Head Tilt, Muscle Tightening and Shrugging Shoulders – Silent Communicators.

We communicate in three main ways with our head and neck – head tilt, muscle tightening, and touching the area of our head and neck.

 Tilting the Head

File:German Shepherd tilting head.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Even in dogs, the head tilt generally indicates curiosity.

Most people will tilt their head to the side when they are curious about something. It is rare for a person to tilt their head if they are unhappy, or around a person they dislike.

Generally, the head tilt indicates the person is curious about something, they are comfortable and interested in the topic and/or person they are talking to. 

In most instances, our bodies do not go off center when we are nervous. That can actually be considered a pretty good defense mechanism. When a person is nervous, they are more likely to want to be in an upright position in case they need to escape. In comparison, when a person is more comfortable, they tilt their head, or slightly lean towards the person.

Muscle Tightening

When we see the muscles of the neck or jaw tightening, generally this denotes that a person is tense, uncomfortable or stressed. 

This tends to sum up the body in times of stress. When a person is stressed, they are more likely to tense their muscles, many times without even realizing they are doing it. Which is why headaches, insomnia and muscle aches and pains are common symptoms of a person experiencing a lot of stress or anxiety. 

Observing the jaw can tell a lot about what a person is feeling. Simply by clenching the jaw or fixing it in place is generally a sign they are uncomfortable or experiencing anxiety.

Body Language & Emotional Intelligence: Nonverbal Communication Analysis  No. 2923: Barack Obama, Jaw Clenching and Diffusing Anger - Body Language  as a Form of Biofeedback (PHOTOS)
Clenching the jaw can indicate a person is uncomfortable, anxious or angry. Image obtained from https://www.bodylanguagesuccess.com/2014/08/nonverbal-communication-analysis-no_17.html

Keep in mind; people that have anxiety disorders may actually exhibit these body language signs a lot. For myself, I unconsciously clench my jaw and other parts of my body, even when I am not around anyone else, and I generally feel quite comfortable. However, I also have GAD – Generalized Anxiety Disorder, resulting in the body being under a lot of stress without actual causation. 

Covering the Throat or Chest.

The other aspect to take into consideration is how we treat the neck. Covering the neck is the most common way of displaying some sort of discomfort.

When someone is uncomfortable they may put their hand to their throat, with arm covering the chest. This is considered a protective maneuver.

Women may play with their necklace, or massage the base of their throat. Whereas, men may adjust their collar or necktie.

These are some very subtle movements, yet can indicate to you that some sort of level of discomfort is occurring, so further investigation may be warranted.

Shrugging Shoulders.

Our shoulders are good indicators through the mere act of shrugging the shoulders.

When a person does a ‘half shrug’, lifting one shoulder, it can signify the person is not quite committed to what they are saying. The ‘half shrug’ may mean the person knows more than what they are letting on.

Body Language: About Your Shoulders - Mentalist Ehud Segev (The Mentalizer)  New York City NYC
The half-shrug may mean they are half-committed to what is being said. Image obtained from https://mentalizer.com/body-language-shoulders.html

Usually, if a person answers with a full shrug, then they are being more truthful. The more defined the shrug, the more likely the person is confident in what they are saying. 

Which is an interesting concept. When people shrug both of their shoulders in a conversation, in many instances, it is because they are portraying ‘well, I don’t know’, perhaps when asked a question they generally do not know the answer to.

In contrast, if the same question is asked, and the person gives a half shrug, that could lead one to believe that they may know at least more than what they are conveying. 

Another way our shoulders can be a giveaway, is if a person raises their shoulders towards their ears, appearing that the neck is almost hidden.

When Is It OK to Discipline Other People's Kids?
Shoulders raised to the ears can indicate a guilty conscience and defiant behaviour. Image obtained from https://www.treehugger.com/when-it-ok-discipline-other-peoples-kids-4863038

The retraction of our head can indicate a guilty conscience. People that have been arrested or on trial can give off these signals in which their shoulders almost ‘cover’ the neck area because they are so far up.

Children also demonstrate this when they are being reprimanded.

However, a high shrug also occurs in those with low self-confidence, or if they are feeling uncomfortable. These people also tend to slump in their seat, with shoulders raised further up.

Basically, a high shoulder position that is maintained for longer than a usual shrug demonstrates the person is in an uncomfortable state.

Click the ‘like’ button if you like this article, and comment what your experiences are in regards to what you have noticed people displaying in the neck and head area. Has this helped you in conversations?

My next article will focus on what the chest and belly body language tells us.

Published by sharlene25

Sharlene Almond is the author of the genre-bending Annabella Cordova series, and a New Zealand travel book Journey in little Paradise. She has written a range of health, writing and body language articles; contributing as a guest writer on other blogs. Over the last ten years, Sharlene has attained qualifications in Body Language, Criminology, Journalism, Editing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Pet Care, and Animal Behaviour. While setting up an online nutritional business, she is studying to specialize in Medicinal Cannabis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sharlene is also currently editing her second Annabella Cordova novel, with two others in the works. To support her online business, Sharlene sends out a trimonthly newsletter covering health, body language, writing, and even articles centered on health topics for your pet.

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