Tongue Twisters

Throughout this book, you’ll read about body language cues that are supposed to remind others of the innocence of childhood. Most of these are gestures that make you appear youthful in a good way. Sticking your tongue out at someone else as a means of saying “I don’t like you” isn’t one of them, so if you’ve graduated from elementary school, it’s probably best to leave that little communication device in the past.

That isn’t to say that the tongue doesn’t have other uses in the realm of body language, of course. You can put it on display in other ways in order to get a more positive message across to the one you love or the one you’re with.

Licking the Lips

Licking the lips can send a variety of messages, depending on who’s doing the licking and in what setting. Consider these scenarios:

• You’ve just ordered dinner. Your date is excitedly licking his lips. Is he looking to get intimate with you right now?

• You’re hanging out with your friends in a nightclub. You notice a girl staring at you, licking her lips. Does she need some lip balm?

• You’ve just finished running in the park. As you’re stretching, you see another runner licking his lips. Is he flirting with you?

The answer to each of these questions is no. Licking the lips as you’re preparing or waiting for a meal indicates that you can hardly wait to devour your food. Licking the lips as you’re checking out a member of the opposite sex in a nightclub indicates that you can hardly wait to get your hands on him or her. Licking the lips at any time can simply mean that they feel dry. It’s important to take the environment into play—it’s kind of unlikely that a guy who’s focused on his marathon training is actively looking to score with chicks in the park—as well as the rest of the person’s body language—if that runner is winking and licking his lips, then maybe you’ve found yourself a new fitness partner.

Men are more likely than women to misinterpret lip licking as a sign of flirtation, so it’s especially important for them to understand that in the real world lip licking can be a completely innocent gesture. In other words, it’s best to observe a woman’s body language in its entirety before making a romantic move based on the way she’s moistening her mouth.

Licking the lips is a cue that’s very easy to misunderstand—and it’s usually men who are misreading women’s lips. Be sure to factor in other body language when trying to interpret this particular gesture.

Playing Peekaboo with Your Tongue

Imagine you’re watching your favorite talk show and the host is interviewing a celebrity who’s recently become embroiled in a particularly juicy scandal involving his missing spouse. The host asks her guest if he has any idea where his wife might be. You’re on the edge of your seat, waiting to compare his spoken word against his body language.

Fortunately, you have the latest digital technology and are able to play the interview in extreme slow motion. You notice that his eye contact never wavers, that he holds his hands folded in his lap … so far, he appears to be rather forthcoming. But then he does something that catches your eye: he allows his tongue to push through his lips—just a tiny bit—before he answers, “No, I don’t know where she is.”

What does that tongue tell you? He isn’t sure of his own answer. He may not know her exact location at the moment, but he may have some idea of what’s become of her. Obviously, this is a classic case of splitting hairs, but that’s the exact reason that his tongue popped out when it did—he was giving an answer that isn’t exactly a lie, but it’s not the entire truth, either.

The tongue show indicates some kind of turmoil—uncertainty, disagreement, even contempt for a person or her message. If you don’t happen to agree with something your friend is telling you, for example, your tongue might pop out in this manner. Whether you choose to pursue an argument is another story, but your tongue has done a lot of the talking already.

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