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Dedication This book is dedicated to the love of my life, my best friend, and the first editor of everything I do—my wife, Thryth Hillary Navarro Epigraph If language was given to men to conceal their thoughts, then gesture’s purpose was to disclose them. — JOHN NAPIER Contents Cover Title Page Dedication Epigraph Introduction The Head The Forehead The Eyebrows The Eyes The Ears The Nose The Mouth The Lips The Cheeks and Jaw The Chin The Face The Neck The Shoulders The Arms The Hands and Fingers The Chest, Torso, and Belly The Hips, Buttocks, and Genitals The Legs The Feet Conclusion Acknowledgments Bibliography Index About the Author Also by Joe Navarro Copyright About the Publisher Introduction In 1971, at the age of seventeen, for reasons unknown to me then or now, I began to keep a journal on human behavior. I catalogued all sorts of “nonverbals”—what is more generally called body language. At first it was the quirky things people did: why did they roll their eyes when they were disbelieving or reach for their neck when they heard bad news? Later it became more nuanced: why did women play with their hair while on the phone or arch their eyebrows when they greeted one another? These were small actions, but they captured my curiosity. Why did humans do such things, in such variety? What was the purpose of these behaviors? I admit it was an odd pursuit for a teenager. My friends told me as much; they were focused on trading baseball cards, knowing who had the best batting average or kicked the most extra points that season. I was far more interested in learning the intricacies of human behavior. In the beginning I catalogued my observations on three-by-five-inch cards for my own benefit. At that time I was unfamiliar with the work of Charles Darwin, Bronisław Malinowski, Edward T. Hall, Desmond Morris, or my future friend Dr. David Givens—the giants in the field of human behavior. I was simply interested in how others acted, and why, and I wanted; to preserve my observations. I never thought I would still be collecting them on index cards forty years later. Over the years, I collected several thousand entries. Little did I know back then that I would later become an FBI Special Agent and would, for the next twenty-five years, use those observations as I pursued criminals, spies, and terrorists. But perhaps, given my interest in how and why people behave, that was the natural trajectory all along. I CAME TO the United States as a refugee fleeing Communist-controlled Cuba. I was eight years old and didn’t speak English. I had to adjust quickly—in other words, I had to observe and decode my new surroundings. What native speakers took for granted, I could not. My new existence consisted of deciphering the only thing that made sense—body language. Through their countenance, their look, the softness in their eyes, or the tension in their face, I learned to interpret what others implied. I could figure out who liked me, who was indifferent toward my existence, whether someone was angry or upset with me. In a strange land, I survived by observing. There was no other way. Of course, American body language was a little different from Cuban body language. People in America spoke with a different cadence and vibrancy. Cubans got close to one another when they spoke, and often touched. In America they stood farther apart, and social touching might receive an uncomfortable glance or worse. My parents worked three jobs each, so they did not have the time to teach me these things—–I had to learn them on my own. I was learning about culture and the influence it has on nonverbals, even if I couldn’t have put it in those words at the time. But I did know that some behaviors were different here, and I had to understand them. I developed my own form of scientific inquiry, observing dispassionately and validating everything I saw not once or twice but many times before it made its way onto an index card. As my cards grew in number, certain patterns in behavior began to stand out. For one, most behaviors could be broadly categorized as markers of either psychological comfort or discomfort; our bodies reveal very accurately, in real time, our state of unease. I would later learn that many of these comfort markers or behaviors, to be more precise, originated in the mammalian or emotional areas of the brain—what is often referred to as the limbic system. This type of involuntary response squared with what I had seen in Cuba and was seeing now in America. At school or through the window at the corner store, people would flash their eyes with their eyebrows to greet those they truly liked. Such universal behaviors I grew to trust as authentic and reliable. What I did doubt was the spoken word. How often, after I had learned English, I heard people say they liked something when just an instant earlier I had seen their face reveal the complete opposite. And so, too, I learned at an early age about deception. People often lie, but their nonverbals usually reveal how they actually feel. Children, of course, are terrible liars; they might nod to acknowledge they have done something bad even as they are verbally denying it. As we get older, we get better at lying, but a trained observer can still spot the signs that say something is wrong, there are issues here, a person does not appear to be completely forthcoming, or someone lacks confidence in what he is saying. Many of those signals or behaviors are collected here in this book. As I grew older, I came to rely more and more on nonverbals. I relied on them at school, in sports, in everything I did—even playing with my friends. By the time I had graduated from Brigham Young University, I had collected more than a decade’s worth of observations. There, for the first time, I was living among many more cultures (east Europeans, Africans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese, among others) than I had seen in Miami, and this allowed me to make further observations. At school I also began to discover the fascinating scientific underpinnings of many of these behaviors. To take just one example: in 1974 I got to see congenitally blind children playing together. It took my breath away. These children had never seen other children yet were exhibiting behaviors that I had thought were visually learned. They were demonstrating “happy feet” and the “steeple” with their hands, despite having never witnessed them. This meant these behaviors were hardwired into our DNA, part of our paleo-circuits—these very ancient circuits that ensure our survival and ability to communicate and are thus universal. Throughout my college career, I learned about the evolutionary basis of many of these behaviors, and throughout this book, I will reveal these often surprising facts we take for granted. W HEN I FINISHED my studies at Brigham Young University, I received a phone call asking me to apply to the FBI. I thought it was a joke, but the next day two men in suits knocked on my door and handed me an application and my life changed forever. In those days, it was not unusual for FBI scouts to look for talent on campus. Why my name was handed up, or by who, I never learned. I can tell you that I was more than elated to be asked to join the most prestigious law enforcement agency in the world. I was the second-youngest agent ever hired by the FBI. At the age of twenty-three I had again entered a new world. Though I felt unprepared in many ways to be an agent, there was one domain I had mastered: nonverbal communication. This was the only area where I felt confident. FBI work is, for the most part, about making observations. Yes, there are crime scenes to process and criminals to apprehend, but the majority of the job is talking to people, surveilling criminals, conducting interviews. And for that I was ready. My career in the FBI spanned twenty-five years, the last thirteen of which I spent in the Bureau’s elite National Security Behavioral Analysis Program (NS-BAP). It was in this unit, designed to analyze the top national security cases, that I got to utilize my nonverbal skills as if on steroids. This unit, comprising just six agents selected from among twelve thousand FBI Special Agents, had to achieve the impossible: identify spies, moles, and hostile intelligence officers seeking to do harm to the United States under diplomatic cover. During my time in the field I honed my understanding of body language. What I observed could never be replicated in a university laboratory. When I read scientific journals about deception and body language, I could tell that the authors had never actually interviewed a psychopath, a terrorist, a “made” Mafia member, or an intelligence officer from the Soviet KGB. Their findings might be true in a lab setting, using university students. But they understood little of the real world. No lab could replicate what I had observed in vivo, and no researcher could approximate the more than thirteen thousand interviews I had done in my career, the thousands of hours of surveillance video I had observed, and the behavioral notations that I had made. Twenty-five years in the FBI was my graduate school; putting multiple spies in prison based on nonverbal communications was my dissertation. A FTER RETIRING FROM the FBI, I wanted to share what I knew about body language with others. What Every BODY Is Saying, published in 2008, was the product of that quest. In that book the concepts of “comfort” and “discomfort” took center stage, and I unveiled the ubiquity of “pacifiers”—such as touching our faces or stroking our hair—body behaviors we use to deal with everyday stress. I also sought to explain where these universal behaviors came from, drawing upon psychological research, evolutionary biology, and cultural contexts to explain why we do the things we do. What Every BODY Is Saying became an international best seller; it has been translated into dozens of languages and has sold more than a million copies around the world. When I wrote What Every BODY Is Saying, I had no idea how popular it would become. At my speaking engagements in the years following its publication, I kept hearing the same thing: people wanted more, and they wanted it in a more easily accessible format. What many readers asked for was a field guide of sorts, a quick reference manual for behaviors they might encounter in day-to-day life. The Dictionary of Body Language is that field guide. Organized by areas of the body—moving from the head down to the feet—it contains more than four hundred of the most important body-language observations I have made over the course of my career. My hope is that reading through The Dictionary of Body Language will give you the same insight into human behavior that I and other FBI agents have used to decode human behavior. Of course, we have used it when questioning suspects of crime. But you can use it as I have every day since I came to this country—to more fully understand those we interact with at work or at play. In social relationships, I can think of no better way to comprehend your friends or partners than by studying the primary means by which we communicate—nonverbally. If you have ever wondered why we do the things we do, or what a particular behavior means, my hope is to satisfy your curiosity. As you go through the dictionary, act out the behaviors that you read about and get a sense for how they appear as well as they feel. By acting these out, you will better remember them the next time you see them. If you are like me and enjoy people watching, if you want to discern what people are thinking, feeling, desiring, fearing, or intending, whether at work, at home, or in the classroom, read on. The Head All behavior, of course, originates from inside the head. The brain is constantly at work, whether on a conscious or subconscious level. The signals that go out from the brain regulate the heart, breathing, digestion, and many other functions—but the exterior of the head is tremendously important as well. The hair, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, lips, ears, and chin all communicate in their own way—from our general health to emotional distress. And so we begin with the part of the body that, from the time we are born until we die, we look to for useful information—first as parents, later as friends, work mates, lovers—to reveal for us what is in the mind. HEAD ADORNMENT— Head adornment is used across all cultures for a variety of reasons. It can communicate leadership status (Native American chiefs’ feather headdresses), occupation (a hard hat or miner’s hat), social status (a bowler hat or an Yves Saint Laurent