Reading Emotions: Awkwardness

Awkwardness is about feeling a little unsure, suddenly feeling self-conscious. We can see the signs in the way Evan moves his body and avoids eye contact.

He is talking about something quite personal, which makes him feel rather uncomfortable.

There is a defensiveness about his posture, resting his chin on his fist, partially covering his mouth, looking away and then rubbing his eye nervously. He shifts position in his chair, looks down and pulls down the corners of his mouth. He puts his hand up in a fluttering action to indicate he’s not sure about the subject.

If someone feels awkward they will often move around in their seat, as if they are physically uncomfortable, whilst avoiding eye contact.

Signs to note

  • looks down, chin on hand
  • establishes eye contact only briefly
  • looks down to his right
  • rubs the corner of his eye
  • closes his eyes, whilst partly covering his face
  • shifts position in his seat
  • pulls down the corners of his mouth
  • his hand flutters to the side

By John Habershon

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Dr John Habershon has spent many hundreds of hours conducting in-depth interviews during his career in consumer and social research. Over the last eight years he has analysed the nonverbal responses captured on video on a wide range of topics, ranging from favorite products and advertising on TV, to bereavement and stress at work. He became involved in work for those on the autism spectrum through friends with Asperger's in the family and has created Emotions Reader, ( an interactive program with quizzes to help users identify facial expressions. John has a long standing interest in understanding emotions, having gained his PhD on the psychological effects of unemployment at Imperial College, London University. He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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