There are people who would like to teach you the secrets of non-verbal communication and then have themselves photographed with their arms crossed. I don’t know, I have always thought that coherence in life is everything and that if one decides to take on a role, it must then be consistent with that role and not like: “I say one thing and do another”. Now one thing are the photos made for personal use, like those in which combat sports athletes invariably propose themselves with their fists posing like”now I hit you”, but another are the photos, let’s say professional, in which one must communicate something more than “look at my biceps”.
In the past I have spent hours and hours in meetings with photographers, creatives and communication agencies to study every little detail of a photograph intended for the public, often making storyboards and various drawings on how the subject had to appear just to try to enhance even his non-verbal language. And then, here they are, arms crossed, always present as if to say: “let’s keep our distance, dude”.
Since before writing something I usually document myself in order to be sure of not saying bullshits, especially because sometimes I remember things about eons ago and it is not said that I remember them well, I dusted off the notes of social sciences where it was written that:
During childhood you hide behind something to protect yourself, in fact when a child is in the middle of a situation that makes him uncomfortable, he hides under tables or behind chairs or furniture.
This attitude evolves with time and becomes even more intense and around the age of six the children come to cross their arms over their chest when they perceive a threat or suffer a reproach.
During adolescence comes the awareness that this gesture must be less evident, the more relaxed arms combine with the crossed legs. Over time, the crossing of the arms becomes less explicit explicitly in the eyes of those with whom one interacts. For example, crossing one or both arms on the chest, a gesture whose meaning is the unconscious will to remove what in that moment is experienced as an uncomfortable situation.
The arms crossed to protect the heart and lungs, reinforcing the idea that the position of the crossed arms is innate and actually the monkeys do it to protect themselves from attacks. A person who has a nervous, negative or introverted attitude then crosses the arms on his chest showing his own feeling of threat.
A subject who then has himself photographed with crossed arms, as well as an obvious situation of discomfort probably due to the camera, therefore also demonstrates disinterest for others by placing himself in a position of superiority. We also add a frame from the bottom up and the message “I don’t care” is explicit. Let us remember a certain Mussolini who almost always used this pose in his portraits.
Then there are variations of the gesture such as:
- Arms crossed on the chest. It is a gesture that intends to raise a barrier between the person who crosses his arms and someone who is not to his liking. It is a universal gesture. We can see it among strangers, in queues, in elevators or in all places where people don’t feel safe. Here, proxemics also comes into play, but it’s another story.
- Forced crossing of the arms. This position includes the closed fists when the arms are crossed. It is a gesture that indicates hostility, representing a position of defense. If it is accompanied by a closed lips smile and a flushed face, it can be the prelude to a verbal or physical attack.
- Embrace both arms. In this position the person is as if he wanted to avoid exposing himself too much and console himself. The attitude transmitted by this position is one of restlessness and negativity.
- Arms crossed with the thumbs upwards. Both thumbs are facing upwards. It is a gesture typical of people full of themselves and they want to demonstrate to others their own self-confidence, despite acting as if defending themselves..
Carefully observing people and what they express, even in a simple photo says a lot about them and this applies to everyone, so pay attention to what you communicate, in every area. We are what we show, remember it.