Arm-y of One
When you’re talking about posture, the issue of your arms always comes up … or down or across the chest. Many people have a specific issue with their arms, as if they have a life of their own. These men and women don’t know what to do with their upper limbs when they walk or stand or sit. Most give up and let them hang there as disconnected appendages. But what you do with your arms can make or break what you’re attempting to do with your posture!
Cross My Heart
There is a world of theories associated with crossing your arms over your chest. Some people say that this is an attempt to defend yourself against the person you’re arguing with; others say it’s an attempt to make yourself smaller (and invisible); some say that this position shuts the other person out of the communication; and still others suggest that this is simply a comfortable position.
Safety experts advise women to learn how to carry themselves with a definite attitude. If you can make yourself look formidable—simply unwilling to be the prey, just like a cat standing up on its legs—there’s a better chance of scaring off a potential attacker.
The truth is that it depends on the person and the situation. If you’re witnessing an argument where one person is clearly the aggressor and the other is obviously frightened, and the frightened person appears to be hugging herself in this manner, then yes, the arm cross is probably a subconscious attempt to protect herself. But if you’re watching a casual exchange between two friends and one has her arms crossed, it’s pretty likely that she just likes to position herself this way.
So what’s the lesson to learn about the arm cross? Be aware of it; be aware that it can send a message that says, “I’m a little scared” or “I don’t really want to talk to you.” If you’re in a situation where you absolutely must come across as brave and/or interested, uncross those arms!
Hands on Hips
As mentioned earlier, posture can make you look bigger than you are. Placing your hands on your hips helps to exaggerate this effect, which is why you mostly see this in people who are angry or fairly aggressive. Just like in the animal kingdom, these people want to make themselves look bigger, powerful, fearless, and ready to spring into action.
Keep in mind that the angle of the elbows and the position of the thumbs are very important here. When your thumbs face forward, you force the elbows backward—a pose that appears weak. When your thumbs face backward, your elbows are directed outward, which makes you appear large and strong.
Holding your elbows straight out to the sides is the most effective position, as it makes you appear as wide as possible. That isn’t a look most people are going for on a day-to-day basis … but it might just help you out of a jam!
Remember, though, find the happy medium. Pointing your elbows forward makes you look like a contortionist; dropping them way back makes you look like Mick Jagger, a vision that, quite frankly, isn’t likely to strike fear into the heart of your opponent.