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Turtling is a limbic response to confrontation.  The head sinks, shoulders shrug, and the body takes on a smaller form to avoid being seen as a threat.

Turtling is a limbic response to confrontation. The head sinks, shoulders shrug, and the body takes on a smaller form to avoid being seen as a threat.

The posture happens as the head seems to sink inside the shoulders, however, what is really happening is that the shoulders are slowly being raised so the neck disappears taking the head with it. It is as if the head is being swallowed by the shoulders. We see this posture when people are uncomfortable, have low confidence about themselves or a topic, have insecurities, feel weak or powerless, ashamed, or are carrying any other negative emotion. It is usually found when someone is centered out on their poor performance. The origins of the head turtle is to protect it from harm. For example, when people hear a very loud bang, they will quickly pull their heads inward and down, and tuck their chins. However, when it is done out of shame, it happens more slowly and deliberately so as to draw even less attention.

It usually happens when people want to appear less significant so they are ignored rather than called on. In business the head duck will occur when subordinates meet with superiors as they try to stand out less and look less significant or when employees wish to be overlooked during status reports at a boardroom meeting. It might also happen in class when the professor is calling on students who don’t have the answers, or when athletes have to walk back in shame to their dressing rooms after losing an important match.