Tag Archive for Elevators

The Meaning Behind Arm Crossing

Depending on the context, arm crossing might mean someone is physically cold - or emotionally cold.

Depending on the context, arm crossing might mean someone is physically cold – or emotionally cold.

Arms in the non-verbal world are shields. Folding the arms across the body is like cutting off access to our core that houses our vital organs, our heart and lungs. Just like putting up a shield, the arms protect us, not only from physical attack which can elicit closed body language, but it also protects us from unwanted outside views which we do not agree with. Therefore, having the arms across the chest can mean that either a physical threat or emotional threat is present. Arms crossed, in meeting or conversation means that the person is defensive, negative, uncertain and insecure and naturally, what is being asked of them will be met with disagreement.

An abbreviated arm cross where the hand seems to perform a necessary task.  In reality, this person feels uncomfortable and is shielding themselves.

An abbreviated arm cross where the hand seems to perform a necessary task. In reality, this person feels uncomfortable and is shielding themselves.

Arm crossing happens much more frequently in public than anywhere else. We especially see it in elevators, when exposed to a large group that makes us uncomfortable or when pitched a bad deal from a door-to-door salesman. When in public, arm crossing is due to the stress of being in a novel environment rather than due to holding negative thoughts per se. Women who are unreceptive to a pick-up at a bar or club will also be found holding this posture so as to maintain their personal space and thwart sexual advances.

As you read body language, you will eventually come across someone that tries to convince you that their closed language is a function of comfort, as in it just feels right, rather than as a tell to some underlying stress. However, arm crossing is one of the gestures that proves the body language rule rather than disproves it. The research makes it clear though, that we adopt positions because there is an underlying emotion attached to it and that this is the reason which makes the position comfortable and rather than the other way around. Body language feels right when we express underlying feelings because it provides us with a release. Conversely, if we wish to avoid closed body postures, or any bad postures for that matter, we must first attack and cure the root source of the emotion and then open posture will come naturally.

Arm crossing takes up various forms too besides the recognizable full arm cross. The more evident and strong the arm crossing, the more seeded the action is in the mind of the person executing it. As body language senders we should always try to hold opened and honest body language as a default condition as it will yield the best results under most circumstances.

Here are some examples:

______________________________________________________________________________________________

BodyLanguageProjectCom - Body Raising Or Elevation 3

A hidden arm cross showing disagreement and withdrawal.

A masked arm cross.

A masked arm cross.

[ONE] Resting one arm straight out onto the table to the front and placing the opposite hand on the wrist or forearm of the other [images show other variations of this posture].

______________________________________________________________________________________________

The coffee cup barrier - even drinks can fudge as a shield.  To look open with a drink, simply drop the drink to your side or set it down to leave your body open.

The coffee cup barrier – even drinks can fudge as a shield. To appear open, simply drop the drink to your side or set it down.

[TWO] Holding a drink in one hand with the arm perpendicular to the body (parallel to the table) with or without applying weight to the arm [image shows other variation of this posture].

______________________________________________________________________________________________

The 'figure four leg' lock - note the leg forms the 4 shape with hands locking it in.

The ‘figure four leg’ lock – note the leg forms the 4 shape with hands locking it in.

Figure four leg lock.

Figure four leg lock.

[THREE] Crossing one leg over the knee of the other and holding the ankle to lock it in.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

A childhood throwback - making us feel held and protected.

A childhood throwback – making us feel held and protected.

It looks like the conversation is going well, but the arms are being gripped showing negative thoughts.

It looks like the conversation is going well, but the arms are being gripped showing negative thoughts.

[FOUR] Full self embrace where the arms are unlocked.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

A partial arm cross.

A partial arm cross.

BodyLanguageProjectCom - Incomplete Arm Crossing Or Incomplete Crossed Arms 3

Replicating Mom holding our arm and protecting us.

BodyLanguageProjectCom - Incomplete Arm Crossing Or Incomplete Crossed Arms 1

Another version of an arm cross for defense.

BodyLanguageProjectCom - Crossing 3

Cutting off ventral access is a closed body position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[FIVE] The opposite hand reaches over the body to grab the elbow or shoulder of the opposite arm.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Covert insecurity.

Covert insecurity.

BodyLanguageProjectCom - Incomplete Arm Crossing Or Incomplete Crossed Arms 4

It reminds us of Mom keeping us safe.

[SIX] Subtle arm crossing where the hand grabs the wrist of the opposite side.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

The arm crosses and seems to serve a supportive role.

