Don’t destroy your own credibility Whether you’re telling the truth or lying, these gestures send an unconscious signal telling others not to believe you. If you want to be trusted, practice avoiding them.
1. Tilting your head back
Tilting your head back and raising your chin conveys a sign of defiance or arrogance. You’re literally looking down your nose at the other person.
2. Listening without making eye contact
Research shows you should make eye contact 50 percent of the time while speaking, and 70 percent of the time while listening. Otherwise, you may come across as duplicitous or uninterested.
3. Touching your face
This is another gesture that tends to make you look dishonest–even if you may simply have an itchy nose or tired eyes. Don’t do it.
4. Nodding ‘no’ or shaking your head ‘yes.’
It’s surprisingly common for people to nod while saying no or shake their heads from side to side while saying yes. It usually means they intend the opposite of what they say. Keep your head on message.
5. Putting hands in your pockets or behind your back
You might simply do this out of nervousness, but it’s usually taken as a sign that you can’t be trusted–because you seem to have something to hide.
6. Gesturing too low
Most people make gestures in front of their bodies at shoulder or chest height. If your gestures are down by your waist or lower, they’re harder to see, again making it seem like you’re hiding something.
7. Fig leaf
People put their hands in front of their genitals out of discomfort or respect (which is why you often see this gesture at a funeral). However, it can also show signs of fear, or like you have something to hide. Avoid this, especially in negotiations.
8. Palm down or closed fist
This hand position indicates aggression or superiority and also that you’re literally closed to whatever the other person is saying. Don’t do it if you’re trying to build a relationship.
9. Not moving your hands at all
Most people perceive–correctly–that someone who speaks without gestures is being dishonest. Liars worry that their hands will give them away, so they tend to hold them still.
10. ‘Closed’ body
This could be folding your arms, crossing your legs, slumping inward, or otherwise concealing your body. It might just mean you’re cold or nervous or shy. But it will make you look dishonest or displeased.
11. Holding an object in front of you
Holding something in both hands in front of your body is seen as another way of closing yourself off–in the U.S. In some Asian countries, it might denote respect. (Not all body language signals have the same meanings across different cultures.)
12. Shrugging one shoulder
Shrugging in general is a bad idea, as it can make you look indifferent, uninformed, or unhappy. But shrugging only one shoulder often indicates that you’re lying. Be careful not to do it.
13. Being stiff
Similar to holding your hands still, holding your torso still makes it seem you’re suppressing any urge to move so as not to give yourself away. So, loosen up!
14. Leaning back or away
If you lean away from the other person, the meeting, or the conversation, it will look like you object to that person or whatever he or she is saying. Don’t do it if you want to appear engaged.
15. Moving away
This is like leaning away, only more so. Be careful not to invade the other person’s space, but at the same time don’t increase yours by moving farther away from the other person. You’ll be literally creating distance between you.
16. Sitting directly across from the other person
If you visit someone’s office, you may have no choice. But if you can, sit at a 45-degree angle. Your conversation will feel more collaborative and less confrontational. That’s a great first step toward building the trust you want.