pillbox hat), hobbies (bicycle or rock-climbing helmet), religion (cardinal’s cap, Jewish yarmulke), or allegiance (favorite sports team, labor union). Head adornments may offer insight into individuals: where they fit in society, their allegiances, their socioeconomic status, what they believe, how they see themselves, or even the degree to which they defy convention. HAIR —Sitting conveniently on top of the head, our hair conveys so much when it comes to nonverbal communication. Healthy hair is something all humans look for, even on a subconscious level. Hair that is dirty, unkempt, pulled out, or uncared for may suggest poor health or even mental illness. Hair attracts, entices, conforms, repels, or shocks. It can even communicate something about our careers; as renowned anthropologist David Givens puts it, hair often serves as an “unofficial résumé,” revealing where one ranks in an organization. And in many cultures hair is critical to dating and romance. People tend to follow both cultural norms and current trends with their hair; if they ignore these societal standards, they stand out. PLAYING WITH HAIR —Playing with our hair (twirling, twisting, stroking) is a pacifying behavior. It is most frequently utilized by women and might indicate either a good mood (while reading or relaxing) or stress (when waiting for an interview, for example, or experiencing a bumpy flight). Note that when the palm of the hand faces the head it is more likely to be a pacifier, as opposed to the palm-out orientation discussed below. Pacifying behaviors soothe us psychologically when we feel stress or anxiety; they also help us to pass the time. As we grow older we go from pacifying by sucking our thumbs to such behaviors as lip biting, nail biting, or facial stroking. PLAYING WITH HAIR (PALM OUT) —When women play with their hair with the palm of the hand facing out, it is more of a public display of comfort—a sign that they are content and confident around others. We usually only expose the underside of our wrists to others when we are comfortable or at ease. This is often seen in dating scenarios where the woman will play with her hair, palm out, while talking to someone in whom she is interested. RUNNING FINGERS THROUGH HAIR (MEN) —When stressed, men will run their fingers through their hair both to ventilate their heads (this lets air in to cool the vascular surface of the scalp) and to stimulate the nerves of the skin as they press down. This can also be a sign of concern or doubt. VENTILATING HAIR (WOMEN) —The ventilating of hair is a powerful pacifier, relieving both heat and stress. Women ventilate their hair differently than men. Women lift up the hair at the back of their neck quickly when concerned, upset, stressed, or flustered. If they do it repeatedly, most likely they are overly stressed. Nevertheless, we cannot discount overheating due to physical activity or ambient temperature as a cause. Men tend to ventilate on the top of the head by running their fingers through the hair. HAIR FLIPPING/TOUCHING —Hair flipping, touching, or pulling is common when we are trying to attract the attention of a potential mate. The movement of the hand as it touches the hair is often deemed attractive (note most any hair commercial). Our orientation reflex (OR), a primitive reaction that alerts us to any movement, is especially attuned to hand movements—something magicians have always counted on. A hand reaching for the hair can draw our attention even from across the room. Incidentally, the orientation reflex operates on such a subconscious level, it is even seen in coma patients as the eyes track movement. HAIR PULLING —The intentional and repetitive pulling out of hair is called trichotillomania. Hair pulling is more often seen in children and teenagers who are experiencing stress, but it is also occasionally seen in adults. Men tend to pluck hair from the corners of their eyebrows, while women are far more wide-ranging: plucking their eyelids, head hair, eyebrows, and arm hair. This is a stress response; even birds will pull out their own feathers when stressed. The repetitive pulling out of the hair, like a nervous tic, pacifies by stimulating nerve endings; unfortunately, when it becomes severe, it requires medical intervention. HEAD NODDING —During conversations nodding serves to affirm, usually in cadence, that the person is hearing and receptive to a message. Generally, it signals agreement, except in those situations where the head nodding is accompanied by lip pursing ( see #154), which might suggest disagreement. HEAD NODDING (CONTRADICTION) —We usually see this in young children, as when a parent asks a child “Did you break the lamp?” and the child answers “No” but nods. This contradictory behavior betrays the truth. I have seen this with kids, teenagers, and even adults. HEAD PATTING, BACK OF HEAD —When we are perplexed or mentally conflicted, we often find ourselves patting the back of our head with one hand, perhaps even stroking our hair downward as we struggle for an answer. This behavior is soothing because of both the tactile sensation and the warmth that is generated. Like most hand-to-body touching, this is a pacifying behavior that reduces stress or anxiety. HEAD SCRATCHING —Head scratching soothes us when we have doubts or feel frustrated, stressed, or concerned. You see it with people trying to remember information or when they are perplexed. This explains why it is often seen by teachers as students ponder a test question. Very rapid head scratching often signals high stress or concern. It can also signal the person is conflicted as to what to do next. HEAD STROKING —Beyond the function of keeping one’s hair in place, people will stroke their hair with the palm of the hand to soothe themselves when stressed or confronted with a dilemma or while pondering how to answer a question. This is not dissimilar to a mother comforting her child by stroking the child’s head. This pacifying behavior can have an immediate calming effect. Once more, this behavior may signal doubt or conflict, especially if done to the back of the head. HEAD SCRATCHING WITH TUMMY RUBBING —The simultaneous rubbing of the belly and the head indicates doubt or wonder. It can also signal insecurity or incredulity. Interestingly, many primates do this as well. INTERLACED FINGERS BEHIND HEAD, ELBOWS UP —The interlacing of the fingers behind the head with the elbows out is called “hooding” because the person looks like a cobra when it hoods—making the person seem bigger. This is a territorial display we do when comfortable and in charge. When we hood, the interlaced fingers behind the head are both comforting and soothing, while the elbows out project confidence. Hooding is rarely done when someone of higher status is present. REACHING FOR HEAD (STUPEFIED) —People who are shocked, in disbelief, or stupefied might suddenly reach for their head with both hands so that the hands are near the ears but not touching them, with the elbows out toward the front. They might hold this position for several seconds as they try to make sense of what happened. This primitive, self-protective response might follow when someone has made a major faux pas, such as a driver crashing into his own mailbox, or a player running toward the wrong goal line. INTERLACING FINGERS ON TOP OF HEAD —Usually performed with the palms down, this behavior stands out because it is intended to cover the head and yet the elbows are usually out and wide. We see this when people are overwhelmed, at an impasse, or struggling, when there has been a calamity (after hurricanes or tornados by those who lost property), or when things are not going their way. Note the position of the elbows: as things get worse, they tend to draw closer together in front of the face almost unnaturally, as if in a vise. Also note the pressure: the worse the situation, the greater the downward pressure of the hands. This behavior is quite different from “hooding” ( see #15), where the palms are placed on the back of the head and the person is quite confident. HAT LIFTING (VENTILATING) —Under sudden stress, people may suddenly lift up their hat to ventilate their head. This often occurs when receiving bad news, during an argument, or after a heated moment. From a safety perspective, be aware that in situations of high anger (e.g., traffic accidents or road-rage incidents), disrobing (removing hats, shirts, sunglasses) often precedes a fight. The Forehead From the time we are babies, we begin to scan the forehead for information. Even at just a few months of age, infants will respond to the furrows on their mother’s forehead—perceiving it as something negative. This small space between the bridge of the nose and the hairline reveals to others, in real time, how we are feeling. It is a remarkable part of the body closely connected to the brain, which allows us to communicate sentiments quickly, accurately, and prominently. FOREHEAD TENSION —On some individuals, stress manifests as sudden tension of the forehead, a result of the stiffening and tensing of underlying muscles. The face has more than twenty distinct muscle groups that can create more than four thousand distinct expressions, according to Dr. Paul Ekman. Six muscles in particular, including the large occipitofrontalis, the procerus, and the temporalis, account for the tightening or furrowing of the forehead when we are stressed. Obviously, one has to see people in a calm environment to get a baseline read on their forehead, but when people are stressed, tension of the forehead is frequently very noticeable and is an excellent indicator that something is wrong. FOREHEAD FURROWING —Furrowing of the forehead in response to a stimulus is usually a good indicator that something is amiss, there are issues, or a person is insecure. It is also seen when people are concentrating or trying to make sense of something. Furrowing of the forehead is usually associated with doubt, tension, anxiety, or concern. Keep in mind that Botox, which many use for cosmetic purposes to obscure stress lines on the forehead, might mask true sentiments. BOTOXED FOREHEAD (ISSUES) —Both men and women are now taking advantage of Botox injections to erase stress lines on their foreheads. This has created problems for couples and even for children who would normally look to the forehead for information as to how a person might feel. Babies as young as four weeks old will respond to a furrowed forehead as something negative. Interestingly, both children and adults have reported an inability to read their parents or their spouses who have used Botox for emotional cues as easily as they could before. STRESS LINES —On some individuals, their life struggles are marked by deep grooves on their forehead, even at a young age. Life experiences often etch our foreheads with lines, furrows, and other indentations. The forehead can reflect a difficult or stressful life or a life that has been spent outdoors in the sun, which tends to make forehead markings more prevalent. FOREHEAD SWEATING —If the degree of stress is high enough, some people begin to spontaneously sweat. Sweating is very individual. Some sweat profusely with their first sip of coffee, or climbing a flight of stairs, so make sure to get a baseline of this behavior before jumping to any conclusion. Baseline behaviors are those behaviors we equate with “normal,” when a person is not stressed or overly affected by emotions. TEMPLE VEIN THROBBING —When a person is under stress, the superficial temporal veins (those nearest the skin on the sides of our heads and just behind the eyes) might pulse or throb visibly. It is a very accurate indicator of autonomic arousal due to anxiety, concern, fear, anger, or, occasionally, excitement. Autonomic arousal is the brain’s way of automatically going into survival mode—compelling the heart and the lungs to work faster in anticipation of physical activity such as running or fighting. FOREHEAD MASSAGING —We tend to massage our foreheads when we have headaches (literally), when we are processing information, or when we have worries, concerns, doubts, or anxiety. It is a pacifying behavior, which helps to soothe tension or apprehension. POINTING AT FOREHEAD —Pointing a finger at the forehead or making a screwing motion with the finger while pointing at the forehead is very insulting—it means that the observer is ill informed, stupid, or crazy. This is a culturally based cue, generally seen in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, where it is very offensive, and sometimes in the U.S. Because it is insulting it should be avoided. PRESSING HAND ON FOREHEAD —Pressing the hand flat against the forehead