Howard has had a longtime interest in psychology and human behavior and enjoys digging into the reasons why we do the things we do.

You are watching: Holding hands back to back

We're going to look at two commonly seen variations of the hands behind the back pose. They are only superficially similar, because they give very different impressions.

The standard version that we see most often is a dominant, confident pose. The second version is submissive and suggests insecurity.

Let's start by looking at the components of the standard version and see what impression they give to an onlooker.

Standard Hands Behind Back Pose

Here are the main components of this pose:

The person is standing up straight with the feet at least shoulder width apart and usually slightly pointed out.The shoulders are back and the chest is neutral or expanded.The arms are behind the back with one hand in the other.The arms are relaxed.The hands aren't tightly clasped, just normally touching.

The picture below shows what it looks like.


Standing up straight with the feet fairly wide makes the person look as tall as they can. It's also a strong position for balance.

Having the shoulders back and the chest expanded makes a person look as big as possible. This, along with the feet position, makes the person take up a lot of space which indicates dominance.

Having the arms behind the back offers the front of the body as a target. Someone in this position isn't concerned about what anyone else is going to do to them.

It's important that the arms are relaxed. Although they're behind the back and thus not in a great defensive position, they're still ready to swing around quickly if someone decides to offer a challenge.

Even though the hands are touching, they're only lightly held together. Due to the lack of pressure, this doesn't qualify as a self-comforting gesture. As with the arms, the hands are ready to change position in a split second.

As we can see from the arms and hands, there's a bit of a disguise here. Outwardly, it says the person isn't thinking about being attacked or launching one themselves. But the lack of tension says they're ready to attack or ready to defend against one if needed.

Here's a recap of the most salient features of this gesture:

It's an open position. The front of the body is exposed, suggesting the person is secure in their environment. They're almost daring others to try something.They're comfortable offering this challenge because they're poised to act if necessary.There's a lot of confidence on display. In the back of an onlooker's mind, there's probably a nagging suspicion that the person isn't as vulnerable as they look.

Hands Behind Back with a Wrist or Arm Clasp

This is a variation on the hands behind the back pose, and the differences are significant. Let's look at the main components of this variation:

The person is standing up fairly straight usually with the feet closer together.The shoulders are slightly forward and there's usually a noticeable arch in the lower back.If done with a wrist clasp, both arms are behind the back.If done with an arm clasp, one arm is behind the back but the other is at the side of the body, slightly pulled back.There is some arm tension.

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The picture below shows the arm clasp variation.