The mouth guard is one of the few adult gestures that is as obvious as a child's. The hand covers the mouth and the thumb is pressed against the cheek as the brain subconsciously instructs it to try and suppress the deceitful words that are being said. Sometimes this gesture may only be several fingers over the mouth or even a closed fist, but its meaning remains the same.
The mouth guard is not to be confused with evaluation gestures, which will be covered later in this chapter.
Many people try to disguise the mouth guard gesture by giving a fake cough. When playing the role of a gangster or criminal, the late Humphrey Bogart often used this gesture when discussing criminal activities with other gangsters or when being interrogated by the police to show non-verbally that he was being dishonest.
If the person who is speaking uses this gesture, it indicates that he is telling a lie. If, however, he covers his mouth while you are speaking, it indicates that he feels you are lying! One of the most unsettling sights a public speaker can see is his audience all using this gesture whilst he is speaking. In a small audience or a one-to-one situation, it is wise to stop the presentation or delivery and ask, 'Would someone care to comment on what I've just said?' This allows the audience's objections to be brought out into the open, giving you the opportunity to qualify your statements and to answer questions.
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