helps relieve tension caused by stress, doubt, or insecurity. This is different from slapping the hand on the forehead; it looks as though the person is trying to push his head backward. As with so many other behaviors, this is intended to soothe the individual psychologically through tactile pressure on the skin. PUZZLED LOOK —The area between the eyes is pulled together, often causing furrowing or knitting of the eyebrows. The eyes may squint or look away, and sometimes the head is canted slightly to the side. We often see this distressed look when someone is struggling with something mentally or trying to work through a problem. It usually results from a high cognitive load (arduous thinking or recalling). COVERING FOREHEAD WITH HAT —Stress or embarrassment will cause some to actually cover their forehead with headgear (a hat, visor, or hood). We generally see this in children and teenagers but also sometimes in adults. I have often watched drivers do this when being ticketed for speeding. It is almost as if they are trying to hide in shame. The Eyebrows The eyebrows lie just above the supraorbital arches of the eye sockets and serve a variety of purposes. They protect our eyes from dust, light, and moisture, but they also communicate how we feel. From an early age we rely on people’s eyebrows to help us interpret their facial expressions. And in many cultures, eyebrows are an aesthetic concern: something to be tweezed, shaped, plucked, colored, highlighted, waxed, stylized, removed, or extenuated. Like the rest of our face, the eyebrows are controlled by a variety of muscles ( corrugator supercilii principally, but also the nasalis and levator labii superioris from our nose), and thus can be very expressive and communicate exquisitely our feelings. EYEBROW ARCHING/FLASHING (HAPPY) —Eyebrow arching or flashing conveys excitement (such as when greeting a close friend) or the recognition of something pleasing. We arch our brows in less than one-fifth of a second. It is a gravity-defying behavior, as it is performed in an upward direction, and as with most gravity-defying behaviors, it signifies something positive. Babies just a few months old light up when their mother flashes her eyebrows. Here is a great behavior to let others know we care and are happy to see them. A happy eyebrow flash can be immensely useful and powerful in everyday situations both at home and at work. EYEBROW GREETINGS —We flash our eyebrows when we recognize someone we know and cannot speak up at that moment, or simply to recognize a person’s presence, with or without a smile, depending on circumstances. We are quick to notice when this courtesy is not extended to us, for example, when we enter a store and the clerk makes no effort to establish any kind of eye contact. We can let others know we value them, though we may be occupied, with a very simple eyebrow flash. EYEBROW ARCHING (TENSE) —This occurs when a person is presented with an unwanted surprise or shock. Coupled with other behaviors such as a tense face or lip compression, it can let us know someone has experienced something very negative. It is the tension in the muscles that control the eyebrows that differentiates this behavior from the eyebrow greeting described above and it is held for a few seconds longer. EYEBROW ARCHING (CHIN TOWARD NECK) —We arch our eyebrows with our mouths closed, chin toward the neck when we hear something we immediately question or are very surprised to hear or learn. When we witness an embarrassing situation we also employ this behavior, as if to say, “I heard that and I didn’t like it.” It is a look teachers often give to misbehaving students. EYEBROW ASYMMETRY —People use this signal when they have doubts or uncertainty. One eyebrow will arch high, while the other remains in the normal position or sinks lower. Asymmetry signals that the person is questioning or doubting what is being said. The actor Jack Nicholson is famous for questioning what others say, on- and offscreen, by this method. EYEBROW NARROWING/KNITTING —The area between the eyes and just above the nose is called the glabella, and when the glabella becomes narrow or furrowed, it usually means there is an issue, concern, or dislike. This universal sign may happen very quickly and thus can be difficult to detect, but it is an accurate reflection of sentiments. Some people will knit their brow when they hear something troubling or are trying to make sense of what they’re being told. The sentiment is communicated with the >< emoji. The Eyes Our eyes are the visual gateway to the world around us. From the moment we are born, we are scanning for information in familiar faces, movement or novelty, color, shading, symmetry, and always for the aesthetically pleasing. Our visual cortex, large in proportion to the rest of the brain, seeks novelty and new experiences. Our eyes show love and compassion as well as fear and disdain. Welcoming or joyous eyes can make our day. But eyes can also let us know that something is wrong, that there are worries or concerns. Eyes can own a room or cower in a crowd of strangers. We adorn our eyes to attract and avert them to avoid. They are usually the first thing we notice in others, which is why when a baby is born we spend so much time looking at the eyes. Perhaps because we truly are looking through the window to their soul. PUPIL DILATION —When we are comfortable or like something or someone we encounter, our pupils dilate. We have no control over this. When couples are at ease around each other their pupils dilate as their eyes try to soak up as much light as possible. This is why dimly lit restaurants are a good place to meet, as it naturally softens the eyes and makes the pupils larger—an effect that makes us relax even more around others. PUPIL CONSTRICTION —Our pupils constrict when we see something we don’t like or when we have negative emotions. Pupil constriction is easier to detect in light-colored eyes. Pupils suddenly shrinking to pinpoints suggest something negative has just transpired. Interestingly, our brain governs this activity to make sure that our eyes are focused in times of distress, as the smaller the aperture, the greater the clarity. This is why squinting improves focus. RELAXED EYES —Relaxed eyes signal comfort and confidence. When we are at ease, the muscles around the eyes, the forehead, and the cheeks relax—but the minute we are stressed or something bothers us, they become tense. Babies often demonstrate this quite strikingly, as their facial muscles suddenly scrunch up before they begin to cry. When trying to interpret any body-language behavior, always refer back to the eyes for congruence. If the orbits (eye sockets) look relaxed, chances are all is well. If suddenly there is tension around the eyes or squinting, the person is focusing or might be stressed. The muscles of the eyes and the sur rounding tissue react to stressors much more quickly than other facial muscles do, offering almost immediate insight into a person’s mental state. EYE SOCKET NARROWING —When we feel stressed, upset, threatened, or other negative emotions, the orbits of the eyes will narrow due to the contraction of underlying muscles. The brain immediately makes the eye orbits smaller in response to apprehension, concern, or doubt. It is a good indicator that there is an issue or something is wrong. QUIVERING UNDER EYES —The tiny muscles directly under the eyes (the inferior underside of the Obicularis oculi) and just above the cheekbones, as well as the surrounding tissue, can be very sensitive to stress. When there is concern, anxiety, or fear, these soft areas will quiver or twitch, revealing the person’s true emotional state. BLINK RATE —Blink rates can vary depending on environment and the amount of stress or arousal a person is experiencing. Each individual is different, but a typical rate is between sixteen and twenty blinks per minute, depending on lighting conditions and humidity. People looking at computers blink less (many of whom complain of dry eyes or eye infections—tears have antibacterial properties), while those who work where there is dust or pollen will blink more. Also, be aware that wearing contact lenses can increase how often we blink. When we are around someone who arouses us, our blink rate also tends to increase. FREQUENT BLINKING —People who are nervous, tense, or stressed will generally blink more rapidly than those who are not. Frequent blinking is erroneously associated with deception. It is only indicative of stress or other factors noted above as even the honest blink more frequently when being questioned aggressively. EYE CONTACT —Eye contact is governed by cultural norms and personal preferences. In some cultures it is permissible to look at someone for three to four seconds, while in others anything beyond two seconds is considered rude. Culture also determines who can look at whom. Even in America, eye contact is determined by what area of the country you are from. In New York City, staring at someone for more than a second and a half might be perceived as an affront. Particular ethnic and cultural groups have their own norms. For instance, many African American and Hispanic children are taught to look down when addressed by elders, as a form of respect. EYE AVOIDANCE —We avoid eye contact when it is inconvenient to talk to someone, or when we find a person unlikable, obnoxious, or repressive. In prison, for example, inmates will avoid eye contact with jailers or inmates known to be aggressive. Eye avoidance can be temporary or long term. Temporarily, people might avert their eyes when a person does something embarrassing. And in the United States, unlike other parts of the world, when we are in close proximity, as in an elevator, we tend to avoid making eye contact with strangers and even with those we know, especially if there are strangers present. Eye avoidance is not indicative of deception, but it can indicate shame or embarrassment. GAZE SUPERIORITY —All over the world, studies have shown that high-status individuals engage in more eye contact, while both speaking and listening. Less powerful people tend to make more eye contact with these higher-status individuals while listening but less while speaking. In Japan as well as other Asian Pacific countries this is even more pronounced. Incidentally, we tend to favor individuals who make direct eye contact with us, especially if they are of higher status. Eye contact from high social status individuals, movie stars, for instance, makes us feel favored. EYE-CONTACT SEEKING —When we are interested in starting a conversation, whether in a social or a dating environment, we will actively scan until we make eye contact that says “I am here—please talk to me.” GAZE AND SENTIMENTS —Around the world, those who study dating cues have noted that oftentimes the first clue that people’s feeling for each other have changed is how they look at each other. Long before words are exchanged, the look of increased interest telegraphs that the relationship is changing from friendly to more intimate. How Julie Andrews (as Maria) began to change the way she looked at Christopher Plummer (Captain Von Trapp) in the movie The Sound of Music or how Emma Stone (Mia) changed the way she looked at Ryan Gosling’s character (Sebastian) in La La Land is emblematic of how our gaze changes to reflect our changing sentiment before our words do. It is true in real life as well as in the movies. GAZE ENGAGING —This is a behavior intended to get the attention of another person in a warm or romantic way. What makes this behavior stand out is the softness of the face and the repeated attempts to connect, eye to eye, always with a gentleness of the eyes, face, and mouth. We most often see this in dating settings, where it lets the other person know you are interested in further contact or proximity. I have seen strangers engage gazes across broad spaces, communicating their yearning. GAZING VERSUS STARING —There is a big difference between gazing at someone and staring at someone. Staring tends to be more impersonal, distant, or confrontational, signaling that we find someone suspicious, alarming, or odd. On the other hand, gazing signals that we take comfort in someone, a much more inviting behavior. When we stare we are on alert; when we gaze we are intrigued, even welcoming. Staring can trigger offense, especially in close quarters such as a bus or subway. CLOSED EYES —During a meeting, someone with closed eyes that take a long time to open or that suddenly shut and remain so for longer than usual is probably having issues. It is a blocking behavior that reveals dislike, concern, disbelief, or worries—some form