Face touching…a common, but complex, category of nonverbals.
Our face and heads are primary components of our expressivity. Through our faces, we speak and express emotions. Our heads indicate our consideration and interpretations as listeners and contribute to our postural stances.
As humans, we interact with our own faces in very idiosyncratic ways, and while for most of us these habits can feel very normal and comfortable, for our audience we can often end up sending messages we do not strictly intend.
Check out this short video demonstrating the three main categories of face touching and read on below to understand what you might be missing:
Head in Hand
- Placing our head in our hands often occurs as a way to help keep our head straight when it is off it’s axis.
- The effect can be one of fatigue, exhaustion, disinterest
Hand over Mouth
- Having our hand over our mouths when speaking, is a barrier to communication, especially over video
- This can often muffle our words, and as many people follow lip movement as they listen, can even make it difficult for the listener to hear and retain information
Repeated Face Touching
- While we all touch our faces to scratch an itch, tuck hair behind our ears, stroke a beard, it is the repeated nature of these nonverbals that can send an unintentional message
- Repeated face touching, a specific hand to face motion that is repeated frequently over the course of an interaction, can be distracting for the listener. In some cases, it may also lower the impression of authority, as it can be perceived as nervous energy.