Part 6 – Dominant And Submissive Body Language Gestures

Double Arm Hug And Partial Arm Cross Body Language

She might be cold, or she might want to feel protected.

She might be cold, or she might want to feel protected.

Double Arm Hug Body Language

Hugging one’s self is a defensive and closed body position. The arms will hug the body tightly in a full embrace. Those that habitually cross their arms are usually not aware that they are sending a bad message to others. However, arm crossing is a universally defensive posture so it is important to be aware of its use.

Partial Arm Cross Body Language

This is a typically female posture and happens by reaching across the body to grab the opposite elbow. The other hand is left dangling to the side. A variation of this posture happens by reaching across the body and grabbing the opposite shoulder. While the double arm huge is a defensive postures, the partial arm cross is a subtle posture that indicates fear, timidity, shyness and lack of self confidence. Both are barrier type postures which protect the core of the body like a shield. It signals to others that we don’t wish for them to come close. The origins of the partial arm cross likely stems from the comfort felt by a child who’s hand was held or who’s shoulder was grasped by a parent. The posture feels natural and comfortable when in fearful situations because it reminds us of the sensation of being hugged and protected by someone else.

Nonverbal Displays Of Ownership And Territory To Indicate Dominance

Territorial lines are drawn everywhere in our lives from the particularities of our offices and automobiles, right down to the rooms in our own homes, and whom has access to them. We even have boundaries around our bodies which we protect rigorously. The more dominant the individual, the more apt they are to have and hold rigid boundaries about their personal space and possessions.

Sitting at the head of a table is fine so long as you are the highest rank, but if someone of higher rank appears, it’s customary to relinquish, or at least offer the seat to them. Members of a staff who are close in rank can sometimes power play each other for these seats at the boardroom table in attempt to move up. The body language in these situations can become very potent as the desires of each party becomes more evident. Your office staff knows which seats are most coveted!

Leaders also get permission to move through doorways first and walk in front of groups instead of follow, and it is customary to allow them to do so. The exception, as always, comes when we wish to usurp their position, challenge their authority, or try to build equality where we might trade dominance rights back and forth.

Placing objects such as jackets and brief cases on a seat can hold it and delineate temporary ownership. Dominance is also expressed through claiming stake to valuable items, or the prevention of touching certain things, or even occupying certain space. We rarely think about ownership of people, but placing an arm over someone, playfully messing up their hair or guiding them to where we want them to go by placing a hand to their back, as a parent would his child, are just a few ways that we show others that we own and control them.

What Does Thumbing Body Language Mean?

Exposed thumbs indicate high confidence. When we feel insecure we tuck our thumbs out of view. Exposed thumbs indicate high confidence. When we feel insecure we tuck our thumbs out of view.

Exposed thumbs indicate high confidence. When we feel insecure we tuck our thumbs out of view.
Exposed thumbs indicate high confidence. When we feel insecure we tuck our thumbs out of view.

Thumb displays denote superiority and royalty has made them famous, but they have also been adopted by lawyers trying to seem noble and important. One way thumbs are displayed is by placing all but the thumbs in the front pockets of a vest or suite jacket, or by knuckling the vest and leaving the thumbs out. Thumbs-up can also turn a timid interlaced fingers gesture into a positive thoughts gesture by flaring the thumbs up during conversation.

Thumbs-out is a representation of ego, dominance, confidence, comfort, assertiveness and sometimes even aggressiveness. The thumbs-out gesture is usually found in clusters with other dominant body language. For example, to denote superiority, the legs would also be spread apart, the chest puffed out to appear larger and the head held back, all the while glaring down the nose at any onlookers. The thumbs up gesture, wherever it happens, is a form of “gravity defying’ body language. This means that it is related to positive emotions since it requires energy to do and people that are depressed aren’t interested in burning energy especially wastefully.

The polar opposite to the thumb display is hidden thumbs which may happen by placing just the thumbs in front pockets with the remaining fingers outside. This posture says “I’m unsure of myself” and denotes extreme low confidence and low status. Hidden thumbs can be found when people are timid, insecure, or feel social discomfort and is a childhood throwback to when children stand in front of their parents looking disappointed and saddened.

The Meaning Of The Military Man Stance In Body Language

The ‘military’ or ‘regal’ stance occurs when the hands are clasped behind the back. This high confidence posture was made popular by royalty.