of psychological discomfort. Long delays in eye opening reveal deep concern. Conversely, in an intimate setting, closed eyes say, “I trust you, I am blocking everything else out, and I am in the moment with my other senses.” Notably, even children born blind will cover their eyes when they hear things they don’t like or they find troubling. EYES CLOSING FOR EMPHASIS —Oftentimes, when we want to emphasize something or agree in congruence, we will close the eyes ever so briefly. It is a way of affirming what is being said. As with all behaviors, context is key to ensure it is not a reflection of disagreement. COVERING OF EYES —Sudden covering of the eyes with a hand or fingers is a blocking behavior associated with a negative event, such as the revelation of bad news or threatening information. It also indicates negative emotions, worry, or lack of confidence. You also see it with people who have been caught doing something wrong. As I note above, congenitally blind children will also do this, though they cannot explain why; clearly this behavior has an ancient evolutionary basis. EYES CLOSED, RUBBING BRIDGE OF NOSE—Individuals who close their eyes and rub the bridge of their nose at the same time are transmitting that they are concerned or worried. This is both a blocking behavior and a pacifier, usually associated with negative emotions, dislike, insecurities, concern, or anxiety. CRYING —Crying serves a variety of personal as well as social purposes, most notably providing a cathartic emotional release. Unfortunately, children also learn quickly that crying can be used as a tool to manipulate, and some adults don’t hesitate to use it similarly. In observing a person’s behavior, crying should not be given any more weight than other signals that a person is having a hard time. Crying, if it occurs with great frequency, can also let us know when someone is clinically depressed or struggling psychologically. CRYING WHILE CLUTCHING OBJECTS —Individuals who cry while clutching at their neck, necklace, or shirt collar are likely undergoing more serious negative emotions than a person merely crying. EYES DARTING —Eyes that dart back and forth feverishly are usually associated with the processing of negative information, doubt, anxiety, fear, or concern. Use this behavior in conjunction with other information such as facial tension or chin withdrawal ( see #184) to provide a more accurate assessment. It should be noted that some people will dart their eyes back and forth as they analyze a situation, consider options, or think of solutions. This behavior alone is not itself indicative of deception. EYE-ACCESSING CUES —As we process a thought, an emotion, or a question posed to us, we tend to look laterally, downward, or up and to the side. This is referred to as conjugate lateral eye movement (CLEM) in the scientific literature. There has been a myth for decades, now well debunked by more than twenty studies, that a person looking away or to the side while answering a question is being deceptive. All we can say when someone looks in a certain direction as they process a question or as they answer it, is that they are thinking—it is not per se indicative of deception. EYELIDS FLUTTERING —Sudden eyelid fluttering suggests that something is wrong or that a person is struggling with something (think of the actor Hugh Grant, who often flutters his eyes on-screen when he has issues or has messed something up). People often flutter their eyes when they are struggling to find the right word or can’t believe what they just heard or witnessed. Incredulity is often observed as eyelid fluttering. EYE POINTING —In some cultures an index finger just under an eye communicates doubt or suspicion. But many people across cultures also do this subconsciously in the form of a light scratching motion as they ponder or question something being said. When traveling abroad, ask locals if this means anything special. In Romania, I was told that the finger under the eye was a sign often used to communicate “Be careful, we don’t trust everyone who is listening.” EYE-POINTING CLUSTER —Pointing of the index finger just under the eye (see #59) clustered with eyebrow arching and compressed lips simultaneously conveys doubt, bewilderment, or incredulity. This is especially accurate if the chin is tucked in rather than jutted out. EYE ROLLING —Rolling of the eyes communicates contempt, disagreement, or dislike. Children often do it to their parents to communicate contention or rebellion. It has no place in a professional setting. EYELID TOUCHING —Eyelid touching can be a form of eye blocking coupled with tension relief. Often when people say something they shouldn’t have, people nearby will touch or scratch their closed eyelid—this is a good indicator that something improper was uttered. You see this often with politicians when one misspeaks and another catches it. FATIGUED EYES —Fatigue usually shows in the eyes first. The eyes and the area around them look strained, puffy, weathered, even discolored. This may be due to long hours working; external factors, such as stress; or crying. FAR-OFF LOOK —When alone, or even in conversation with others, staring into the distance, avoiding distractions, allows some people to think or contemplate more effectively. This may be a signal not to interrupt someone when they are deep in thought or recollection. GLAZED EYES —Any number of things can cause the eyes to look glazed, including drugs such as marijuana and alcohol as well as more dangerous substances. When trying to assess whether a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, an observer will want to take other behaviors into consideration, such as slurred speech or slowness to respond. LOOKING ASKANCE —Looking askance (sideways) is often used to show a person’s doubt, reluctance to commit, disregard, suspiciousness, or even contempt. It is a universal look that reflects disbelief, concerns, or incredulity. LOOKING AT CEILING OR SKY —We often see this dramatic look upward at the sky, with the head tilted back, when suddenly things seem impossible or a person has had a run of bad luck. We see this in sports, such as when a golfer misses a putt. It is a look of disbelief, as if imploring someone on high, in the heavens, to help us or take pity on us. This behavior does have some utility; stress causes tension of the neck, which this position can help relieve by stretching the sternocleidomastoid muscles of the neck. LOOKING FOR ACCEPTANCE —When individuals lack confidence or lie, they tend to scrutinize their audience, scanning faces to see if they are being believed. This behavior is not necessarily demonstrative of deception, only of seeking acceptance for what is said. A rule of thumb: the truth teller merely conveys, while the liar often tries to convince. EYES LOWERED —This is different from eye avoidance in that the individual does not break eye contact but rather shows deference, piety, humility, or contriteness by slightly lowering the eyes so that eye contact is not direct or intense. This is often culture based, and we see it frequently with children who are taught not to look back at elders or authority figures when being chastised. Black and Latino children are often taught to look down as a form of respect, which should in no circumstances be confused for an attempt to deceive. In Japan it is rude to stare intently at the eyes of a person you meet for the first time; at a minimum, the eyelids must be lowered out of social deference. SAD EYES —Eyes look sad, dejected, or depressed when the upper eyelids droop and seem to have no energy. The look may be similar, however, to eyelids drooping from fatigue. LOOKING AWAY —Looking away when conversing has to be viewed in context. When there is psycho logical comfort, such as when talking to friends, we may feel relaxed enough to look away as we tell a story or remember something from the past. Many individuals find looking away helps them recall details. Looking away is not an indication of deception or lying. LONG STARE —In conversations, silence is often accompanied by a long stare. It can be directed at a person or at something in the distance; it merely indicates that the person is in deep thought or processing information. SQUINTING —Squinting is an easy way to register displeasure or concern, especially when we hear or see something we don’t like. Some people squint whenever they hear something bothersome, making this an accurate reflection of their feelings. But keep in mind that we also squint when we are simply focusing on something or trying to make sense of something we have heard, so context is crucial in interpreting this behavior. SQUINTING (SLIGHT) —Often when we are subduing anger we will squint slightly with lowered eyelids. This behavior (narrowing of the slits of the eyes) must be considered in context with other behaviors such as facial tension or, in extreme circumstances, the making of a fist. STARING AGGRESSIVELY —A stare can intimidate or serve as the prelude to an altercation. Aggression is signaled by the laser-like focus on the eyes, with no attempt to look away or even blink. Interestingly, other primates also engage in this behavior when observing behaviors that are not tolerated or when there is about to be a physical confrontation. ANGRY EYES —Anger is usually displayed by a constellation of facial cues beginning with the distinctive narrowing of the eyes near the nose (like this: > < ), coupled with a wrinkled or dilated nose and sometimes the pulling back of the lips to reveal clenched teeth. EYES WIDENING (STIFF) —Eyes that remain wide usually indicate stress, surprise, fear, or a significant issue. If the eyes remain stiffly wide longer than usual, something is definitely wrong. This is usually caused by an external stimulus. EYE ADORNMENT —Since the time of the Egyptian pyramids, women and men across the globe have adorned their eyes (eyelids, under the eye, the sides, etc.) with a variety of colors to make themselves more aesthetically appealing. Using inks, dyes, minerals, and oils, people have made this part of their cultural traditions, and it has been passed down to our modern society for a reason: it works. We are attracted to eyes, even more so when they are adorned with colors. We are also attracted to long, thick eyelashes—something that mostly women but some men accentuate to make themselves more appealing. The Ears Cute ears, little ears, sagging ears, deformed ears, big ears, perforated ears, adorned ears. Our ears stick out—sometimes quite literally—and serve some obvious practical functions, from collecting information through sound waves to helping us dissipate heat. But the ears have other utilities you might not have thought about, offering significant nonverbal communication. We know from research that in the early stages of a relationship, lovers spend time studying each other’s ears—how they are shaped, how warm they are, how they respond to human touch and even emotions. The ears communicate much more than we think, and in ways that can be quite surprising. EARLOBE PULLING OR MASSAGING —Pulling on or massaging the earlobe tends to have a subtle, soothing effect when we are stressed or merely contemplating something. I also associate earlobe rubbing with doubt, hesitation, or weighing of options. In some cultures it means that a person has reservations or is not sure about what is being said. Actor Humphrey Bogart was notorious for playing with his earlobe as he pondered questions. EAR FLUSHING OR BLUSHING —Sudden, noticeable flushing of the skin of the ear, as with other parts of the body (face, neck) may be caused by anger, embarrassment, hormonal changes, reactions to medicine, or autonomic arousal caused by fear or anxiety. The skin covering the ear turns pink, red, or purplish. The skin might also feel hot to the touch. Just having one’s personal space violated might cause this reaction. Most people have no control over skin blushing ( hyperemia) and for some it is very embarrassing. EAR LEANING —Turning or leaning our ear toward a speaker conveys that we are listening intently, we want something repeated, or we are hard of hearing. This may be followed by cupping of the ear to literally collect more sound. In dating, we will allow someone we like intimately to draw near our ear, especially when it is extended in that person’s direction. LISTENING —Active listening is an essential nonverbal in both professional and personal settings. It communicates that we are interested, receptive, or empathetic. Good listeners yield their turn, wait to speak, and are patient when others are speaking. To accom plish this we make sure that we face the person we