The Body Language That Betrays You

Min to Read
Updated on
Jan 10, 2019
Last published on
Apr 5, 2021
The body language that betrays you | Canada Talents - Blog

Sometimes, the interview has not even started yet, and the recruiter in front of you already knows a lot about yourself. How come? Your body is giving away a lot of you based on how you behave, stand or move.

We learn social behaviour as children. Growing up, we mimic our parents, and while meeting people, we learn how to behave. Whether it is inborn, genetic or assimilated culturally, our face and the way we move say a lot of those perceptive enough to recognize them.



In business, we often greet with a handshake. It is seen as very business-like and manly. Do you know which kind of handshake you are? Here is the worst type of handshake you want to avoid :

The Dead Fish handshake

When you greet the person, it feels like they have no bones, the handshake is slack, barely holding your hands. It reflects on a passive personality, not people-focused.

The Finger Vise

When they grab your hand, they end up grasping fingers and not the entire hand. They also might be crushing your finger at the same time. It is the equivalent of crying out loud: Insecure.

It signals that your guest wants to keep people at a distance. If at the same time he is crushing your fingers, it adds an intimidation message.

The Bone Crusher

Those who squeeze hands to the point it becomes painful and can even cut your blood flow. It is seen as extremely aggressive. Here is an example of a typical bone crusher.

Our tip: Find a partner in crime kind enough to let you try some handshake on him. This person will be able to give you feedback on how it goes.

The Bellybutton rules

When talking to people in networking events, business meetings, in your everyday life, note your torso's position. If turned towards the person you are talking to, then it means that you are focused on the conversation. From your belly button position comes the reflection of your attitude and emotional state.

For example, when you move your belly button towards something/someone else while speaking to someone, you are sending the message that you are no longer interested in the conversation.

Knowing this rule, you can use it in various situations from creating some space with someone (for negotiation purposes or others) to displaying your interest, and more. If you want to learn more about it: Belly button rules.

The Naughty bits

A fig leaf display featuring a newlywed or a nervous one?
A fig leaf display featuring a newlywed or a nervous one?

Your naughty bits and lower extremities - including hips, groin, legs, knees, and feet - are body parts that show two kinds of messages: Are you open or are you closed? When threatened, we cover them while we seem more confident in exposing them.

  • The fig leaf: When you put your arm in front of your belly, it shows discomfort and anxiety.
  • Hands into pockets: Seen as a message of nervousness that one is trying to conceal.
  • “Figure 4” bit display: When the ankle of one leg rests on the knee of the other leg. You are displaying nervousness, lack of flexibility, rudeness, being closed off. It also shows power, but among so many different possible meanings that you should avoid this position unless feeling comfortable.
An example of a Figure 4 display
An example of a Figure 4 display

Some general tips

Tip 1: Don’t lie during an interview because your body will betray you

When saying a lie, a child will often be seen covering his mouth with his hands. If we learn to hide those clear signals growing up, the subconscious mind still twitches with a lie, and it can be seen in our body language. Therefore, while saying a lie, people will sometimes try :

  • To cover their mouths: The brain is trying to suppress the lie from coming out.
  • Touch their nose: Pinocchio effect, some studies show that when saying a lie, the body reacts, some chemicals kick in, and the nose starts swelling.
  • To rub their eyes: It could also be used by someone who is watching someone else lying and the brain does not want to witness the deceit.

Tip 2: How to show interest

When trying to display interest during a show, or a speech, people will sometimes let one of their hand rests on their cheeks.

Heads up: When the hand helps to support the head, boredom quicked in. If you do not want to seem bored, don’t let your head rest on your hand. However, if the thumb is under the chin, supporting the head implies negative or critical thoughts.

Interested or judgemental?
Is this man interested or judgemental?

The power of the smile

Some cliché about smiling

  • Smile = Lie: No!

Smiling is sometimes associated with lying. Studies show that the more someone is lying, the less the person is smiling.

  • Keep smiling: No!

Should you smile all the time? Big No. Smile with accuracy. When you meet the interviewer or this critical networking contact, flash a smile when you greet them. Flash a smile to show your interest in a subject, your eagerness to be acquainted with someone.

  • Faking a smile is ok: No!

Don’t fake a smile. Smiles should reach your eyes. It is effortless to spot someone who is pretending to smile.

Why should you smile?

Smiling is a submission signal whether it is displayed with bare teeth or not.

It is also a way of bonding, given that smile is contagious. When you give a smile to someone, it often causes them to reciprocate. Studies show that we copy the facial expressions we see. Moreover, that is why it is important to smile. Flash a smile, and it could influence other people's behaviour and reactions towards you.

Our tip: You might not agree with some of the statements related here above. However, keep in mind that even if you disagree with those specific gestures and their so-called meaning, it could be how you are perceived and how you broadcast yourself despite your best efforts.

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The Body Language That Betrays You

Canada Talents uses decades of experience from our team, volunteers and network to create curated content for the francophone community. We are focused on helping you to understand the cultural gap in order for you to thrive in your career in Canada.