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7 Words & Gestures That Make People Hostile, According To An Interrogator

Even the most peace-loving person has to deal with potentially hostile behavior from time to time. After all, a stressed-out colleague or even your hangry child might be closer to an emotional meltdown than you realize. But simply being aware of the words and gestures that make people hostile, according to an interrogator, can make your social interactions smoother than ever. You'll know how to handle these potentially fraught situations while remaining cooler than a strawberry milkshake.

To learn more, Romper spoke with Mike Floyd, a founding partner of QVerity, the behavioral analysis and screening services provider. He has conducted over 8,000 interviews and interrogations worldwide during the course of his career, and he's worked for both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. In other words? This man is an absolute expert when it comes to working with potentially hostile, uncooperative people. Now you can use some of Floyd's insight to interact with your grumpy neighbor, aggro coworker, or even people on the street more easily. Just avoid these potentially triggering words and gestures to keep your interactions as pleasant and polite as possible. Staying chill around a volatile person isn't always easy, but it can do so much for your peace of mind.



Beware the l-word. "Some things we would never, ever, say to someone are 'you’re lying' or 'that’s a lie' or 'you’re a liar'. That almost always opens the door to a hostile exchange," said Floyd. Although it may feel good to say that in the moment, your conversation is probably not going anywhere productive afterward.


Escalating Volume

If your potential opponent starts yelling louder than a air horn, don't match their energy. Screaming back won't accomplish anything, so it's better to stay super low-key, according to Floyd. Keep your natural volume level.



Sometimes it's helpful to sugar-coat your language or use euphemisms, especially when you're trying to make someone calm and cooperative. For instance, saying something like "take" instead of "steal" makes it easier to keep the conversation going, according to Floyd. It sounds less accusatory. Using softer, less judgemental language may encourage the other person to open up more without becoming overly hostile.


Disapproving Facial Expressions

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Don't forget about those nonverbal cues. A deep frown or sneer communicates so much. "How we look and sound is more important than what we say," said Floyd. Try to keep your expression neutral or even friendly. (Of course, this is much easier said than done.)



Calling someone crazy or otherwise illogical isn't going to help matters. Instead, it's important to convey the fact that you understand their position and even empathize with it, according to Floyd. Literally saying "I understand" or "people will understand" why the person acted in a certain way is a good tactic.


Serious Demeanor

It's easy to tense up and wear a serious expression when you're having a difficult conversation. Instead, try to keep your voice and body posture casual, as though you're just discussing the weather, according to Floyd. Hopefully the other person will relax a bit, too.


Matching Hostile Gestures

If the other person starts displaying hostile gestures or behaviors, don't follow suit. If you're having a seated conversation and the other person suddenly and aggressively stands up, for instance, just remain seated, as Floyd suggested. Remaining low-key and chill is tricky, sure, but it's generally a great way to diffuse a hostile situation.

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