How People Are Judging You, Based on These 10 Subtle Traits

Updated: Jul. 31, 2023

You may devote gobs of time and energy to exercising, choosing outfits, and getting your makeup just right, but then something as small as your handshake could send very different signals about your personality. Consider the impression you could be making with these everyday gestures and habits.

A young man and woman in a café
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People made judge you if you avoid eye contact

Maintaining eye contact when someone is talking will help build trust because it shows genuine interest. Not making eye contact can create feelings of rejection and dismay. “Some people refuse to make eye contact with you if they don’t know you,” says Tina Gilbertson, a psychotherapist in Denver and author of Constructive Wallowing. “It could be due to shyness, but the lack of eye contact conveys arrogance or low self-esteem.” Either way, withholding your direct gaze, you project personality cues of being unfriendly and unapproachable.

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Businessman Listening To Colleagues Over Lunch At Restaurant Table
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Not smiling

Whether you mean to be frowning or not, an unhappy expression can suggest that you’re a Debbie Downer. Obviously you can’t go around grinning all day long, but flashing a smile or at least a neutral expression when you meet people can go along way toward conveying a positive attitude. An article in Forbes suggests smiling when first meeting someone, even if you’re busy and or have other things on your mind.

13 Unexpected Things You Can Do to Get a Perfect Smile

Entering into the big league together
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The strength of your handshake

Handshakes are like a non-verbal welcome mat, says Lois Barth, a New York-based human development expert and author of the new book Courage to SPARKLE: The Audacious Girls’ Guide to Creating a Life That Lights You Up. “A limp, what I call ‘wet dishrag’ handshake sends a strong message around the person’s ambivalence to both engaging and connecting with a person,” Barth says. On the flip side, a way-too-firm handshake, where you feel your hand is going to break off, can be seen as a sign of aggression and a need to dominate. “Often the person can show a need for control in other areas as well,” she says. The ideal handshake, according to Barth, is a firm-but-friendly grip with natural eye contact that sends a message of engagement and trust with a dash of warmth.

5 Subtle Habits You Have That Make People Trust You

Close-Up Of Clothing
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People judge you on the colors you wear

When people wear bright colors like fuchsia, teal, turquoise or burgundy, it’s usually a sign of either a big personality or an interest in living a larger-than-life existence, says Barth. These bold fashion choices can invite attention and may cause people to notice and approach you. “It could also be a hunger for them to feel more self-expressed, and they’re using color as a way to access that part of them that is dormant,” Barth says. Beiges and neutrals, on the contrary, send a message of needing to soothe, relax and not stand out too much. “Often people who get overstimulated easily want to calm down by wearing more sedate colors,” she adds. And those who are more laid-back may choose earth tones, which Barth says “represent people who crave to be more grounded and down to earth.”

This Is How to Figure Out What Colors Look Best on You, Based on Your Skin Tone

Barista Serving Customer Coffee
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How you treat service people

“People who are condescending or patronizing to waiters, busboys, porters, coat check people and cab drivers are showing their true colors: arrogance, grandiosity and entitlement,” Barth says. “People who are considerate and respectful to service professionals are showing their compassion, empathy, and kindness.” This barometer is one of the most effective at assessing who the person really is inside. “It’s easy to be nice to someone you have a personal agenda with, like clients, customers or a prospective partner,” she says. It’s much more telling how you treat people when you don’t.

Man checking messages while having dinner in a restaurant
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How glued you are to your phone

When someone checks their phone obsessively while in your company, it demonstrates that they’re not fully present with you. “It sends a message that this inanimate object is more ‘interesting’ and worthy of their time than an actual flesh and blood person,” Barth says. “Conversely, it shows consideration when they announce ahead of time something like, ‘You’ll have to excuse me, but I’m dealing with an urgent matter, so I may get a phone call or a text during our meeting. It will only take a moment to address and then I’m all yours.'”

13 Ways Your Cell Phone Affects Your Body and Mind

man petting English bulldog
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People judge you on your choice of pet

Whether you own a Garfield or a Fido may influence how some people judge you and your personality, according to an article from The article cites a recent study that found that “people who prefer dogs are generally more energetic and outgoing, while those who prefer cats tend to be more introverted and sensitive.” The same study also suggests that cat people tend to be more intelligent.

Young Woman Biting Fingernails
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Any nervous habits

Biting your nails, pulling on your beard, twirling your hair or picking at your skin typically indicates that you’re nervous, overwhelmed and not in control, according to an article on Research from the University of Michigan suggests that these nervous habits are indicative of a perfectionist personality, and that perfectionists are more likely to engage in these habits when they’re frustrated or bored.

What Is Perfectionism, and How Can It Affect Your Mental Health?

Young woman biting piece of toast and checking herself in mirror
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Being habitually late

Tardiness can demonstrate lack of respect or interest—or not, according to the Huffington Post article. The article references a San Diego State University study by Jeff Conte that showed being late is typical of people who multitask, or are high in relaxed, type B personality traits. “Conte’s study found that type B individuals are often late because they experience time more slowly than the rest of us. Bottom line here is not to read too much into people showing up late. It’s better to ask what’s behind it than to make assumptions,” the article suggests.

Are you really as present as you think you are
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Clearly not listening

People judge you based on how attentively you appear to be listening, according to communications expert Leslie Shore, author of Listen To Succeed. “When we feel we are not being listened to, we feel unwelcome, unappreciated, and devalued, and usually perceive the listener as cold and arrogant,” she says. Visual clues that a listener gives (consciously or unconsciously) that send these negative signals: failing to make eye contact, using closed or defensive body postures, and not nodding periodically. To be perceived as warm and friendly, Shore recommends maintaining eye contact, leaning forward in a discussion, and commenting from time to time to reassure the speaker that you’re paying attention.

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