember is that this type of action should be read in clusters and in context; the person could have hay fever or a cold.

When you lie, chemicals known as catecholamine's are released, causing tissue inside the nose to swell. They used special imaging cameras that show blood flow in the body to reveal that intentional lying also causes an increase in blood pressure.  This technology indicates that the human nose actually expands with blood during lying, and is known as the 'Pinocchio Effect'.  Increased blood pressure inflates the nose and causes the nerve endings in the nose to tingle, resulting in a brisk rubbing action to the nose with the hand to satisfy the 'itch'.  You can't see the swelling with the naked eye but this is what appears to cause the Nose Touch lying gesture.  The same phenomenon occurs when a person is upset, anxious or angry.

Rubbing the eye


Doubt, disbelief

'See no evil,' said one of the wise monkeys.  When a child doesn't want to look at something he'll cover his eyes with one or both hands.  When an adult doesn't want to look at something distasteful, the Eye Rub lying body gesture is likely to occur.

The Eye Rub lying gesture is the brain's attempt to block out the deceit, doubt or distasteful thing it sees, or to avoid having to look at the face of the person who is being lied to.  Men usually rub their eyes vigorously and if the lie is a real whopper they will often look away.  Women are less likely to use the Eye Rub lying gesture; instead, they will use small, gentle touching motions just below the eye, because they either have been conditioned as girls to avoid making robust gestures, or to avoid smudging make-up.  They also avoid a listener's gaze by looking away.

'Lying through your teeth' is a commonly used phrase.  It refers to a gesture cluster of clenched teeth and a false smile, combined with the Eye Rub lying gesture. 

Hands clasped behind back

Anger, frustration, apprehension


Locked ankles



Head resting in hand, eyes downcast



Rubbing hands



Sitting with hands clasped behind head, legs crossed

Confidence, superiority


Open palm

Sincerity, openness, innocence


Pinching bridge of nose, eyes closed

Negative evaluation


Tapping or drumming fingers



Steepling fingers



Patting/fondling hair

Lack of self-confidence; insecurity


Tilted head



Prolonged Tilted head



Stroking chin

Trying to make a decision


Looking down, face turned away



Biting nails

Insecurity, nervousness


Pulling or tugging at ear


This is a symbolic attempt by the listener to "hear no evil"; trying to block the words he is hearing by putting the hand around or over the ear or tugging at the earlobe.

This is the adult version of the Hands-Over-Both-Ears gesture used by the child who wants to block out his parent's reprimands.  Other variations of the Ear Grab lying gesture include rubbing the back of the ear, the Finger Drill, where the fingertip is screwed back and forth inside the ear, pulling at the earlobe or bending the entire ear forward to cover the ear hole.

The Ear Grab lying gesture can also be a signal that the person has heard enough or may want to speak.  As with the Nose touch lying gesture, the Ear Grab lying gesture is used by a person who is experiencing anxiety.

Prince Charles often uses both the Ear Grab lying gesture and the Nose Touch lying gesture when he enters a room full of people or walks past a large crowd.  His anxiety is revealed here.  We have never seen photos or film footage of him using these body gestures when he is in the relative safety of his car.  In Italy, however, the Ear Grab body gesture is used to indicate that someone is gay, so be careful with that one.

Fingers in the Mouth


Need for reassurance

This is an unconscious attempt by the person to revert to the security of the child sucking on his mother's breast and occurs when a person feels under pressure.  A young child substitutes his thumb or a blanket for his mother's breast and, as an adult he puts his fingers to his mouth and sucks on cigarettes, pipes, pens and glasses, and chews gum.

Most Hand-to-Mouth gestures can be connected to lying or deception but the Fingers-in-Mouth gesture is an outward indication of an inner need for reassurance so giving the person guarantees and assurances is a positive move. 

The Collar Pull


Lies cause a tingling sensation in the delicate facial and neck tissues, and a rub or scratch was required to satisfy it.  This accounts for why people who are uncertain will scratch their neck and a good explanation why some people use the Collar Pull lying gesture when they lie and suspect they have been caught out.  Increased blood pressure from the deceit causes sweat to form on the neck when the deceiver feels that you suspect he's not telling the truth.

It also occurs when a person is feeling angry or frustrated and needs to pull the collar away from his neck in an attempt to let the cool air circulate.  When you see someone use this body gesture, ask, "Could you repeat that, please?" or, "Could you clarify that point, please?"  This can cause the would-be deceiver to give the game away.

Mouth Cover


This is one of the most obvious lying gestures.  The hand covers the mouth as the brain subconsciously instructs it to try to suppress the deceitful words that are being said.  Sometimes this lying gesture might only be several fingers over the mouth or even a closed fist, but its meaning remains the same.

Some people try to disguise the Mouth Cover lying gesture by giving a fake cough.  When actors play gangsters or criminals, they often use this lying gesture when discussing criminal activities with other gangsters or when being interrogated by the police, so that the audience knows they're playing a secretive or dishonest role.

If the person who is speaking uses this lying gesture, it indicates that they could be lying.  If they cover their mouth while you are speaking, it can show they might feel you are hiding something.  One of the most unsettling sights a conference speaker can see is his audience using this gesture while he's speaking.

The Mouth Cover gesture may appear as innocuous as the 'Shhh' body gesture where one finger is placed vertically over the lips; this gesture would likely have been used by the person's mother or father when he was a child.  As an adult, the person uses it in an attempt to tell them selves not to say something they're feeling.  It alerts you to something that is being withheld. 

Physical Rigidity

Except in cases where people are nervous, people tend to gesticulate much less than usual when they're stretching the truth.  As for the face, if nothing but the mouth communicates feeling, it's probably being faked.  The entire face should show true emotion - eyebrows and all.


Beware the meaning of hand-to-face contact.  Scratching, covering, rubbing of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat are telltale signs that someone is telling a lie.  Also, while too little eye contact is not good, those who stare into your eyes and barely blink could be trying to avoid that revealing lack of eye contact.  The bottom line: anything that doesn't seem natural probably isn't.

Take note of abnormal timing.  When others' facial expressions don't match their words or body language, they could very well be deceiving others.  Someone who declares, "That was delicious!" with a blank expression, then follows up with a smile, is not likely to be telling the truth.  Physical and verbal communication should always be in tune with each other.

Remember that defensive people often avoid answering questions by asking more questions, or by implying their answers.  Generally, liars will get defensive (e.g., "Are you really accusing me of lying?").  On the contrary, an honest person might get offensive, but be more polite in doing so (e.g., "I don't have a reason to lie to you.  Can you think of one?").

Know that most liars become ornery to drive away conflict.  If accused, they may make accusations of their own.  One example of the attention diversion method: "I did not steal your shirt, and I can't believe you called me a bad name!"  This statement would take the attention off the accused thief, and place it on the accuser for something entirely different: name-calling.  Crafty!



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