are interested in hearing so that both ears can receive the message. EAR ORNAMENTATION —There are any number of ways to decorate, deform, perforate, color, plug, or change the natural look of the ears to fit cultural norms. Ear ornamentation is mostly culture-specific and serves a clear purpose—to communicate social status, courtship availability, or group identification. Ear ornamentation often gives us very accurate insight into a person’s background, occupation, social status, heritage, or personality. SCARRED EARS —Heat, chemicals, or trauma can damage ear cartilage and tissue. Rugby players, wrestlers, and judokas are susceptible to damaged ears, sometimes called “cauliflower ears.” The Nose At birth, all mammals’ noses seek out the mother’s milk, which allows them to survive. As humans grow older, our noses continue to help us find the foods we like and to keep us safe, warning us of food that is putrefied or of odors that would do us harm, while helping to filter the air that enters our lungs. When it comes to romance and intimacy, our noses pick up on others’ pheromones, making us draw closer while helping us determine subconsciously whether or not we like a person. We may pierce our noses or shape them, as a result of cultural cues, to be thinner, wider, less curved, or more petite. The muscles that cover and surround the nose are so sensitive that when we dislike what we smell, they immediately contract, wrinkling our noses to reveal our disgust. Noses help to distinguish us from others physically, they protect us from harmful chemicals and bacteria, and as you will see, they are essential to communication and to understanding others. COVERING NOSE WITH BOTH HANDS —The sudden covering of the nose and mouth with both hands is associated with shock, surprise, insecurity, fear, doubt, or apprehension. We witness this at tragic events such as car accidents and natural disasters as well as when someone receives horrible news. Evolutionary psychologists speculate that this behavior may have been adapted so that predators, such as lions or hyenas, would not hear us breathing. It is seen universally. NOSE WRINKLING UPWARD (DISGUST) —The signal or cue for disgust usually involves the nose wrinkling upward (also known as a “bunny nose”), while the skin contracts along with the underlying muscle (the nasalis), which is very sensitive to negative emotions. Often this gesture will cause the corners of the eyes near the nose to also narrow. Babies, beginning at the age of roughly three months and sometimes even earlier, will wrinkle their noses when they smell things they don’t like. This disgust cue remains with us all our lives. When we smell, hear, or even just see something we don’t like, our nasalis muscle contracts involuntarily, revealing our true sentiments. UNILATERAL NOSE WRINKLING —As noted above, nose wrinkling or crinkling upward is an accurate indicator of dislike or displeasure and usually occurs on both sides of the nose. However, there are people in whom this occurs only on one side of the nose (uni laterally). As the nose muscles pull upward, wrinkling just one side, they also tend to pull the upper lip of that side of the face. Some people call it the Elvis effect. When the side of the nose is noticeably pulled up, it means the same thing as the full nose wrinkle—dislike. NOSE TWITCHING (CARIBBEAN) —This behavior is somewhat similar to the disgust display above (see #86) but occurs much faster, sometimes in as little as 1/25th of a second. When a person looks directly at someone, the nose muscle will contract rapidly, wrinkling the nose upward—but without the eyes squinting as in the disgust cue above. This behavior is a linguistic shortcut that wordlessly asks “What’s going on?” “What happened?” “What do you need?” It is seen throughout the Caribbean, including in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, and thus also found in U.S. cities that have large Caribbean populations such as Miami and New York. At the Miami International Airport, I’m frequently greeted at the coffee counter with this nose twitch, which means “What can I get you?” If you see it, just place your order. INDEX FINGER TO NOSE —Placing the index finger under the nose or on the side of the nose for a period of time is sometimes associated with pensiveness or concern. Look for other clues to help you discern what it means. This behavior is different from sneaking a nose feel ( see #95) or nose stroking, as in this case the finger just lingers there for a long time. NOSE BRUSHING —This distinctive behavior of brushing one’s nose very lightly several times with the index finger is usually associated with stress or psychological discomfort, though it can also present in someone pondering something dubious or questionable. HOLDING NOSE HIGH —A high nose profile—an intentional tilting of the head, with the nose pointed upward—indicates confidence, superiority, arrogance, or even indignation. It is a cultural display, seen in some countries and societies more than in others. It may signal superiority, such as when high-status individuals affirm their rank at the start of a meeting. Italian dictator Mussolini was famous for this, as was General Charles de Gaulle of France. In Russia, the ceremonial guards at the Kremlin are notorious for this nose-high behavior. NOSE TAPPING/SIGNALING —In many cultures a very overt tapping of the nose with the index finger can mean “This stinks,” “I don’t trust you,” “I question this,” or “I am watching you very carefully.” It can also mean “I notice you,” “You are very clever,” or “I acknowledge you” (Paul Newman and Robert Redford did this to each other in the movie The Sting). NOSTRIL FLARING —We usually flare our nostrils (naral wings) in preparation for doing something physical. Frequently, people who are upset, feel they have to get up or run out, or are about to violently act out will flare their nostrils as they oxygenate. In police work it may signal a person is about to run. Interpersonally, it is a good marker that a person needs a moment to calm down. PLAYING WITH PHILTRUM —The grooved area just above the upper lip and below the nose is the philtrum. People will play with this area by plucking at it, scratching it, or pulling on it when stressed—sometimes rather energetically. The philtrum is also revealing in other ways—sweat tends to gather there when people are stressed. They might also place the tongue between the teeth and the back of the philtrum, pushing it out. Stimulation of this area with the tongue is an easily spotted pacifier. SNEAKING NOSE TOUCH —Sneaking a pacifying touch by ever so slightly rubbing the nose with the index finger indicates tension that is being masked and the need to convey the perception that everything is fine. Look for it from professionals who are accustomed to being in control but are under stress. It is also often seen in poker players who are trying to hide a weak hand. RAPID NOSE INHALING —Many people, when about to deliver bad or unpleasant news, will rapidly inhale through the nose, loudly enough to be heard, before they speak. I have also seen people do this as they hear a question that bothers them, and in some instances before they lie. The hairs and the nerves in the nose are very sensitive to moisture as well as air movement and touch. The quick inhale stimulates the hairs and the connected nerve endings, which appears to momentarily mitigate the stress of having to say or reveal something that is troubling. The Mouth The mouth is essential for eating, breathing, and drinking and is also, of course, where we form and pronounce words. Highly sensitive to touch and temperature, the mouth is surrounded by more than ten intricately reflexive muscles that not only respond to touch but also reflect our thoughts and sentiments. The mouth can be seductive or sad, joyous or pained—and it accurately registers when one emotion gives way to another in an instant. After we look at the eyes for information, it is here where we search for additional cues as to what is in the mind. LOUD, SHORT EXHALING —This type of exhale, where the lips are left slightly open, indicates high stress or frustration. People exhibit this behavior when hearing bad news or when confronted with a difficult situation. It helps relieve stress, especially when we are angry. CATHARTIC EXHALING —Exhaling with puffed-out cheeks and tight lips indicates that stress is being experienced or has passed. You might see this when a test or an interview is over or after a near accident. This exhale is very audible and takes longer to perform than the above version. AFFIRMATIVE INHALING —A sudden loud inhaling makes a distinct sound that is used in Scandinavian countries, parts of the United Kingdom, and Ireland to signify “Yes” or “Yes, I agree.” It is a linguistic shortcut, as no words need to be used. The person quickly inhales loudly enough to sound as if she is gasping for air. Once, after a car ride in Sweden, when I asked if we had arrived, the driver merely did an affirmative inhale—and that was it. SUCKING IN AIR THROUGH CORNERS OF MOUTH —This behavior is both seen and heard. The corners of mouth suddenly open slightly and air is quickly inhaled, making a sucking sound. It is extremely reliable in what it reveals: fright, concern, or anxiety. That the majority of the mouth is closed signifies that the person is, in essence, restricting free movement of the lips, an action that suggests stress and in some cases pain, such as when someone steps on your toes. HOLDING THE BREATH —Polygraphers know this well: when stressed, many people have an impulse to hold their breath to try to contain their nervous breathing. Often they even have to be told to breathe. Holding one’s breath is part of the freeze, flight, fight response. If you see someone restraining their breathing or actually holding their breath when asked a question, most likely they are experiencing fear or apprehension. DRY MOUTH —Stress, fear, and apprehension can cause our mouths to dry out (the clinical term for this is xerostomia). Some prescribed medicines as well as illicit drugs may also cause dryness of the mouth. A dry mouth is not, as some believe, indicative of deception. It can, however, indicate that someone is stressed or anxious. SALIVA BALLS OF MOUTH —A dry mouth due to stress, medication, or illness can cause saliva to become dry and clumpy; these clumps—they often look like little cotton balls—tend to collect in the corners of the mouth. They are sometimes noticeable in speakers who are nervous. It is quite distracting. If you are nervous, it is a good habit to pinch and wipe the corners of your mouth to avoid saliva balls as well as drink water. The clinical term for a dry mouth is xerostomia. CHEWING GUM —Gum chewing is an effective pacifier. Chewing vigorously might signal concern or anxiety. Some people, when stressed, will chew rapidly out of habit even if they don’t have gum in their mouths. VOCAL TICS —Sudden vocal projection of noises, clicks, chirps, or throat clearing can be alarming if one is not acquainted with Tourette’s syndrome (TS), or other disorders that contribute to vocal tics. Stress and anxiety may be the catalysts for Tourette’s outbursts, and there is nothing for us to do but recognize that this is out of the person’s control. It is also not uncommon to see the arms move erratically. The best we can do is encourage others not to stare, as this is embarrassing for the person with TS. TONGUE BITING/CHEWING —Some individuals under stress will bite their tongue or the inside of their cheeks in order to soothe their nerves. It is very pronounced in those for whom it has become a nervous tic. The tongue will appear wounded or even ulcerated in places. Under stress the behavior is of course heightened. Unfortunately, tongue and cheek biting, like repeated hair pulling, can become pathological. MOUTH STRETCHING —When we are afraid or realize we made a mistake, we often find ourselves involuntarily exposing the bottom row of clenched teeth as the corners of the mouth stretch substantially downward and to the side. This is often seen when we are reminded that we forgot to bring something important. YAWNING —Yawning is an excellent pacifier, as it relieves pent-up stress by stimulating nerves in the jaw; specifically the temporomandibular joint. It was also recently discovered that the rapid intake of air when we yawn cools the blood circulating within the palate of the mouth and, like a car radiator, the blood going to the brain. Yawning may indicate that someone is too hot or, as I often found during interviews, that an interviewee was severely stressed. Babies wrapped too warmly will also yawn with