The ‘military’ or ‘regal’ stance occurs when the hands are clasped behind the back. This high confidence posture was made popular by royalty.

The “military man” sometimes called the “regal stance” popularized by royalty is a posture that occurs by placing the hands, palm in palm behind the back openly exposing the chest, usually accompanied by chin up and out, and head held back. The hand gripping the wrist or upper arm in behind the back sends an emotional message of frustration and an attempt at self control, but forms no part of what is said by the military man. Usually the feet of the military man are splayed outward so as to take up more space and act more dominant, which is opposite to tibial torsion when the toes point inward to signal submission. When the feet are turned outward, they indicate that a person is upset, being threatened or is threatening others.

The military man posture is reserved almost exclusively for dominant individuals, leaders, and those of high status and others who expect little or no challenge whatsoever of their authority. It is popular among lawyers, doctors, university professors, policemen or high ranking military personnel such as sergeants. Those in the military can be seen competing within rank by ever increasing leg splaying. The message is also one that says “Don’t come near me, I’m important and I shouldn’t be touched!” The Queen of England and Prince Philip are noted for their body language due to their high rank and importance.

Hands On Hips And The Cowboy Pose Body Language

She’s displeased and thinks you should know better.

She’s displeased and thinks you should know better.

Having the hands on the hips or “arms akimbo” is to display like a peacock, even in people! It makes the body take up more space and hence appear larger so as to assert dominance. All the fingers also curl inward so that they point toward the crotch drawing attention in that direction which punctuates the point even further. The thumbs might also be tucked into the belt or into belt loops serving to “frame the genitals” as in the “cowboy pose.” The message said is “There are issues here”, “Things are not right”, “I’m standing my ground” or “I’m a virile male so check me out!” Women can also be seen holding the posture although more rarely, and when they do, they will hold their hands on their hips and point their fingers to their buttocks. Pointing therefore, puts emphasis on our best assets while we state our case. Fingers pointed backwards as women do more often, is a more inquisitive posture than an authoritarian one.

The hands on hips gesture is one of the ways men puff out to appear more dominant and attractive to the opposite sex and repel competition from the same sex. The cue cluster accompanying the hands-on-hips also includes an upright posture, chin up, chest out and the legs at slightly wider than shoulder width. The hands-on-hips is also a “ready posture” when it does not accompany more dominant cues in the cluster. In this case, it appears like a runner at the gate prepared to jump at an opportunity whatever it might be.

What Does Tilting Far Back In A Chair Mean?

Titling in the chair is a casual and therefore dominant gesture and the further back one leans in the chair, the stronger the message of superiority. It has a similar roots to the full body steeple as it creates distance from other’s showing. This shows detachment, and also a relaxed or informal attitude. When our boss’s perform this gesture, it can mean several a couple things; he is indifferent to others and their ideas or he is adopting a relaxed position on the matter. Caution is order, as context and accompanying dialogue is necessary to verify exactly what this posture means.

The Full Body Steeple Or Hooding Body Language

High ranking women in the workplace might even been seen to carry dominant postures.

High ranking women in the workplace might even been seen to carry dominant postures.

The “full body steeple” or “hooding” occurs by placing both hands up and behind the head while seated. The postures can be combining with the figure-four-leg cross which happens by placing the ankle of the opposite foot across the knee, or made even more dominant by leaving the legs splayed wide open. The language of the crotch says that “I am safe being exposed because no one would dare try to attack me”. It also says “I have a big penis, and I’m showing it off because I think yours is probably smaller”. To women, on the other hand, it’s an offering, as in “Here it is, come and get it”. Just like magicians use sleight of hand to draw attention to or away from the action, men use similar tricks to draw attention to areas they wish others to admire!

The full body steeple can be used to intimidate others, or convey a relaxed, cocky disposition, but as always, body language needs to be taken in context. The accompanying dialogue will help tell us what is really going on. Professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, managers, bosses, and others that tend to take their superiority to higher levels than the rest of us, will be seen using the full body steeple but it wouldn’t be advised to mirror this posture as an entry level employee.

Leg Spreading Body Language

When leg spreading is overt, it can be a turn-off – especially in the workplace.

When leg spreading is overt, it can be a turn-off – especially in the workplace.

