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10 gestures that betray us (and how to avoid them)

10 gestures that betray us (and how to avoid them)

January 22, 2023

When we talk about communication, we usually think first of all in verbal language (oral or written) as a means of expressing ideas, feelings, intentions and emotions. The messages issued in this way are usually almost always fully conscious and voluntary, controlling and choosing both what we say and what we do not.

However, we must bear in mind that everything, and not only the verbal, is communicative: from distances to posture, passing through gestures, transmitting information. This is part of the nonverbal language .

And not all of these aspects have the same control: for example, although we can consciously use gestures during our speech we also continuously emit corporal expressions and gestures in an unconscious and involuntary way, which can betray our thoughts, feelings or even elements of our personality without intending it. As an example, in this article we are going to see a series of gestures that betray us , revealing aspects of us unconsciously.


  • Related article: "The 5 practical keys to master non-verbal language"

The main types of language

As we have seen, every act and even the absence of this is communicative. When evaluating a communicative exchange between two or more people, we usually consider two types of language: verbal and non-verbal.

Verbal language would refer to verbal or written communication through the use of the word as symbolic element of information representation , the content of the message being relevant.

Regarding non-verbal language, this integrates the set of elements through which we transmit information regardless of the verbal content we are or not expressing. Nonverbal language is in turn integrated by proxemics, paraverbal language and kinesthetic language.


The proxemics is the use of distances as a communicative element, and the paraverbal language is configured by the set of qualities of the voice or the use of the word that do not refer to the content but to the format such as intonation or volume used. Regarding the kinésica or kinésico language, this integrates the set of movements, gestures, expressions and postures that we perform during the communicative act and that are capable of transmitting information, being able to modulate the perception, meaning and interpretation of the message.

A dozen gestures that give you away

There are many gestures that we carry out throughout the day, often being voluntarily employed. But nevertheless, we are not so used to controlling our expressions and even often we do not realize that we are carrying them out, letting us see parts of our psyche or how we take the interaction with the other in an unconscious way. Some gestures are uncontrollable, not being able to be forced naturally. But others can change if we realize and get used to them or stop carrying them out.


Next we will show a dozen gestures that betray us in our interactions, as well as their general meaning. Now, it must be taken into account that each person is a world and the same gesture can have very different interpretations depending on the personality or postural habits of the person doing it, or on the situation.

Thus, although the gestures that we are going to mention often have a specific meaning, seeing a person perform a certain gesture does not necessarily imply that they are feeling a certain emotion, expressing a facet of a specific personality or reacting in a specific way to the communicative exchange .

1. Arms crossed over the chest

A classic easily visible this gesture is often used in case of anger or impatience towards another person or situation. However, it is also established as a gesture that involves the need to establish a separation or barrier between us and the other , either due to insecurity or even disinterest.

If this gesture is considered necessary, it can be easily avoided on a physical level, although it may be useful to work on tolerance to frustration or to carry out training to promote self-confidence.

2. Arms in jars

Holding our hips with our hands can have two basic meanings, to a great extent opposed. The first of these and probably the best known is the one that is associated with the existence of anger or impatience, while on the other hand it can also indicate a lack of security that makes us try to make ourselves bigger before the observation of others .

Actually, both interpretations have something in common: they are linked to adopting a defensive posture and showing security, making us more visible whether we do it from a more aggressive perspective or if we do it as a method to try to protect ourselves.

The way to avoid doing this gesture happens first of all by listen to yourself and understand our emotional reaction to circumstances or people , looking for an alternative or solution to what generates the need to perform it.

3. Handshake

One of the possible gestures that betray us since they can give more information of what is intended occurs when we give or someone shakes hands with us. While it is a type of conscious movement includes aspects that can escape control, such as the level of force that is applied or whether it is accompanied or not by another type of physical contact.

A contact without strength or in which only fingers are given usually expresses little confidence and self confidence, nervousness , rejection or a lack of interest in the interaction itself.