greater frequency as they sleep to help them cool down. SMOKING —People who smoke do so more often when they are stressed. Note any deviations from a person’s normal smoking routine as evidence of how stressed they may be. They may be so stressed they lose count of how many cigarettes they have lit. Excessive smoking also leads to tobacco stains on the fingers and, of course, the stench in their hands. OVEREATING —Under stress some people will overeat, sometimes going far beyond their normal food intake. I have seen people during a football game consume vast amounts of food, to the point of getting sick, their anxiety over the status of their favorite team transferred to their appetite. TONGUE IN CHEEK —Pushing the tongue firmly against one cheek and holding it in place serves to relieve tension. This is most often seen in individuals facing high stress or in those hiding information or who are getting away with something. It can also be seen in those who are being playful or cheeky. TONGUE JUTTING —When the tongue suddenly protrudes between the teeth, sometimes without touching the lips, it means “I got away with something” or “Oops, I got caught.” You also see it when people catch themselves making a mistake. The tongue jut is universal and is remarkable in its consistency, whether it is indicating that you got away with a great bargain or an extra cookie, a higher grade, or a whopper of a lie. TONGUE INSULTS —In almost all cultures the sticking out of the tongue is used as an insult, a display of disgust or dislike. Children use this technique from a very young age when they want to insult one another. Pacific Island warriors such as the Māori will dramatically stick their tongue out and down as a way to intimidate and insult. Coupled with very wide eyes, a stuck-out tongue can be quite intimidating, and it is still used to this day in Māori haka ceremonies. TONGUE PROTRUDING —Oftentimes, while performing a complex task, people will stick out their tongue, usually to one side or the other, or drape it over their lower lip. I had an accountant who did this as he entered numbers into a calculator, and I see it all the time at the university when students are taking tests. This tongue placement serves dual purposes: it pacifies us while simultaneously communicating to others that we are busy and should not be disturbed. Michael Jordan famously did this while playing basketball; when his tongue was out, two points usually soon followed. TONGUE PRESSING AGAINST PALATE —People might press their tongue against the roof of their mouth when they are struggling with something. It is seen in people taking tests, filling out applications, after missing a shot in basketball, or when somebody needs psychological comforting. The mouth is generally left slightly open, allowing observers to at least partially see the tongue. TONGUE LICKING TEETH —As with lip licking (see #145), we lick our teeth when our mouth is dry—usually due to nervousness, anxiety, or fear. The rubbing of the tongue across the teeth and/or gums is a universal stress reliever, as well as a potential sign of dehydration. Incidentally, when this is done with the mouth closed, you can see the tongue track across the teeth under the lips. TONGUE DARTING —To relieve stress some people will dart their tongue back and forth from corner to corner of their mouth (noticeable through the cheeks) in nervous or worried anticipation. Usually they think they are not being noticed or that the meaning of this behavior cannot be deciphered. FLICKING NAILS ON TEETH —The flicking of the thumbnail on the teeth releases stress. People who do this repeatedly are trying to soothe themselves because they are anxious about something. Keep in mind, however, that as with all repetitive behaviors, if people do it all the time, then you ignore that behavior because that is their “norm”—it may be more significant when they stop doing it. TEETH BARING —Sometimes people suddenly pull the corners of the mouth back and hold that position while they show their clenched teeth. This is a legacy “fear grin” very similar to what chimpanzees do when they are scared or fear a dominant male. We humans tend to bare our teeth this way when we get caught doing something we shouldn’t be doing. This behavior might be coupled with a simultaneous arching of the eyebrows, depending on the circumstances. TEETH TAPPING —When stressed, bored, or frustrated, some people will shift their jaw slightly and tap their canines together, favoring one side of the mouth or the other. This sends repetitive signals to the brain that help soothe us. VOICE TONE —The tone of our voice can make people comfortable or feel like we are challenging them. We can use the tone of our voice to alter or enhance how we are perceived. You can come off as nice, sweet, kind, loving, and knowledgeable, depending on your tone of voice or alternatively as suspicious, indignant, or arrogant. Tone of voice matters greatly. Ironically, if you want to get people’s attention, lowering your tone of voice will work best. A lower voice is also soothing, as any parent who has put a child to bed will attest. VOICE PITCH —When we are nervous our voices tend to rise in pitch. Listen for voices that rise or crack when a person is stressed, nervous, or insecure. This is caused by vocal-cord tension. UPTALK —Uptalk is when people inflect their tone up at the end of a declarative sentence, as though it were a question. Studies show that even a single instance of uptalk on the phone can negatively impact the listener’s impression of the speaker. Though uptalk is popular with many young people, it makes them sound tentative and lacking in confidence. STUTTERING/STAMMERING —Some individuals pathologically stutter (repeating syllables as they try to speak). For some it can be quite debilitating, as in the case of England’s King George VI, famously depicted by Colin Firth in the 2010 movie The King’s Speech. For many of us who do not stutter pathologically, a high degree of stress or anxiety can cause us to temporarily stutter or stammer. DELAY IN ANSWERING —Many people erroneously believe that a delay in answering a question signals that a person is lying or is buying time in an attempt to muster a credible answer. Unfortunately, both the honest and the dishonest may delay an answer but for different reasons. The guilty may in fact have to think about what to say while the innocent may be thinking about how best to say it. In my experience, a delay in answering should make us take note but is not indicative of deception. In some cultures—for instance, among many Native Americans—a delay in answering is not unusual as the person contemplates the complexity and nuance of a question. Stress or fatigue can also make us slow to answer. A formal inquiry may also cause us to delay answering because of the seriousness of the hearing. SILENCE —A prolonged silence, or even just a “pregnant pause,” may speak volumes. Sometimes, when we cannot remember information or we are contemplating something, a silence is unintentional. But other times it is very much intended, as when a negotiator may go temporarily silent to get the other party to fill in the void. Silence can be used to communicate that the person is pondering, recollecting, considering, processing, or is nonplussed. Great actors use it effectively, as do interviewers. SILENCE AND FREEZE RESPONSE —When a person suddenly goes silent and stops moving or undergoes breathing changes upon hearing or seeing something, take note. This is a response to something negative that shocks them or causes them to reassess what they know or believe. INTERRUPTIVE ARGUMENTS —Arguing for the sole purpose of disrupting a meeting or a conversation is an often-used technique to prevent further discussion. It is the repetitive interruption, not the words used, that is the nonverbal here that distracts or antagonizes. The technique does not further a conversation or provide any clarity, it is clearly intended to aggravate, intimidate, or place someone on emotional “tilt.” I have seen this many times in union meetings as members disrupt a speaker. CATHARTIC UTTERANCES —In this form of a cathartic exhale, we come close to saying a word but never get there. “Ohhhh” or “woooo” or “fuuuuh” is uttered but never completed. These are considered nonverbals because the actual words are not spoken, though we can often intuit their meaning. Often these utterances don’t make sense, especially to foreigners, but they help us to relieve stress without offending anyone. SPEED OF TALKING —How fast we speak is a key nonverbal indicator. In some parts of America people speak very slowly and deliberately, while in others speech is fast and clipped. These styles communicate something about the personality of the speakers—where they are from, where they went to school, and more. Changes in a person’s normal speed of talking may indicate stress or reluctance to answer a sensitive question. INCESSANT TALKING —We have all met people who seem to never stop talking. They might simply be nervous, or they might be inconsiderate of others and focused only on themselves. Context is key. In the aftermath of an accident, a person might ramble, talking nonstop. This is caused by shock. But at a party, the man who talks your ear off is letting you know who he thinks it most important—and it’s not you. INCONGRUENT TALK —After an accident or tragic event, a person may begin to speak incoherently. This is a result of stress and the emotional side of the brain being overwhelmed. Depending on the circumstances of the event or tragedy, this may last for hours or even days, as we have seen with soldiers and refugees in combat zones. REPETITION OF WORDS —Under high stress, people may repeat certain words over and over in a nonsensical way. Efforts on your part to get them to say more may not work. It is as if they are stuck in a loop. I once heard a victim struck by a vehicle say the word “metal” over and over again, with a look of fright upon her face. That was all she could say. SPEED OF RESPONSE —Some people will take their time answering a question, starting, then stopping, then continuing. Others will respond before you finish asking the question. How fast they answer says something about how they are thinking and processing information. Keep in mind that speed of response depends upon cultural context as well as mental agility. SPEEDING THROUGH COMMENTS —Fast is not always good when answering a question. When a person speeds through an apology, the apology loses its meaning—it seems mechanical and contrived. A similar principle applies in praising or welcoming people. It is at these moments that we should take our time. Speeding through an apology or recognition of another suggests there are issues, such as social anxiety, reluctance, or lack of conviction. It is the speed of talking that is the nonverbal here—as if glancing over what is important. FILLER SOUNDS —Sounds such as “aah,” “hum,” “hum,” coughing or throat clearing, and hesitations in speaking may indicate people are momentarily at a loss for words and feeling they have to fill the void with at least a sound. Americans are notorious for using filler sounds as they figure out what to say, struggle to find the right words, or bide their time while they recall an experience. Because these are not actual words, they are considered a paralanguage or a nonverbal. COUGHING OR CLEARING OF THROAT —People often cough or clear their throat when they need to answer or deal with something difficult. A question that is challenging to answer or needs to be qualified might cause throat clearing. I have noted that some individuals when lying will clear their throat or cough, but this is not a reliable indicator of deception, as the honest may also do so when nervous or tense. WHISTLING NERVOUSLY —Whistling is a form of cathartic exhaling (see #98), and it helps us relieve stress. It’s a good pacifier and that’s why people tend to do it when traveling by themselves through a dark or desolate area or when they feel uncomfortably alone. In movies and cartoons, people or characters are often portrayed whistling while walking through a cemetery to ward off their apprehension. TUT-TUTTING —These tongue and teeth noises are used in many societies to indicate disagreement, to call attention to something that is wrong, or to shame. One tut-tuts by placing the tongue against the back of the front teeth and the upper palate and then rapidly inhaling to make a sharp, quick sound. This is often seen in concert with a waving finger indicating that a transgression has occurred and been noticed. Parents frequently tut-tut when children are about to