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Q: Interpreting Body Language ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Interpreting Body Language
Category: Relationships and Society
Asked by: hez2005-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 26 Jul 2006 12:29 PDT
Expires: 25 Aug 2006 12:29 PDT
Question ID: 749806
At work I have noticed that I frequently rest my hand (sometimes both)
on the top of my head or grab the hair at the back of my head.  I
don't do this at home, only at work where I am employed as a resource
manager.  On the whole, I would say i do this more when I am talking
to people in a work capacity as opposed to working on my own.  Now I
am aware that I do this I am desparate to find out why and what my
body language is saying to others.
Subject: Re: Interpreting Body Language
Answered By: jdb-ga on 26 Jul 2006 17:36 PDT

I am responding to your question regarding your body language at work.
Similar gestures or postures can be interpreted in various ways
depending on their combinations. For example, hands on top or behind
the head, combined with an open expression can be perceived as
considering someone's input, thoughtful and confident, while combined
with a closed expression might be perceived as controlling rather than
confident, and not open to others' input.  As one site below observes,
individual body positions are less meaningful than the transition or
movements from one to another in response to interactions with others.
The sites below give examples of various gesture and posture
components. Many people are interested in their body language at work.
Many of the sites below give tips on changing your body language.

As a counseling psychologist, I'd say that many of these
interpretations can be useful, though are also broad generalizations
and can be somewhat like a horoscope in comparison to a detailed
astrological chart, or a psychological test or an organizational
consultant. Some of the pat interpretations may not apply to you.
Google Answers researchers can provide resources rather than personal
or expert opinion, though I add my thoughts at the end of the
resources I find.

This site gives examples of body language:

"Hands on top of head = amazement"

Examples Of Body Language 

Nonverbal Behavior        - Interpretation

Hands clasped behind head - Confidence
Patting/fondling hair     - Lack of self-confidence, insecurity

Management for the Rest of Us #014 ? Body Language 

"An acquaintance of mine, now retired, spent most of his years as a
highly respected consultant. He spent a lot of time listening to
clients in order to understand their problems and formulate solutions.
The only problem was, when listening, he would recline fully in his
chair with hands behind head. Although this was his preferred
concentration position, his clients read this as boredom and/or
aloofness. This consultant was shocked to discover that his body
language was conveying exactly the opposite of what he intended."


Media Magic - Body Language

"Arms behind head, leaning back-In a new relationship, it is often
used to express a desire for control or power.

Hands behind head leaning back in chair - Egotistical, superiority attitude"

This page also makes the observation that:

"Individual body positions or movements are frequently meaningless.
Some people form a smile or a frown more naturally than a neutral
expression. Others lean on their hand all the time; others never do
it. Some people can't sit in a chair for more than a few minutes
without crossing their arms; others sit erect with their hands at
their sides.

What is meaningful, however, is a transition from one body position to
another. If a person spends the entire meeting leaning forward, that
may be just comfort. But if the same person starts out leaning back
and then gradually moves forward as the meeting progresses, that's
non-verbal communication."


"Rubbing the back of the head: This demonstrates that you're
comforting yourself when saddened. It also shows impatience."

Hair tugging can indicate tension:

Other gestures and actions that indicate tension may indicate the
state of fear. This includes hair tugging, face touching and jerky
movement. There may also be signs such as whiteness of the face and

Tools for Communication
Nonverbal Communication Issues

Self?control, inner conflict:
-hand rubbing back of neck, running fingers through hair (displaced hitting out)

-taking a different posture than others in a group, especially hands behind head

This site has an expert on body language:

"Make sure you do not twist and tug at your hair or touch it
repeatedly which can signal fear or nervousness and can simply make
you look desperate."

"12. Rubbing the back of head or rubbing or touching the back of neck
- means the conversation is not really interesting."

This site regarding positive body language:


The challenge of being taken seriously...the body language learned
growing up is often "apologetic."  This will not lend to being taken
seriously and moving into leadership positions.

In business, women must appear assertive:

Stand akimbo (legs positioned a bit apart) with hands on hips. In
workplace, keep hands on arm res of chair, not on lap. Cross legs
(relaxed), not tense and
"glued" together. Use expansive gesturing, from elbow. Do not back
away if challenged. Maintain eye contact and "hold" ground. Be careful
of moves that may be received as preening or provocative, such as
brushing hair back, or
nervous movement, such as repetitive crossing and uncrossing of legs."

What Body Language Says About You

"...never let your own body language relax too much ? wide leg
crossing or hands behind the head. It communicates that you feel the
woman is not a threat in any way, takes away her personal space, and
gives an impression of aggressiveness and lack of respect."

Nonverbal Communication Web Poject 
Sign Language 

"Another gesture, the hands-behind-head, can have two meanings. If one
hand is used behind the head, it is usually a sign of frustration,
uncertainty, or anger. If both hands are behind the head, it is an
indicator of dominance. Morris states, "This display reveals that
someone feels no need to show eagerness or attention." In Japanese
e-mail, many users use (^o^;>) as a symbol of someone with his elbow
sticking out similar to an embarrassed or apologetic person scratching
the back of his head."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------- - Teaching Resources

"...people put hands on head to save ideas..."


In reading your question's wording, and the fact that you have asked
and are sincerely considering your expressions towards your coworkers,
it may be that your gestures of hand on head represents confidence and
thoughtful consideration of others' ideas more than dominance or
control, and grasping hair at the back of the head may mean a reaching
for positive creative inspiration and response, the back of the head
representing the unconscious. These positions, accompanied by an open
facial expression, convey listening and consideration of others' ideas
towards one's own positive creative response, rather than implying
aloofness as in some of the above sites' interpretations.
As the paragraph in the above material says, meaning is found more the
sequence of movements in the context of interactions than in any
single body position, and others will respond to your overall
expressions more than to a single isolated one.


I hope this is useful. jdb-ga
Subject: Re: Interpreting Body Language
From: romeohifi-ga on 17 Aug 2006 22:42 PDT
I see you do not like what your are doing and you do get bord and it
is maybe one way of relaxing and thinking as well. I could be wrong.
Good luck.
Subject: Re: Interpreting Body Language
From: mothereileen-ga on 06 Oct 2006 10:46 PDT
to me , it sounds like those body language of you putting your hands
on your head and that of your grabbing your hair is an indication of
being stressed out ( at work ).

you realise that you do not do that at home cos at home , it is not
work envrinoment, you do not have all those difficult-to-resolve work
problems bugging you. you are more relaxed.

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