Another dominant gesture, where we put our manly prowess on display, women exempted, is the crotch display. The legs can be spread while sitting or standing and depending on the degree of separation and context, can mean different things. For example, legs spread at shoulder width while standing is a dominant and acceptable display. It is seen as normal and is encouraged because it comes across as confident and action oriented rather than offensive. Having the legs spread wide open or throwing the leg over the arm of a chair while seated, is another story altogether. If it happens while directly facing others, it is perceived as arrogant.

Seated leg spreading is especially potent when done by female coworkers in an office setting, since they aren’t able to imitate the behaviour while retain class. As a rebuke, women will taking on defensive postures such as arms crossed and legs crossed; this tells men that they are offended by the posture and see the body language as chauvinistic. Men can sometimes use this posture effectively to attract the attention of women in a dating context, but only in so far as they appreciate the caveman approach. Leg spreading can be used to convey a positive and confident middle ground simply by restricting the degree to which the legs are spread. People with legs pasted together appear far too uptight and conservative.

What Does Chair Straddling Mean In Body Language?

The chair straddler is a dominant, yet cowardly sitting position, because for one, the seating position requires one to spread their legs wide open exposing the genitals, and two, because symbolically it is as if they were holding a shield against their chest. Crotch displays are typical for dominant people, especially men. Women can also sometimes display authority in this fashion but if done improperly it appears like a sexual invitation rather than a dominance display. Figuratively, chair straddlers are archers acting from behind a barricade, except they toss words rather than arrows at their targets.

The Body Language Of The Head: Headshake, Head Nod, Head Lowered, Head Tilt, Head On and Head Back

Head down means judgement.

Head down means judgement.

The positions of the head tells us a lot about what feelings are present and readily leaks information to others. Head language is similar to facial expressions since it can convey a large amount of information extremely quickly. Heads can shake, nod, bobble, be lowered, tilt, duck, or dropped back each having its own meaning. As we shall see, head language can tells us that someone is negative on a matter, neutral or in actively in thought.

Headshake For Negative Thoughts: The head shake signifies a negative thought indicator. It’s as if the person can’t get past an idea. The head shake is different from the typical “no type gesture” in that the head is tilted from side-to-side instead of being pivoted back and forth used to signify “no” in various cultures by adults. We should be skeptical if the head shake is given while voicing specifically agreeable language such as “You make a good point.” or “That sounds like a great idea.” These words, accompanied by the head shake, negates whatever positive words were voiced. It tells us that they were either trying to pull a fast one on us, or just trying to appease us.

Head Nod: The head nod in western cultures says agreement. In other cultures such as in Bulgaria and Sri Lanka it means disagreement. The nod used as a greeting, performed as a quick drop of the head, may stem from an abbreviated head bow. Lowering the body signifies a submissive posture, and so too does agreement. In Japan the head nod usually signals to the speaker that they are being heard and doesn’t necessarily indicate agreement. Thus, head nods are particularly specific to cultures so caution is important.

Head Lowered Judgment: The head down shows a judgment or negative internal emotion. As with any head motion it is important to examine the adjoining clusters of body language to determine its true origins. For example, adding arm crossed to head down would signify that there was negativity present. Bending the head down but looking up means agreement, confirmation, or even shame.

Head tilt shows interest.

Head tilt shows interest.

Head Tilted Interest: The head tilted at forty-five degrees from the center line of the body indicates interest and intrigue. The degree of tilt indicates the degree of interest. Slight tilt equals moderate interest whereas a full tilt indicates full immersion. It says “I am receptive, comfortable, and friendly.” The head tilt is one of the very significant and prominent postures that everyone should be aware of, especially educators of any kind. A professor for example, can gauge his efficacy as an instructor by the degree to which his audience tilts their head.

Head On: The head straight means passive listening.

Head Back And Peering Over Glasses: This head position prompts phrases such as “She looked down her nose at him in disapproval.” It is the classic eye-glass wearing domineering teacher or librarian look – staring the verbose down. The gesture can be done simply by looking down the bridge of the nose. The posture elicits a prey response in others as if a predator is peering down on them. Looking down the nose is indicative of someone that is condescending or pushy and is an authoritarian posture but is also a gravity defying body language so shows confidence. It’s where the phrase “Keep your chin up” comes from when we wish others to frame their outlook in a more constructive light.