Read My Nose

People often center certain nonverbal cues around the nose. For example, if you’re in an interview and the person behind the desk keeps tapping the bridge of her nose, is that a good sign or a signal that you’re not at all the type of person she’s looking for? If you ask your spouse about a suspicious charge on his credit card bill and he keeps scratching his nose while explaining himself, should you believe him or toss him out?

The key to deciphering nose touches is keeping tabs on the frequency and/or length of the touch. After all, unless your hubby is suffering from some sort of cold or an allergic reaction, his itch shouldn’t require ten minutes of rubbing the tip of his nose. Could be he’s hiding something … or at least he thinks he is.

Nose Touching

Larry is a graphic designer in an ad agency who’s known for being slow to respond to any question asked of him. He’s no dimwit; he simply likes to choose his words very carefully. When a new boss came onto the scene, she asked Larry for his input on his budget. Larry raised one finger and placed it right on the tip of his nose. First, he pressed down on it, making it appear as though he was creating a pig nose. Then he went the other way—pressing the tip of his nose flat against his face. Anyone could clearly see that the new boss was confused not only by his silence, but also by his finger-nose connection.

Excessive nose touching—touching that goes beyond a quick rub—can be highly distracting to the people around you, especially if you’re twisting or pushing your nose into strange shapes. Making a conscious effort to keep your hands off your nose could change the way others see you.

Larry’s a deep thinker, and like many of his kind, he employs self-touch as a way of comforting himself while he runs through the options in his mind. Other deep thinkers might raise a finger to the forehead or the temple. His coworkers are accustomed to this behavior and don’t find it distracting or disturbing; however, since it was clear that the new boss didn’t know what to make of Larry and his fondness for his nose, a friend suggested that he keep his hands off his face in the office—and then Larry was confused! His nose-pressing habit was so ingrained he didn’t even realize he’d been doing it.

Once Larry took a good look at his body language, he realized that thinking with his nose, so to speak, was probably a strange thing for a thirty-something man to be doing. He made a concerted effort to cease and desist with this behavior, and lo and behold, things between him and the boss improved.

People often use the nose tap to communicate messages. The tap is similar to the nose press: it’s a way of indicating that you’re thinking something over. However, if you employ the nose tap in London, don’t be surprised if you receive some questioning looks. There, the gesture means, “We’re sharing a secret.”

Nose Rubbing

You’re on vacation and you’ve just checked into your hotel, only to find that your “super-luxury” accommodations are nothing more than a shoebox filled with plastic furniture. You traipse to the lobby and demand the room that you booked—the one you saw on the hotel’s website. While the desk clerk tells you the hotel is sold out and there isn’t a thing she can do for you, she rubs the front of her nose. You’re not letting up; you’ve paid far too much for such a dump of a room. You ask to see a manager, and the clerk tells you there isn’t a manager on duty; you’ll have to wait till tomorrow morning. And now she gives the side of her nose a good up-and-down rub. What’s going on here? Does working for such a shady operation make her nose itch?

That nose rub is a self-touch, a means of calming the nerves of a person who isn’t being entirely truthful. In this example, there’s a good chance that the employee is discouraged from handing out room upgrades … but that doesn’t mean that she can’t do it.

Does the nose rub have any other purpose? Well, sure. As you already read, rubbing the nose can be a response to an actual itch or sense of discomfort. But it can also be a sign that someone’s not being honest with you.

If your date keeps rubbing his nose, what does that mean to you? First, make sure he isn’t allergic to something in the area. If he insists he’s feeling fine, then the excessive touching or rubbing of the nose might indicate he’s feeling uncomfortable. Now, this could be a good thing or a bad thing for you, depending on what’s making him feel uneasy. If he’s worried because he likes you a lot and he’s sure he’s making a fool of himself, then that’s not so bad. But if he’s squirming in his seat because he can’t wait for this date to end, that’s obviously another story. How can you tell the difference? By reading the rest of his nonverbal cues, of course. Is he angling himself toward you or away from you? How’s his eye contact? Have the two of you touched at all during the course of the evening?

The nose may crinkle in response to a foul smell or when someone disagrees with a particular point of view.
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