If you have a habit of tapping your fingers or you have noticed other people doing it you might be wondering why it happens. This post will try to help you to figure out why someone might start tapping their fingers and to make sense of it as it happens.

So, why do people tap their fingers? People can tap their fingers due to boredom, excitement, nervousness or even lying. To figure out the exact reason it will be necessary for you to consider their other body language signals.

Since there are actually a number of reasons that someone might start tapping their fingers it is important to take into account a number of considerations. It will be necessary for you to think about when they started to do it, where they started doing it and what their normal behavior looks like.

Reasons people tap their fingers

There are a number of reasons that someone might begin to tap their fingers and each of them will likely come with a number of other signals in their body language.

Below, I will mention a number of reasons that someone might begin to tap their fingers and the body language signals to look for with them.

Boredom

One reason that someone might begin to tap their fingers is that they are bored.

If this is the case, it would likely come at a time where they are unable to leave such as in a classroom, meeting or a boring date.

If they are bored they will likely show a number of other hints with their body language such as:

  • Resting their face on their hands
  • Constriction of the pupils
  • Looking at their watch
  • Glancing at the exit
  • Feet facing the exit
  • A lack of smiling
  • Foot tapping
  • Slouching over
  • Playing with a pencil

Excitement

One reason that someone might tap their fingers is actually that they might be excited about something.

If this is the case, then it would likely have started after hearing some good news, after someone they particularly like entered the room or while playing a game.

If they are excited they will likely show a number of other signs of excitement such as

  • Pupil dilation
  • Genuine smiles where they crease beside the eyes and open their mouth
  • Showing palms
  • Eyes opening wide without squinting
  • No frowning with the forehead or eyebrows

Nervousness

The finger tapping could be acting as a way to calm themselves down.

This could have been caused by an emotional question for them, waiting to see a doctor or by a particular person in the room.

If they are nervous they would likely show signs of nervousness such as the following:

  • Pacing
  • Fidgeting
  • Rubbing the eyes, neck, mouth, nose, face, legs, palms
  • Poor eye contact
  • Frequently blinking
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Licking the lips
  • Heavier breathing
  • A change in their vocal tone
  • Quivering

Lying

Since the finger tapping can indicate that someone had an emotional response to a question it can be a sign that they are lying about something or that they are choosing not to mention something.

If this is the case, the finger-tapping would have likely started right after being asked the question. If you think that they might be withholding the truth about something you should ask them some neutral questions and then ask them a related question and see if they start to tap again.

It’s important to note, however, that tapping the fingers doesn’t automatically mean that they are lying. Instead, it indicates that they had an emotional response to the question which might mean that they are lying or that they’re not telling you something.

If they are lying they would also likely show a number of the other signs of nervousness mentioned above.

They might also cover their mouths shortly after answering the question.

Attraction

Sometimes the finger tapping can be a sign of attraction.

If they are attracted they would likely show a number of other signs of attraction such as those mentioned below:

  • Pupil dilation
  • Playing with hair
  • A change in vocal tonality
  • Touching the person
  • Touching the other person’s feet
  • Smiling
  • Holding prolonged eye contact
  • Mirroring
  • Tilting the head
  • Pointing their feet towards the person
  • Glancing at the person
  • Getting anxious when the person they like is with other people

Mirroring

The finger tapping might be caused by mirroring the behavior of those around them.

When people are trying to fit into a new group they will begin to mirror their behavior since it will increase their likelihood of getting accepted to the group.

If they are doing it due to mirroring it would be likely that someone else in the group would be doing the behavior.

If they are mirroring then it is likely that they would be mirroring other behaviors as well such as:

  • Crossing the arms or legs
  • Leaning forward or backward
  • Smiling
  • Putting their hands in their pockets
  • Tapping the feet

Think about when they started doing it

When trying to figure out why someone might be tapping their fingers it would be helpful to think about what happened around the time that they started doing it.

If it started when someone entered the room then it would suggest that they had an emotional reaction to that person that could be good or bad. you would have to look at their other body language signals to figure out which.

If it was right after being asked a question then it would suggest that they had an emotional response to that question.

Think about where they did it

The location that it happened in would likely be of use to you as well.

If it happened in a classroom then it would suggest that they were getting bored.

If they did it in a doctor’s waiting room then obviously it would suggest that they had some anxiety about seeing the doctor.

Compare it to their normal behavior

It would also be helpful to think about what their normal behavior looks like.

If they have a habit of tapping their fingers and they start to do it then it wouldn’t be a strong signal that they are lying or feeling nervous etc.

However, if they don’t tend to tap their fingers then it would suggest that something is causing them to have an emotional response.

Related

What is twiddling your thumbs a sign of? If someone starts to twiddle their thumbs then it would suggest that they are feeling nervous about something. It can also be a signal of boredom.

If you want to learn more about body language, a book I would recommend would be The Definitive Book of Body Language (on Amazon). It shows you how to interpret body language and understand people's true intentions.

Author

I created and currently manage Body Language Central, one of the premier sources for body language-related knowledge. Body language plays a key role in our daily lives. I hope that my website can help condense the wide amount of body language information available and allow you to make full use of it in your daily life. You can read more about me and my website here.