This gesture is typical of such professionals as accountants, lawyers, sales managers, bank managers or people who are feeling confident, dominant, or superior about something. If we could read the person's mind, he would be saying something like, 'I have all the answers' or, 'Maybe one day you'll be as smart as I am', or even 'Everything's under control'. It is also a gesture used by the 'know-it-all' individual and many people find it irritating when someone does it to them. Lawyers habitually use this with their peers as a non-verbal demonstration of how knowledgeable they are. It can also be used as a territorial sign to show that the person has staked a claim to that
FitfU if 9J Nea ;ni! ¿1 fad piM! iinfl ffgUH 94 Interested pot\Jjon particular area. The man in Figure 96 has also taken a figure 4 leg lock position which shows that he not only feels superior but is also likely to want to argue.
There are several ways to handle this gesture, depending on the circumstances in which it occurs. If you want to discover the reason for the person's superior attitude, lean forward with palms up and say, 'I can see that you know about this. Would you care to comment?' Then sit back, palms still visible, and wait for an answer. Another method is to force the man to change his position, which will in turn change his attitude. This can be accomplished by placing something just out of his reach and asking, 'Have you seen this?', forcing him to lean forward. Copying the gesture is another good way to handle it. If you want to show that you agree with the other person, all you need do is copy his gestures.
On the other hand, if the person using the hands-behind-head gesture is reprimanding you, you will non-verbally intimidate him by copying this gesture. For example, two lawyers will use the gesture in each other's presence (Figure 97) to show equality and agreement, but the mischievous schoolboy would infuriate the school principal if he used it in his office.
The origin of this gesture is uncertain, but it is likely that the hands are used as an imaginary armchair in which the person lies back and relaxes.
Research into this gesture showed that in one particular insurance company, twenty-seven out of thirty sales managers used it regularly in the presence of their sales people or subordinates but seldom in the presence of their superiors. When they were with their superiors, the same managers used submissive and defensive gesture clusters.
Was this article helpful?