What do arms crossed mean?

by Mylene

What does it mean when someone holds their arms crossed, holds their head in their hands, shaking head from side to side?

Our Answer

Hi Mylene!

I'm going to assume that you didn't mean that all those body signals happened together, since it's hard to hold your head in your hands while crossing your arms. So I'm going to answer each signal separately.

Before I answer your questions, please always take into account that body signals often can mean more than 1 thing.

Take your "Arms crossed" question for example

When it is cold, someone may cross their arms to warmen up. The context of it being cold is obviously important, because if that information is missing, you may have interpreted the signal differently:

When someone crosses their arms, it usually means that they're closed for arguments. By crossing the arms, a barrier is put in front of the body, as some sort of protection. Putting an object in front of you may be the same signal.

Another reason for crossing arms may be that you're feeling vulnerable or insecure. The crossing of arms may then be interpreted as a sort of "self-hug", to comfort yourself.

It's difficult to say which is which, without taking into account other body language signals...

Are there any other signals that may support your thoughts on why they're doing it?

Are there, for instance, other signals that basically say that someone is closed for arguments:

  • Crossing of legs

  • Leaning back

  • feet pointing away from you

  • avoiding eye contact

  • shaking the head, saying no

  • etc.

Or are they showing signs of insecurity?

  • In a vulnerable position (eg. doing a speach)

  • Stammering

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Sweating

  • Blushing

  • etc.

Remember: One signal is no signal!

As for your other questions...

Hold head in hands
Usually a sign of being tired, or of racing thoughts. What I mean with that last part? When you're feverishly thinking of a solution for a problem, it is common to hold your head.

Shake head side to side
The head is saying "NO"! So, it's either signaling disagreement with what has just been said or done, or disbelief with what is happening.

I hope this answers your question.

Thanks for asking!

P.S. I edited out your other question, because it was off topic to this question. I'll answer that one separately.

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