Body language: Positive and negative evaluation gestures

By Hanan Parvez

Positive evaluation gestures

When we see or hear something positive, or at least perceive it to be as positive, we might do what are known as the positive evaluation gestures. I won’t be discussing the obvious positive evaluation gestures such as smiling, excessive eye contact, clapping, etc. but my focus will be on the lesser-known gestures that you’re likely to miss or overlook if you don't know what they mean.

Rubbing the eyebrow

When someone sees something they like, they rub one of their eyebrows with their index finger from end to end along the entire length of the brow. This rubbing motion consists of a single or a double stroke that starts from the inner corner of the brow near the nose and ends at the outer corner.

It is as if the person’s eyebrows are so large that the hair of the brow is falling on their eye and blocking the view of the nice thing they are watching. So they have to brush aside the non-existent eyebrow hair to clearly see the object, just as a girl would move her hair away from her face when it prevents her from seeing clearly. This is a good mnemonic to remember the meaning of this gesture.

This gesture can sometimes happen very fast, almost in a flash, as soon as a person witnesses something positive. If someone does this gesture as soon as they meet you, know that they like you or are at least interested in what you have to show them or say to them.

Adjusting the glasses

If a person is wearing glasses, the above-mentioned ‘rubbing the brow’ gesture becomes kind of difficult if not impossible to execute. Body language changes happen in real time and when a person wearing glasses sees something positive, you shouldn't expect him to take out his glasses, fold them on the table and then rub his eyebrow, and then put his glasses back on in a ritualistic manner. That is too lengthy a process and body language gestures are mostly instant unconscious reactions.

So the person has to use some other gesture that can convey the same message of 'positive evaluation' and something that involves some other sort of  'clearing the vision'.

When a person wearing glasses sees something positive, he adjusts his glasses with his one or both hands to take a better look at the thing he's looking at. 

people adjusting their glasses
The ‘eyebrow rubbing’ gesture is an isolated gesture with the same meaning every time and you’ll get accurate results even if you overlook the context. But when it comes to the ‘adjusting glasses’ gesture you need to be a bit careful. It may be that the person’s glasses are uncomfortable and so he needs to re-adjust them.

But if a friend of yours adjusts his glasses as soon as a pretty girl checks into the room, then you know that his glasses weren't uncomfortable, especially if he doesn’t stop staring at her after ‘clearing his vision’.

The face platter

This gesture is done exclusively by the females. It is more of a female courtship gesture than it is a positive evaluation gesture. It is common sense that a person doesn’t give out attraction signals to those whom they don't see positively. So it is a kind of indirect positive evaluation gesture.

When a girl is conversing with a guy she ‘evaluates positively’, she might rest her face on her hands that are flattened out one over the top of the other, like a platter. She’s presenting her face, her crowning beauty, on a platter for the guy to admire just like tea is served to guests on a platter.

She’s non-verbally telling the guy, ‘Here, take a good look at my face and be floored’. It is sometimes done with only one hand that with fingers in a fist-like position and flattened out below the chin. 

woman displaying her face

Negative evaluation gestures

Again, there are many obvious gestures that people do when they hear or see things they don’t like, such as shutting the eyes, turning the head to look away, wrinkling the nose in disgust, etc. Then there’s the not-so-obvious, easily missed or overlooked 'nose touch'.

The nose touch

When a person finds himself in a situation that he doesn’t like or ‘evaluates negatively’, you might find him doing the classic negative evaluation gesture- the nose touch. The nose touch varies from rubbing the ridge of the nose, to scratching it, to holding it or even slightly touching the nostrils below the nose.

people touching nose

This gesture is observed when a person feels self-conscious, angry, or anxious. This gesture is frequently observed in liars when they are lying or are about to lie. In fact, the biological mechanism that forces the person to rub his nose this way came to be known as the ‘Pinocchio effect’. When we lie intentionally we are slightly stressed, our blood pressure rises and inflates the nose which causes nerve endings in the nose to tingle, forcing us to rub it to satisfy the sensation.

You might observe this gesture in a self-conscious person when he makes an entry into a public place. If a person says something embarrassing about himself or hears someone else say something embarrassing about him, you might notice him rubbing his nose in a quick motion. But, by far, the best thing about this gesture is that it can help you detect lies with a very high degree of accuracy.

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