Conversely, a squeeze too strong can convey the idea of ​​wanting to overwhelm the other , assuming a dominant and aggressive position although at the same time you can see security and assertiveness. If we add another contact, such as grabbing the forearm with the other hand, we may be suggesting either a desire for closeness or an attempt to exercise control over the situation or interaction. Nervousness can also be expressed in the form of sweat.

Ideally, try to dominate the nerves before giving a handshake, as well as pre-test with other people the level of force to print in the grip, which must be firm and decisive but soft enough to not be aggressive. In case of sweating it may be advisable to dry your hands before giving it, in a way that is natural and not perceptible (for example, in a concealed way against the pants).

4. Shoulder guidance

We often do not realize how expressive parts like shoulders can be. The orientation and inclination of these forward, towards the other, usually suggests interest (regardless of the type of interest that it is) in the person with whom you interact or in what you are telling us. On the other hand, if the shoulders are directed towards the sides of the body or towards the back, it may indicate indifference, disinterest or boredom.

In this sense, the knowledge of this fact and the correction of the position can be controlled if we are aware of it, projecting the shoulders to convenience or maintaining the same position throughout the interaction.

5. Inflate the chest

The fact of inflating the chest is a gesture that may be unconscious and may reflect an attempt to appear larger, being used as a gesture with which to pretend to impress or show strength. It can be a defensive or even aggressive gesture.

In another context, in both men and women and regardless of sexual orientation the fact of inflating the chest is used at an unconscious level before people who are stimulating and attractive . In this sense men inflate the chest to show power and increase the figure, while women have a tendency to look for positions that highlight their breasts.

If we do not want to show this interest and the gesture is unconscious it will not be possible to stop it, but it is possible to perform muscle tension and breathing exercises that facilitate scanning and realizing this gesture.

6. Avoid the look

Avoiding the gaze of our interlocutor is usually a symptom of nervousness, and is one of the gestures that betray us in different situations. This nervousness can come from different types of situations and emotions: it is usual for people who lie to look away, but also It can be done out of shyness or feeling overwhelmed by the other , for discomfort or even for feeling attracted by our interlocutor.

The alternative is to try to maintain the look during a prudential time, blinking regularly (the absence of blinking is usually related to aggressiveness or an attempt to dissimulate) but without excess. But nevertheless it is something very difficult to control .

  • You may be interested: "Why is it sometimes hard to look someone in the eye?"

7. Covering your mouth when you smile

This gesture is usually a sign of shyness, shame and insecurity, or an attempt to disguise a reaction that the other person could feel bad or simply not want to be perceived.

If we do not want to project an image of shyness or vulnerability, it is recommended to try to control the fact of being covered and show the smile directly .

8. Scratching the ear

Although obviously scratching the ear can be the product of different types of itching, in many cases this gesture is used unconsciously in situations that tire us or bore us, and which we are looking forward to ending. Sometimes The same can be said for people who scratch their beards quickly .

Avoiding this kind of gestures is difficult given that some real hotness may appear, for this reason you must control your hands and avoid touching them to the face.

9. Show the palms

With regard to the palm of the hand, if it is offered and it is upwards and towards the interlocutor, it is usually indicating openness and acceptance towards the other, respect or in other cases submission . At the opposite end, when in our gestures what we offer to the other is the back or we protect the palm we are expressing insecurity, desire for separation or concealment of feelings and / or authority.

The knowledge of this fact can make us consciously modify our habitual gesture and we can get used to it.

10. Legs crossed inward, supporting fingers and not heels

Also when we sit down, the way we do it reveals aspects of our personality. For example, sitting cross-legged and inward (that is, leaving the feet in line with the trunk) and in such a way that only the toes remain in contact with the ground usually indicates shyness, submission and / or embarrassment , being a defensive posture . Other postures, such as having legs spread apart, involve extraversion and / or arrogance.

Thus, this type of gesture is usually linked to the personality. However, it can also be acquired or modified based on the creation of new habits when sitting. The ideal would be to maintain a relaxed and comfortable posture, that does not burden the legs and usually between the two cases previously mentioned.

Bibliographic references:

  • Messinger, J. (2008). Ces gestes qui vous trahissent. First (General Editions).

10 Psychological Tips That'll Help You Get Your Life Together (January 2023).


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