misbehave. LAUGHTER —Laughter is a universal display of amusement, happiness, and joy. We know that when we laugh we experience less stress and even less pain; indeed, the act of laughing may have arisen in us as a protective evolutionary benefit. There are, of course, many different sorts of laughter: unrestrained cackles when we hear a genuinely hilarious joke; the joyous laughter of children; the obsequious laughter of those who seek to flatter a leader. How someone laughs says a lot, and should be examined for the true depth of sentiment and context when you’re in doubt. The Lips We purse them in front of smartphones to take selfies and paint them with lipstick to make them more attractive. We inject them with collagen to hide our age, and we lick them to keep them moist. Rich in nerve endings, our lips sense pressure, heat, cold, flavors, tenderness, and even the movement of air. They not only sense, they can be sensuous as well. Lips communicate moods, likes, dislikes, even fear. We adorn them, massage them, Botox them, and play with them—and oh yes, we kiss with them. In a way, they are one of the things that make us uniquely human. LIP FULLNESS —Our lips change size and dimensions according to our emotional state. They get small when we’re stressed, larger when we’re comfortable. Full, pliable lips indicate relaxation and contentment. When we’re under stress, blood flows out of the lips to other parts of the body where it is needed. Lip fullness can serve as a barometer of a person’s emotional state. FINGERTIPS TO LIPS —Covering one’s lips with one’s fingers can indicate insecurity or doubt and should be considered in context. Watch for this behavior, especially as people hear a question they need to process. This behavior is also seen when people carefully ponder an issue. Keep in mind that some people do this frequently, in all sorts of situations—it is a stress reliever harking back to when they sucked their thumbs, so be careful with what inference is drawn. LIP PLUCKING —Pulling or plucking of the lips is usually associated with fear, doubt, concern, lack of confidence, or other difficulties. Ignore people who do this continually to pass the time—for them it is a pacifier. For those who rarely do it, it’s a good indicator that something is wrong. LIP BITING —Lip biting is a pacifier, usually seen when people are under stress or have concerns. We bite our lips because, after a certain age, it is no longer socially acceptable to suck our thumbs, and biting our lips stimulates the same nerves in the mouth. We might also bite our lips when we want to say something but can’t or shouldn’t. Note also that some people, when angry, will bite their lips as a means of self-restraint. LIP LICKING —Rubbing the tongue on the lips helps to pacify us in the same way that lip biting does. This behavior is usually associated with concerns, anxiety, or negative emotions; however, it could just be that the person has dry lips, so be careful when drawing conclusions. For some people, however, this is a very reliable indicator that they are very stressed. As an educator, I see this all the time when an unprepared student sits down for a test. LIP NARROWING —The narrowing of the lips is mostly associated with negative thoughts, concerns, fears, anxiety, or lack of confidence. As we process issues or experience stress, the lips tend to narrow. LIP COMPRESSING —Throughout the day, as we encounter negative events or uncomfortable thoughts, and concerns, our lips will narrow and press together, accurately transmitting, even if only for an instant, our concerns. Lip compression can be very subtle or can reach a point where the lips noticeably change color as blood is forced out. Lip compression can be very fleeting ( 1 / 20th of a second), and yet it reveals accurately a negative emotion suddenly registered. SLIGHT PRESSING OF LIPS —Sometimes we show our annoyance with others by slightly compressing the lips. Unlike full lip compression, where both lips are involved, this usually involves only the upper lip. Still, a slight lip compression might reveal something, when considered along with the rest of a person’s body language. COMPRESSED LIPS PULLED DOWN —You’ll see this striking behavior in people when they realize they made a major mistake or get caught doing something wrong. The lips are held tightly together while the muscles surrounding the mouth contract to bring the lips slightly down, stretching the upper lip away from the nose and pulling the mouth area tightly against the teeth. RELUCTANCE TO DECOMPRESS LIPS —People who hold their compressed lips together for a long time, reluctant to decompress them, are signaling a high degree of stress or concern. Lip compression is, in a way, a battening down of our hatches, much like covering our eyes with our hands to block out something negative. The greater the tension or apprehension, the greater the need to keep the lips compressed. LIP WITHDRAWING —When we have deep concerns or anxiety, we might suck our lips into our mouth to the point where they are no longer visible. This signals something very different from lip compressing ( see #147), where much of the lips remain visible. This behavior is often reserved for when there is severe stress, significant physical pain, or great emotional turmoil. LIP QUIVERING —The quivering of the edges of the lips, no matter how slight, in the absence of alcohol or neurological disorders, indicates discomfort, concern, fear, or other issues. Young people when questioned by parents or other adults in positions of authority often display quivering lips, as do honest people who have never been confronted by law enforcement officers before. I have also heard from human resources personnel that some young people’s lips will quiver when they are asked if they use illicit drugs. UPSIDE-DOWN LIPS —When the lips are compressed and the corners of the mouth turn downward, things are really bad emotionally. This is a strong indicator of high stress or discomfort. This behavior is difficult to fake, so it is very accurate. Be careful, however, because some people have naturally downturned mouths. This indicator is similar to the “grouper” mouth ( see #156), but in this case the lips either are very tightly compressed or have disappeared completely. LIP PURSING —We purse our lips (pinching them tightly toward the front of the mouth) when we disagree with something or when we are thinking of an alternative. When audiences take issue with what a speaker is saying or know it is wrong, you often see this behavior. The more outward the movement of the pursed lips, the stronger the negative emotion or sentiment. This is an extremely reliable behavior you also see in poker when players don’t like their own hole cards. LIP PURSING PULLED TO SIDE —This is similar to the pursed-lips behavior above, but with the lips energetically pulled to the side of the face, significantly altering the look of the person. Usually this happens quickly, though when there is strong disagreement, the position might be held for a few seconds. It is an emphatic gesture that says, “I have real issues here; I don’t like what I was asked, what I just heard, or where this is going.” The more pronounced the gesture or the longer it is held, the stronger the sentiment. We famously saw this expression on O. J. Simpson trial witness Kato Kaelin as he testified, and gymnast McKayla Maroney when she came in second place in the vault finals during the 2012 Summer Olympics. SAD MOUTH —The mouth, like the eyes, can be a window into our emotional state. Sadness is usually shown with the corners of the lips turned down slightly, usually in concert with lowered upper eyelids. This is sometimes referred to as a “grouper” mouth or face. It should be noted that some people naturally look this way—the corners of their mouths perpetually turned down—and for them, it has nothing to do with negative emotions. THE O —When we are surprised or in agony, our lips will often instinctively make an oval shape, similar to an O. The reason we do this is not exactly known, but it seems to be a universal behavior across cultures and possibly a vestigial response we share with alarmed primates. The best-known image of this is Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. MOUTH OPEN, JAW TO SIDE —Similar to jaw dropping (see #179), this occurs when people have done something wrong or realize they’ve made a mistake. One corner of the mouth is pulled to the side, causing the jaw to shift in that direction; at the same time, the clenched lower teeth on that side of the mouth are exposed. Students often react this way when they miss a question they know they should have known; it’s also seen when employees recognize they failed to complete a task. This behavior might be accompanied by the quick sucking in of air through clenched teeth. SMILE —A genuine smile is an instant, surefire way to communicate friendliness and goodwill. Around the world it signals warmth, friendliness, and social harmony. Watching someone smile, especially babies, brings us joy. In family relations, dating, and business a smile opens doors as well as hearts. There are a variety of smiles, including social smiles for those whom we don’t know but acknowledge near us, the tense smile of a test taker, and the false smile of those pretending to like us or trying to act comfortable. TRUE SMILE —A topic of much research; a genuine smile involves the mouth and the muscles around the eyes. This is called a Duchenne smile, according to body-language researcher Paul Ekman. The face is visibly more relaxed in a true smile, as the facial muscles reflect actual joy rather than tension. Studies have shown that a genuine smile can be truly “contagious,” in both professional and personal environments, and is often a trait we associate with charismatic individuals. FALSE SMILE —False smiles, like nervous smiles, are used for perception management to make others believe everything is OK. They are fairly easy to distinguish from a true smile; however, in a false smile, sometimes only one side of the face is involved, or the smile goes toward the ear rather than the eyes. It looks contrived. A true smile engages the eyes and the facial muscles smoothly on both sides of the face. NERVOUS SMILE —A nervous or tense smile shows anxiety, concern, or stress. The nervous smile is performed to make others think everything is fine. You often see this on visitors clearing customs at the airport; they nervously smile at the inquisitive officer asking questions. SMILING AS A BAROMETER OF EMOTIONS —How accurate are smiles in revealing our inner feelings? Very. Studies show that athletes’ smiles differ noticeably depending on whether they finish in first, second, or third place. Interestingly, this same distinction holds true for congenitally blind athletes, who have never actually seen a smile on another person’s face. Their smile will reflect their success, or lack thereof—again confirming that many nonverbals are hardwired in our brains. CRIMPING CORNERS OF THE MOUTH —When one corner of the mouth pinches tight and pulls slightly to the side or up, it reveals smugness, disdain, dislike, disbelief, or contempt. Where the contempt is demonstrably overt, this behavior may be dramatized or exaggerated, leaving no question as to true sentiments. Most of the time crimping the corner of the mouth is done on just one side of the face but some people do it on both sides and it means the same. UPPER LIP RISE —Disgust, negative sentiments, disdain, or dislike will cause the upper corner of the lip on one side of the mouth to rise slightly or “tent” upward. When the sentiments are strong, the rise can be very noticeable, distorting the upper lip toward the nose and exposing the teeth, almost in a snarl. This is a sign of utter dislike or disgust. UPPER-LIP TONGUE RUBBING —Some people reflect their positive emotions by licking their upper lip briskly back and forth. Because the tongue is in essence defying gravity (going for the upper lip), positive emotions are more likely involved. This is differentiated from the usual lip licking, which is done on the lower lip and is associated with stress release. As with all body-language indicators, there are exceptions, and some people rub the upper lip to relieve stress, so look for other confirming behaviors to guide you in drawing conclusions. The Cheeks and Jaw Many people think of the cheeks as a dormant fixture and the jaw as something only useful for chewing and talking—not, in other words, useful in the study of body language. But our cheeks and jaws give our faces our unique human shape. We look for leaders to have strong jaws and the fashion industry is