The arm crosses and seems to serve a supportive role.

[SEVEN] The arm crosses and seems to serve a supportive role.

 

 

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Hand seems to alleviate an itch.

Hand seems to alleviate an itch.

[EIGHT] Hand seems to alleviate an itch.

 

 

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Good things are not on the horizon.

Good things are not on the horizon.

While most closed body language means that a negative attitude is present, context permitting, there exist varying degrees. For example, full arm crossing accompanied by expressionless faces, a tense, rigid, or hostile posture with limbs that appear frozen runs the gambit of rejection. Tentative closed body language where only some blocking is happening will show a semi-relaxed body language, possible boredom, a neutral face and moderate movement of the arms and hands. In the first case, where closed language is extreme, getting any kind of agreement is unlikely. The second set of postures says that there’s a possibility of forming an agreement. So rather than depicting “no”, some closed body language says “Maybe” or “I’ll think about it.”

The head titled at 45 degrees says that there's a chance to close this deal.

The head titled at 45 degrees says that there’s a chance to close this deal.

Opened and closed body language as we have seen is a matter of degree. Language that has no closed body positions says “yes” some closed means “maybe” and a lot means “no.” This is highly useful especially if you wish to sway a target. Men who wish to proposition women can read between the lines. If they see a half arm cross where one arm holds the elbow of the other, then he may still have a shot as she could just be timid. In this case, she is telling you that she is uneasy with your approach but might accept your proposal if you can present a better pitch. Because her mind isn’t completely made up it would be worthwhile to continue. But if she has a hostile expression, with arms tightly folded across her chest, with her head cocked to the side she probably isn’t willing to hear your pitch, so it would be a waste of time to continue. Reading negative body language can help us read employers as we look for pay raise, better deals on a watch or jewelry, getting permission from those in authority and generally gaining access to resources we ordinarily wouldn’t.

Be careful with the pressure you apply. You may be able to get a better deal from a used car salesmen, but when dealing with employees, an employer or a client, it’s probably best to keep body language open and inviting.

The Urinal Game

The urinal game is a thought experiment designed to illustrate what territory and space mean in today’s modern world. Sure it involves a little bathroom humour, but if you bear with it, so to speak, you’ll be relieved. The goal of the game is to decide on which urinal is the most appropriate to use given the set of variables. In the game, there are six upright urinals to choose from, and they are ordered from the entry or doorway, to the end of the washroom. Urinal 1 is closest to the door and urinal 6 is closest to the end wall. The ideal urinal, of course, is the one that protects your privacy the most. Specifically it is the urinal that maximizes the amount of space between you, and the next person. The urinal game is not much different than what everyone does daily as we navigate crowded areas or chose seating in busy cafeterias.

1. All 6 urinals are empty. Which do you choose?

2. Now urinal 2 and urinal 4 are occupied. Which is the proper urinal?

3. Urinal 2, 4 and 6 are all occupied. Which is the proper urinal?

4. Urinal 1, 2, 5 and 6 are now all occupied.

Answers: 1) While urinal 1 and 6 are both acceptable answers the most correct answers is urinal 6 since it prevents anyone needing to pass in behind you while you urinate. Both urinal 1 and 6 are somewhat correct since the end wall prevents being flanked on either side. 2) Urinal 6 is the answer once again for similar reasons as in the first scenario. 3) This one is a catch since you are bound to be stuck next to at least one other guy. However, option 1 is the best since it affords at least some space between you and the others instead of being right up against another guy. 4) This answer is simple. You don’t use any of the urinals! Instead, you go to the mirror or pre-wash your hands, fix your hair, adjust your tie or suck up your pride and use a stall!

Some additional rules to this urinal game which are similar to the games we play in elevators include: Absolutely no touching permitted other then yourself. No talking or singing unless you are with close buddies or are heavily intoxicated, and even then, it should be kept to a minimum especially while urinating. Glances are a one time affair and are simply used to acknowledge the presence of others and nothing more.

Throw them a curve at the urinals! In rather bizarre experiment, researchers measured the time taken to micturate (to you and me, this means to pee) either with or without someone standing directly next to them. Not surprisingly, closer distances led to increases in micturation delay and a decrease in micturation persistence! With this ground breaking research we can conclude two things: 1) Peeing is harder to do around strangers because it prevents us from relaxing our external urethral sphincter and shortens peeing because it increases intravesical pressure once begun; and on a slightly more serious and applicable note 2) Stranger who invade our personal space increases our arousal and anxiety preventing us from getting relatively even unimportant things done. Imagine how space invasion affects more important tasks!

