I'm a body language expert – what common hand gestures REALLY mean & how to spot a liar in seconds | The Sun

From the 'politician's steeple' and 'tumbleweed' to the 'deceiver', many of us are guilty of making common hand gestures when we speak.

But have you ever stopped to think what they really mean?

Over 14 million Brits now communicate more with their hands than they did pre-pandemic, according to research conducted by INEOS Hygienics.

And in a bid to project enthusiasm and engagement from afar, Brits have increasingly become more theatrical and ‘handimated’, using our palms to perform and express ourselves more while speaking.

Here, body language expert Darren Stanton takes a deeper look at the gestures we are most commonly using…


Action: Middle fingertips of each hand touching together – with thumbs also touching to form a triangle shape with both hands.

Darren says that this is an authoritative position.

"Not that the person thinks they’re better than you, but it just shows they believe themselves to be an authority on the topic they’re discussing," he explains . "And there are two main elements to this gesture.


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“It’s a display of authority if their hands are together. They’re saying, ‘In my opinion, this is what needs to happen’. And they expect to be listened to."

He goes on to say that in a creative environment, it can also mean evaluation.

“Tapping whilst using the politician’s steeple means they’re considering what’s being said," he notes. "They’re essentially thinking whether there is any merit to it.

“People who work in Sales use this when they’re talking to people, as they are processing a lot of information as they speak.”

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The double tumbleweed shows you can’t get the words out at the same speed you are thinkingCredit: INEOS

Action: Hands out in front of the body, fingers spread out, left wrist rolls anti-clockwise, right wrist rolls clockwise.

Darren notes that the Double Tumbleweed shows you can’t get the words out at the same speed you're thinking.

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"The rolling hands show a bit of a delay in what the person is thinking about," he explains. "There isn’t a pre-planned dialogue."


Action: One hand held out in front of body with wrist rolling in a circle.

Darren reveals that this action literally means ‘get a move on!’

He comments: "Sometimes people do it subconsciously. A lot of the time, people aren’t even aware of what they’re doing with their hands.

“If someone is talking and moving one hand, they’re not wholeheartedly confident with what they’re saying.

“If someone else is speaking and they do that, it means, ‘I want to speak now. It’s my turn’. Darren says that essentially, they’ve already decided what they’re going to say in response to you.

“If someone is using one hand to gesture when they’re talking, it can also be a sign they’re being insincere because it’s not congruent," he explains.

"If I’m lying and saying, ‘I didn’t take your phone’ and one hand is
rolling, I am probably telling a fib."


Action: Hands in front of cheeks, with fingers flapping back and forth.
“There are no tears here, but that doesn’t mean this is a false gesture.

According to the body language expert, this gesture is "real and is a way of showing emotion."

He continues: "As in, ‘I’m happy for you’, or ‘I’m overwhelmed for you.’

“This is generally a more female gesture, and one which shows empathy in emotionally-charged situations.”


Action: Fingers of both hands spread out, thumbs touching under the chin, other fingers spread out on either cheek, little fingers touching lips.

“This gesture could show fear and is usually accompanied by the micro expression which is where the cheek muscles tense up…the type of grimace which the popular cartoon character Wallace does in the Aardman films!" explains Darren.

“Some people think it means, ‘Oh my Gosh’, but it’s actually a combination of both fear and surprise."

He continues: "When we talk about micro expressions, which show you what a person is really feeling, surprise lasts less than one fifth of a second.

“So, when someone is told some news and they put their hands to their face for around two seconds or longer, the likelihood is that they already knew what you’ve told them!"

He adds: “If they over-egg the pudding and show ‘flash surprise’ and put their hands to their face immediately, then they knew what was coming. Static hands are very dominant.”


Action: Four fingers of each hand touching dead centre of chest with middle fingers an inch apart, thumbs in the air.

Darren notes that if hands are together, this is an authoritative gesture.

However, if it’s tapping the chest, it can be a gesture of self-reassurance.

“It also means ‘I’m being sincere’, as a gesture of sincerity, and ‘we’re together on this,’ he explains.

“This is a subconscious gesture that says, ‘I’m being straight and honest with you here’.

“People aren’t being deceptive when they use this gesture.”


Action: Arms interlocked in front of chest. Hands resting on opposite bicep.

Darren comments: “Anything across the chest was always thought to be defensive, showing disinterest, as in, ‘I’ve switched off now’.

“But more recent studies show it’s actually just a comfortable posture. Certainly though, if someone sits back in the chair a little bit and locks their fingers together, then that’s showing disinterest."

He continues: "But if you’ve got someone in a meeting who is quite pro-active in what they’re saying, and they lean back and fold their arms, they’re merely getting themselves into a comfortable posture.

“If someone turns their body away and shifts their posture, this is disinterest.

“But on its own, folding arms is not dismissive. It’s just to enable the person to feel more comfortable physically in that situation.”


Action: Arms stretched out at 45-degree angle form the body, palms facing the sky, fingers spread out.

Darren notes: “This is saying ‘hands up’ and again has an open palms gesture. It’s almost like the police saying 'Freeze', for example.

"The first thing people would do would be to do that.

“Even jokingly, this is what people do. For example, if you’re walking out of the supermarket and the alarm goes off, you place your hands up and out like this. It’s saying What!?? It’s an openness, a surrender.”


Action: Similar to the look of someone praying with hands held together tightly in front of lower face with forefingers touching the bottom lip.

“If you are listening with your hands in this position, you are considering very carefully what the other person is saying," he explains.

“If someone is talking with their hands further up by their face, they’re not very trustworthy as they’re blocking the mouth up. It's disingenuous doing this.”


Action: Both hands placed on the top of the head with fingers locked together, commonly seen from Footballers.

“This is literally, ‘I can’t believe I am in this situation!’ It’s also self-reassurance when in a difficult position," Darren says.

“Hands on the head is a stress position. It’s why the police ask people to do that when they arrest someone.”


Action: Fingers locked with hands fully behind the back of the head.
“This is complete arrogance, as in ‘I’m the king of the castle’.

“Psychologically, we want to guard our torso because it’s where our vital organs are," explains the body language expert.

"So, if you're in this position, you are comfortable that you’re not going to be attacked verbally or physically.

"This is a very cocky position indeed.”


Action: Arms out straight in front, on the desk, palms down – usually seen in business meetings.

“This is a deceptive gesture because you’re not opening your palms. You’re keeping your palms down, you’re keeping a secret," Darren says.

“You're reading the room and are about to drop a bombshell that someone or everyone won’t like.

"Perhaps you’re going to shoot someone or something down in flames.

Darren continues: “You could be about to say something that you are keeping very guarded, like playing poker and keeping your cards close to your chest.”

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Action: Thumb cradling the ‘V’ of the chin with a pointer finger on the face at a 20-degree angle, pointing to the temple.

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Darren explains this is a judgement gesture, considering what you’ve been told.

"In a sales pitch or if someone is pitching an idea to you, you are running pictures through your mind of how that would look in real terms," he says.

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