There are some body language gestures or postures which in themselves may not be negative. However the perception of them will be negative and perhaps does not display the feeling that you were intending. I will be discussing the Regal Stance as the second in this series.
What is the Regal Stance?
Royalty regularly employs this posture as the name suggests. This gesture shows dominance and power, while also sending the signal to keep your distance. It is a non-verbal warning to not draw near. Other dominant individuals, leaders, and those of high status who may adopt this pose are doctors, lawyers, university professors, policemen or high ranking military personnel such as sergeants. It’s also known at the “Military Man” and is used by those who expect little or no challenge whatsoever of their authority.
The regal stance is where both arms are placed behind the back, usually with palms crossed together. This exposes the chest to show confidence and pride, and can be complete with a head held high with a possible chin jut out. Feet may be splayed outward so as to take up more space and act more dominant
This is another level above spreading your arms out to gain space or territory and sends an even stronger distancing signal. The message is that you are not willing to touch the “crowd”, not willing to engage and do not wish any interaction whatsoever. The “crowd” knows this, they will feel rejected by the “Regal”, but not offended as they are with their peers. It elevates the “Regal” to a higher status.
Why is it negative?
This posture only really becomes negative in more intimate settings of a small group, one to one. Since, you probably wouldn’t want to signal a friend “don’t touch”, nor a colleague or a prospective employer. If you encounter this behaviour from someone you don’t expect, it gives a very negative signal. You will feel rejected and you may wonder why.
In a setting of many people, you will not get the opportunity to challenge this behaviour. In a social situation, you could attempt to build up to a handshake in conversation. You could offer an object or a drink if it’s appropriate. The main defence or counter to this behaviour would be to ensure your own body language is welcoming and un-threatening, I do not suggest that you mirror this behaviour, as this will only lead to negativity. It will be very difficult to hold a conversation with two people in this stance.
The Power of the Arms
The arms are the key here, arms can be used to convey powerful signals that those around us read instantly and subconsciously. Consider the last time you caught a flight and the psychological battles or unspoken negotiations over the shared arm-rests. On a physical level, this is because we want to be able to use our hands and arms. But that’s not all. We hate not being able to freely move our arms, if we can’t use them to communicate it’s like being gagged. We like those who are similar to us. If we are gesturing and emphasising our words but the other person is giving us nothing, no movement and firmly keeping those hands behind their back then we end up disliking them. This is not a situation you want to happen in terms of other’s perceptions of you.
Do you want to ensure that you are not engaging in negative nonverbal? Take a look out my other post about the hooding technique