always looking for high cheekbones on models. We color our cheeks artificially with makeup to increase our attractiveness and allow hair to grow on our jaws to fill out a face—which is why President Lincoln grew out his beard. From cheeks that flush with excitement or embarrassment to jaws that shift when we feel unsure, these two areas definitely communicate something about us and should not be overlooked. SUDDEN FACIAL TICS —Facial tics can erupt anywhere on the face (the cheek, a corner of the mouth, the eyes, the forehead) and are specific to each individual. If you suddenly see a nervous twitch, it is usually caused by tension or anxiety. Facial tics often occur on or near the cheeks because of the interconnecting muscles that traverse this area. FACIAL DENTING —People will push or press their fingers firmly against a cheek to produce sensations that relieve stress—literally making a dent into their own skin. These displays are sometimes quite pronounced, depending on the pressure applied. This is frequently seen at sporting events when the home team is doing poorly. Facial denting can be done with one or two hands or a few fingers on just one side or by pinching the cheeks between the thumb and the index or middle finger in concert. CHEEK OR FACIAL MASSAGING —Cheek or facial massaging is a good way to release stress. Usually done very softly, it can also signal contemplation. This is a behavior that needs to be considered with other behaviors for an accurate assessment. CHEEK STRUMMING —Strumming the fingers on the cheek indicates that someone is bored and wanting to move things along. Verify with other behaviors, such as looking bored or seat shifting. CHEEK FRAMING —Cheek framing is when a person rests the jaw on an extended thumb and places the index finger up along the side of the cheek. This usu ally involves just one hand and suggests that a person is pondering something, or wants to appear pensive. Some people use this behavior primarily when they doubt what a speaker is saying, while others might simply do it as a means to aid concentration. In dating, it can be an effective pose to show interest from a distance. PUFFING OUT CHEEKS —The puffing out of the cheeks, without exhaling, often signifies doubt, deliberation, or caution. This is often seen in people who are not quite sure what to do next or who are apprehensive. It is not unusual to see someone hold this pose for quite a while as they work out the solution to a problem. SNEAKING A CHEEK TOUCH—Sneaking a pacifier by ever so slightly rubbing the index finger against the cheek indicates that stress is being managed for the sake of perception. When people try to conceal a pacifier, like touching the side of the nose, they do so because they are trying to hide their insecurity, anxiety, or worry. Surreptitious cheek touching is frequently noticeable in people being interviewed on TV and in poker players. CHEEK SCRATCHING —Cheek scratching is also a pacifier, a way of dealing with doubts and insecurities. It is more robust than sneaking a touch, which tends to be more accurate because of its hidden meaning. Nevertheless, the scratching of the cheek with four fingers usually indicates reservations, hesitation, bewilderment, or apprehension. PINCHING THE CORNERS OF THE MOUTH —Using the fingers to tightly constrict or pinch the corners of the mouth relieves stress. We rarely do this when we are content and relaxed. It is different from facial denting ( see #168). This behavior is usually done by pressing the fleshy area of cheeks with the fingers and thumbs bilaterally pulling toward the corners of the mouth, perhaps even pulling on one or both lips. CHEEK WIPING —Under extreme stress, it is not unusual to see people press their hands on their face and drag them downward, as if wiping their faces clean. Typically, the motion starts just in front of the ears and concludes near the jawbone. The harder and longer the person presses down, the more acute the stress. I’ve seen stockbrokers do this at the closing bell after a poor day of trading or when a team loses in the final second of a game. JAW TENSING —When we are upset, angry, or fearful, the jaw muscles near the ears tend to tense up. Look for jaw tension when there is stress, defiance, or emotions are becoming heated. JAW DISPLACING/SHIFTING —Jaw displacement or repetitive jaw shifting (from side to side) is an effective pacifier. This is also simply a compulsive behavior in some people, so note when and how often it occurs and look for other confirming behaviors that something is amiss. Most people do this infrequently, and thus when you do see it, it is very accurate in communicating that something is bothering them. JAW DROPPING —A sudden drop of the jaw, leaving the mouth open and the teeth exposed, communicates great surprise. This behavior is often seen when people are shocked or are confronted with an embarrassing revelation. Why our jaws drop is not completely understood, but the action is quite accurate in revealing total surprise. JAW MUSCLES PULSING —Jaw muscles that pulse, throb, or become tight and pronounced indicate impatience, tension, concern, worries, anger, or negative emotions. JAW JUTTING —When we are angry, we tend to move or jut the jaw slightly forward. In conjunction with lowered upper eyelids or tense lips, this behavior makes anger difficult for a person to hide entirely. The Chin Baby, round, squared, sagging, strong, dimpled, cute, or scarred: chins come in many varieties and shapes. They protect our face, and if need be our neck, but they also communicate our sentiments, whether pride or shame. We say “chin up” when others are down, and soldiers proudly salute the flag with their chins angled high. The chin, in short, can speak volumes about our internal state, whether we are confident, frightened, troubled, or emotionally overcome. CHIN UP —When the chin is out and up it communicates confidence—thus the saying “chin up.” In certain European cultures (German, French, Russian, and Italian, among others) the chin is generally raised higher than normal to signify confidence, pride, and in certain cases, arrogance. CHIN POINTING DOWN —If the chin suddenly points downward in response to a question, most likely the person lacks confidence or feels threatened. In some people, this is a highly reliable tell; they literally drop their chin when they get bad news or as they think about something painful or negative. CHIN WITHDRAWING —When we are worried or anxious, we instinctively move our chin as close to the neck as possible—nature’s way of protecting our vitals. This is an excellent indicator of insecurity, doubt, even fear. If you see this behavior after asking someone a question, there are serious unresolved issues. When children are questioned about something they should not have done, the chin often comes down, showing contriteness. Many adults respond the same way. CHIN HIDING —This is generally employed by children to hide their embarrassment, show their displeasure toward others, or demonstrate that they are upset. They tuck their chin down, often crossing their arms at the same time and then refuse to lift their chin up. In adults, chin hiding is seen between males, standing face-to-face, angry or yelling at each other. In this case it serves to protect the neck in the event of a violent confrontation. CHIN DROP WITH SHOULDERS SLUMPING —This is another behavior familiar to parents—when children lower or try to hide their chin with the shoulders slumped, effectively saying “I don’t want to.” If the arms are also crossed, then the child definitely does not want to. CHIN TOUCHING —We touch our chins when we are thinking or evaluating something. This is usually done with the tips of the fingers. It is not necessarily a sign of doubt but is something to note when a person is processing information. When coupled with other behaviors, such as lip pursing, it suggests that the person is contemplating something negative, or an alternative to what has been discussed. CHIN BRUSHING WITH BACK OF HAND —In many cultures this signifies that a person has doubts about what is being said. This may also be coupled with lip pursing. It can be performed side to side or from back to front of the chin. CHIN CRADLING —Placing one’s chin on the palm of the hand, coupled with relaxation of the facial muscles, suggests boredom. But in a law enforcement context, it might signal a range of possibilities, depending on the circumstances. In a forensic setting, I have seen the guilty strike this pose while sitting in a room alone as a form of perception management, to make authorities think they are so innocent, they are practically bored. ANGRY CHIN PERCHING —This chin perch is performed by placing the chin on the knuckles of the fists, while the elbows are wide and resting on a table as the person stares into the distance or at a computer screen. Usually the forehead is furrowed or the eyes are narrowed or squinting, as a result of something difficult they are pondering or momentary anger. When you see someone posed like this, it is wise to not interrupt. CHIN SHIFTING —Moving the chin left to right against the palm of the hand is a subconscious conveyance of disagreement. I have seen people sitting around a conference room table show their silent displeasure by shifting their chin while resting on the palm of their hand. BEARD/MUSTACHE STROKING —Stroking a mustache or a beard can be highly effective for pacifying stress. As with any repetitive behavior, ignore it if you see it too often, as some people with facial hair do this compulsively. If you see it occur suddenly for the first time or it increases after a topic is mentioned, perhaps the person has an issue. Cultural context must also be taken into account; for instance, beard stroking is common among many men from the Middle East as they pass the time talking. Note that many men with beards find it soothing to stroke their beards as they pass the time of day. CHIN DIMPLING —When people are stressed, experiencing emotional turmoil, or about to cry, their chin will dimple. This is true for even the most stoic of individuals. CHIN-MUSCLE QUIVERING —The sudden quivering of chin muscles indicates fear, concern, anxiety, or apprehension. People who are about to cry will also do this. The mentalis muscle, which covers the chin and causes the skin to quiver, is one of the muscles that most reflects our emotions, according to Dr. David Givens. Sometimes the chin will reflect emotional turmoil even before the eyes. CHIN TO SHOULDER —We often see this with people who are embarrassed or emotionally vulnerable. They will, in a very childlike manner, place their chin against one shoulder, looking demure. You should especially note when someone does this while answering a question. It usually means the person has great difficulty discussing a subject, perhaps because she possesses knowledge she does not wish to reveal. CHIN POINTING —In many cultures, people will point in a direction with their chin, extending it forward as they stretch their neck. This replaces pointing with a finger, and is seen throughout the Caribbean, in Latin America, in parts of Spain, and in the Middle East, as well as on many Native American reservations. The Face Though I have already covered individual elements of the face, some behaviors are best understood within their full context. Human beings evolved to glean a great deal of information from the face. The eyes and the mouth especially draw our attention. Usually when we look at someone we like, we toggle our gaze between the eyes and mouth, because these two reveal so much information. Mother and baby scan each other over and over to imprint on each other, to collect information, but also to bond—no less so than lovers silently scanning each other in a café. We are naturally fascinated by faces—millions of words have been spent describing the most famous face of all, the Mona Lisa, precisely because she is so enigmatic. We are naturally curious about faces, and we are enticed when we see something special in them. Faces communicate emotions, thoughts, and feelings, and so throughout our lives we constantly search there for clues. When the Greeks said that a face “launched a thousand ships,” it was both metaphorical and quite likely true—that, too, is the power of the face. FACE AVOIDANCE —For a variety of reasons, we sometimes try to avoid face-to-face contact with others, even when we are in their immediate proximity. You see this in court between victim and suspect, or during contentious divorce proceedings. The avoidance becomes obvious by how quickly people will change their demeanor, where they are looking, and how stiff they b