Our upper extremities can reveal a great deal about inner emotions.
Some people may cross their arms to look casual when waiting for someone. However, crossing arms may also mean a person is angry, or does not agree with what is being said.
Withdrawing arms is a common gage that a person is withdrawing emotionally. When we suddenly don’t feel close to that person anymore because of something that has been said or done, our arms tend to shift away from that person, pressed closer to their sides in sign of defense or suspicion.
Imagine this scene. A young child completely freezes, says nothing, not moving. The lack of movement can be a strong indicator that something is wrong, the child has reacted in a freeze response.
Police and teachers should always be on the look out for a child that responds this way; it usually signals that something is wrong.
Again, lack of arm movement usually means that person is under stress in some way. It is the same thing with the hands. If hands are kept hidden, it tends to mean they are not welcoming you.
With people in positions of power, like the Royal Family, they will tend to stand with their hand or hands behind their back. This stance could reveal that they want to keep their distance, and you should keep yours.
Making an Impression.
If you want a positive impression on someone; smile, lean forward, make and
maintain a healthy amount of eye contact, and perhaps extend your hand in greeting.
A person that might want to show dominance may stand with their arms ‘akimbo’ – hands on the hips, elbows out to form a triangle. Arms akimbo generally represents a person is purposefully taking up more space, possibly trying to express dominance or authority.
It can be common for parents to display this type of body language when reprimanding their child.
We can also use our arms to claim territory – a person may take up a certain amount of table space with their arms.
A person that feels powerful, or trying to appear powerful will take up more space than others.
The ‘space’ display can also be seen in standing space. A person may step closer to another person if you like that person. In contrast, the more space there is can indicate distrust, dislike, or wanting to distance themselves for some other reason.
If you want to show positive feelings, try to avoid covering your torso or chest with the arms. Instead, face the person you are talking to, opening up your body with open arm gestures.
If you want a person to keep their distance, close yourself off – stand straight with arms behind your back.
It is important for a public speaker to stand or sit in the open, not hide behind a
podium. The former President, Donald Trump would stand behind a podium; however, his arms and hands would be on display, and he would often gesture in-line with what he was talking about. Donald Trump would regularly move his upper body to look in the different directions people were gathered in when speaking.
The person should be able to gesture freely, arms wide, and torso open.
Your own personal impact on others and their impact on you can occur in the first 7-10 seconds of meeting a person.
What a lot of people do not realize is that our arms have a lot to say without fully comprehending the impact they have.
An exchange might occur where a person may lean back in their seat, pull arms on to their lap, and perhaps fiddle with fingers or napkin. You can pretty much tell, something has been said that has caused offense and broken rapport. They have withdrawn from you.
Using Arms to Protect.
Arms can communicate fear, and be used to protect the body. Women that are pregnant may subconsciously cover their belly when they feel threatened or uncomfortable.
When examining a crime scene, one of the first things an investigator will look for is defense wounds on arms. This can immediately give them some indication that an attack has or hasn’t taken place.
Crossing arms over chest, combining with knees pulled up to chest usually indicates they are protecting themselves. This type of behavior is commonly seen in women that have suffered abuse.
The arms can reveal so much psychologically. If someone is sad or subdued, arms are probably very still, hanging straight at their sides, or in front of them with clasped hands.
If a person is happy they will raise their arms up in triumph, or celebration. Gravity-defying behaviors usually indicate some sort of happiness, raising parts of their
body into the air.
Kicking our feet in the air, widening our eyes, raising eyebrows, and lips curving up in a smile are all gravity-defying behaviors.
A person that is somber, concerned, anxious or lacking confidence will walk with their arms very still.
Whereas, a confident person or someone that is feeling positive will more likely swing their arms as they walk.
Observing and being aware of another’s body language can help you detect a person’s aggression, alter your stance to appear more welcoming, close off conversations without saying anything, and make a major impression on colleagues and bosses to appear more authoritative.
If you like this article, you might like to check out my series on body language, where I cover all the areas of the body, and what they might signify internally.