Her lips droop， her eyes descend， and her head jerks around the room. Whenever Theresa May speaks， it’s easy to be distracted by her repetitive facial gestures. According to experts，these are more pronounced than those of most other world leaders.
Her speech was illustrative: many of those following along on Twitter struggled to concentrate on her big policy announcement – a promise of a vote on a second EU referendum – because of the Prime Minister’s noticeable facial movements， which seem to emerge most strongly when she is stressed or under immense pressure.
Many of May’s facial quirks arise from her “staccato”speaking style， says body language expert Judi James， author of The Body Language Bible， who contrasts May’s stop-and-startyness with the smooth， elegant delivery of David Cameron. It’s easy to laugh at the Prime Minister， but James says that many of us exhibit May-style body language when facing the heat in a job interview or first date.
Among the most pernicious of the Prime Minister’s tics are her “denial gestures”， James says， when her subliminal facial expression seems to contradict her words. She commonly exhibits a “mouth slew”.
“It looks like a tragic clown’s mouth [and] unfortunately for her it comes up on the cameras quite a lot，” James says. “It’s often an incongruence display， in which case it would be revealing her true feelings when she’s speaking. We saw that yesterday right at the end of her speech. She got through the speech， and then performed a mouth slew before she answered questions.
“It rubbishes everything you’ve said. It’s like telling someone you love them and then rolling your eyes. None of us are good liars， and I actually think deep down she’s a very honest person， and it doesn’t suit her to have to speak like that.”
The most effective way to rid yourself of these dastardly “denial gestures” is also the simplest: try to actually believe in what you’re saying， even if you initially find yourself repelled by it. Before giving an important presentation， sit down and remind yourself of the stronger parts of your argument. Before walking into a job interview，remind yourself of your key strengths， rather than your weaknesses.
May also appears fond of the “cut-off gesture”， James says， commonly looking down at her notes just as she reaches a key line. This reared its head yesterday when she tried to insert “an optimistic bit” into her speech， telling the crowd that she wanted a “country that works for everyone”. Upbeat optimism is not May’s natural style，James says， and the nervous eye gesture gave that way.
“I’ve seen lots of other world leaders do this， including the great Obama. If they were completely sold and passionate about their [words]， that would be the moment it’s there in their head， and so they wouldn’t need to read it because their eyes would be on the audience. That， for me， is the most dangerously incongruent part. That’s where people won’t believe what she’s got to say.”
If writing out notes for a speech or job interview， perhaps put a symbol next to an important phrase， reminding yourself to maintain eye contact with whoever you’re speaking to.
Not every facial tic is a sign of dishonesty or “incongruence”， James says – some are just a sign of stress.
Of these stress-induced habits， her most common is the “head jerk”， in which she tosses her head in various directions around the room in a mechanical， almost-robotic style.
The best way to avoid these stress-related tics is simply through practice， James says. “Do what all the top leaders that are good do: sit yourself down， maybe with your friends， and do a role-play job interview. Get them to throw really tricky questions at you， ridiculously hard ones to answers. When you’ve managed all that and had a laugh doing it， your body begins to learn that this doesn’t have to make you stressed.”