People As Objects

This body doesn't want to be noticed or disturbed, it has mentally checked out.

This body doesn’t want to be noticed or disturbed, it has mentally checked out.

This is a comfortable body ready for action.

This is a comfortable body ready for action.

When invasion of personal space is unavoidable such as crowded elevators, buses, trains, or amusement parks people tread invaders as inanimate objects in effort to tolerate them.

This is why city streets are flooded with strangers behaving like zombies with expressionless faces as they hurry about. City folk seem inhuman and unemotional, detached, despondent and more than anything else, from an outsider’s perspective, they appear unhappy. Contrast this with a small city where eye contact is met with smiles, nods or waves and where doors are held open for others with words such as “thank you” provided in exchange.

So why do busily moving city slickers seem as though they are moving about a forest of trees, instead of a sea of actual living human beings with emotions and feelings? Why do city slickers dehumanize themselves? The answer lies in phenomenon termed “masking.” Masking is a coping strategy used to detach ourselves from our bodies so as to avoid negative feelings as we intrude on the personal space of others and as our personal space is intruded upon. Sometimes we even mask with outwardly aggressive emotions typified by New York streets. Cussing, yelling and other carrying on is a way to mask sensitivity and to hide caring. This is not to say that one becomes less human in New York, it just means that you can’t appear to be a wimp.

Masking helps people protect themselves from their emotions and is so potent that it is difficult sometimes to snap people from this hypnosis. Sometimes even making eye contact with others can be seen as offensive and returned only with an expressionless face, a glare, or even a snarl as if implying that the issue is that of another and not theirs.

Just like country folk expect and appreciate amicable greetings, smiles, waves and nods, city slickers expect and appreciate emotionless faces, few or no greetings and for people to mind their own business. Don’t confuse either situation for anything other than a coping mechanism. Taken in similar context, you might just see how similar each breed of people really is.

Here is a breakdown of ways we act in crowded places like subways and elevators:
[A] We stand or sit still, unmoving. The more crowded the area, the more frozen we remain.
[B] The face becomes blank and expressionless, but it is not due to negative thoughts but rather as a coping mechanism.
[C] Eye contact is avoided by looking at the floor or ceiling.
[D] Books, newspapers and other devices appear particularly interesting and immersive, serving to detach the self emotionally from the situation.
[E] Under extremely crowded conditions where touching is unavoidable, bodies appear to jostle to make space and if possible only allow shoulders and elbows to touch.

Culture And Personal Space

Personal needs for space are largely based on environment and culture. For example, those in Latin and Japanese cultures require less space than say Nordic cultures and this is based simply on the raw density in which the people reside. Personal spaces needs are therefore not inherent, but are instead cultural and learned. Cultures that require more space than average include Australians and Mongolians whom are the least densely populated independent country of the world. Cultures that require less space include: Italians, Japanese and Indians since the generally inhabit greatly populated countries. More to this, is the fact that those who grew up in more rural settings such as farmers require even more space than those who grew up in cities.

Here is a breakdown of cultural norms by region:

[A] North Americans and West Europeans. Talk at a distance where outstretched arms might touch at their fingertips.
[B] Russians. Talk at a distance whereby the wrists of outstretched arms touch.
[C] Latin Americans, Italians and Arabs. Talk at a distance where the elbow could touch the body of the other.

Just by knowing that these differences occur affords us a greater understanding and tolerance of other people across cultures which can allow us to treat guests appropriately or give us hints about what we can expect from our host country when traveling. Another factor that controls personal space preferences are environment in nature. Crowded pubs or malls, or even elevators, produce a different set of expectations in all people despite their cultural preferences. Even rural inhabitants know that a full five foot buffer, or greater, is not always possible. Gender also plays a role where females generally prefer a larger buffer between themselves and strangers especially when that stranger is male and conversely tolerate and sometimes even appreciate smaller buffers between close female friends. Some trains for example are specially designated to only carry female passengers to prevent men from enter their personal space especially by men. This luxury guarantees women the safety and privacy routinely enjoyed by men. Men, on the other hand, will generally stand further away from other men then the norm, and permit women to stand closer.

Please Log In


Username
Create an Account!
Password
Forgot Password? (close)

Get Free Content


Username
Email
Password
Confirm Password
Want to Login? (close)

Forgot Password? Resend


Username or Email
(close)