Lips Reveal Emotions in Body Language

False SmileHave you ever listened to a bad joke and gave a halfhearted smile? You wanted to be polite and avoid conveying your true emotions. False smiles of obligation are easy to detect. Politicians like to give polite smiles, as he or she is introduced. The picture is of an Olympic athlete who came in second. Genuine smile? No so much. When there are true emotions displayed in the smile, look at the outside corners of the eyes as the skin will form crow’s feet and are easily recognized. False smiles will fail to deliver the crow’s feet. The skin will remain smooth. Go to the mirror and try this yourself. Practice your smile.

Are the lips disappearing or is she swallowing her lips? My lips are sealed. I am not saying anything and not letting anything inside my mouth. The mouth is the gatekeeper. The tighter the lips, the more negative the reaction to the point that the corners of the mouth will create a sad line. I watched an episode of The Pitchman, in which a contestant was asked a difficult question concerning the marketing audience of her product. Her lips almost disappeared. She had not anticipated this question and obviously had difficulty with a response. She was obviously in bad trouble and she was declined funding for her project.

Pursing of the lips is an indicator of angst, turmoil or disagreement. The lips will puckerLip Purse A-Rod up ever so slightly in response to the incoming message. I worked for a supervisor who was a chronic lip purser. When I saw the pursing of lips, I knew he was not in agreement with my idea. He often would add a head nod as if to say I agree with you, but I always knew he was about to deliver an alternative suggestion.

A sneering mouth and combined with the rolling of eyes is indicative of contempt. This is always a negative gesture. People who show contempt are not and probably never will have a friendship with you. Psychologist John Gottman, in his study of marriage counselor patients, was able to predict with ninety percent accuracy the longevity of the marriage. According his research, contempt was the strongest clue displayed by the couples headed for trouble.

If the tongue sticks out and retracts quickly like a lizard, this is a clue that the person is being sneaky or concealing. It can be used when you make a coy joke. Remember when as kids, you would stick out your tongue in a taunting manner? In adults, it is difficult to get away with such immature behavior. So, as adults we are more discreet and therefore more concealing of the technique. It could also be that they are touching their lips for moisture. As you can see, with most displays of body language, there is often more than one explanation.

The hands over the mouth are an indication of low confidence. The conduct is often associated with reluctance for the words to come out and we are shielding our mouth from view. This behavior is a negative gesture and not well received by the recipient. This conduct is similar to placing the hands under the table or the magician’s sleight of hand.

I worked with a coworker who was one of the toughest people I knew. He was a Vietnam veteran, who had seen combat and was the real deal. He constantly covered his mouth during conversation. He was a shy person and lacked confidence when engaging in public dialogue. Rest assured everything he said was the truth. Just keep in mind if your hand is in front of your mouth, it will raise a flag of concern.

Fingers in the mouth are pacifying and an indication of uncertainty. It is also a dirty habit considering where the fingers may have been. If you watch the fingers slip inside the oral orifice, it is a good assumption that something is bothering them. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the oral cavity. You will lose any positive standing.

smiley_in_washing_machineThe last tip I would like to provide concerning the mouth and lips. If the mouth moves around more than a washing machine on the spin cycle, the person displaying this behavior is having a great deal of discomfort with your conversation. You need to examine the reason for this reaction.

As always, keep in mind what the movements of your mouth are conveying. Your mouth may be revealing your inner emotions and conflict.

For more tips on body language and developing rapport, take a look at FACE 2 FACE : Observation, Interviewing and Rapport Building Skills: an Ex-Secret Service Agent’s Guide



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2 Responses to Lips Reveal Emotions in Body Language


    Another great article Mike! The lips are really an area we want to observe carefully, I remember paying extra attention to clients´ lips (and mine) when I was a commercial. Cheers

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