Holding Hands - Body Language
Part 2

We continue with the second part on holding hands in body language.

What's the difference between forcing and guiding?

There's a difference, a tiny one, but significant - as it changes the whole picture. What's the catch? Just as in physics, when we apply force - we get resistance:

By holding and pulling someone's hand you create natural resistance. Even if that person wishes to go the same way as you, he automatically feels forced to do so because you urge him to follow. And most people dislike being forced to do anything, even if you believe it's for their own good.

Moreover, the more force you put - the more resistance you add, If you pull harder they will resist harder. Just like you would resist strongly to a sudden leash jerk of your dog.

Catching at the wrist is even a more aggressive and violent variation for this "lead". E.g. A child being dragged to the principal's office.

How to guide well then? Remove force:

1. Try to avoid pulling at all but rather match your walking speed. If you're in a hurry, explain that to your partner so s/he will get the message and start to walk faster with you. In the worst case scenario - just break the contact and start moving faster, this way you're not forcing anyone to follow you, but letting them decide if to do so or not.

2. When making a turn, angle your body first towards the direction, and if they didn't get the hint point the other party gently with a sleight touch on the hand, the back or the shoulders.

guiding elder

Guide well

Image Source

Example: When I was an instructor in school and needed to take a misbehaving child to the principal's office, I knew that dragging him there would be a bad idea - he'll just pull back and resist in his full might. Instead I matched my walking speed to his own and held his hand while talking to him. This way I managed to calm him and let him feel that he's not being forced to follow me so he don't need to resist.

Respect and Friendship 

So, holding hands is a sign for affection and love, but can we use it with platonic friends? Or is it reserved for couples only?

Well, it depends on whom you'll ask. Some friends may feel comfortable enough walking hand in hand without worrying about romantic complication, but they still will be perceived as a romantic couple by observers.

When it comes to same sex friendship - things get a little trickier. In the western culture, it's acceptable for girls or little children to hold hands as a sign of friendship, but it's taboo for heterosexual males.

This is not the case in Arab and other African and south Asian cultures. In these places this gesture and others (like kissing on the cheek in greetings between men)  is a sign for mutual respect and deep friendship, without any sexual connotations. Of course it doesn't mean that all males friends stroll hand in hand on the street, but simply that this gesture perceived differently than in the rest of the world.

Why the difference?

The main reason is segregation of the sexes in these regions. Men and women have little interaction in their daily live and it's inappropriate to show affection towards each other in public. What leads to the fact that most males spend a lot of time together instead of mingling with women. This of course leads to greater intimacy between men and to the existence of such customs.

Note: In many Arab countries this is a slowly fading custom due to globalization effects and less rigid segregation between males and females.

bush holding hands

diplomatic or awkward?

Another reason is the "awakening" of homosexual movements and awareness in the western world. Even very good heterosexual males will avoid showing intimacy between each other so they won't be perceived as homosexuals.

So, we can't really blame Bush for being 'too intimate' with the Crown Prince Abdullah (who now is king, by the way). He was simply being diplomatic, even if a bit awkward for his own nation to watch.

Other ways to show you care

While holding hands can be a fun and bonding experience, sometimes it's not the best option: Sweaty hands or cold dead fingers can make holding hands a strained affair. Plus, as we saw, not all people like it, for this or that reason.

This why I present to you 2 other alternatives to holding hands, which carry pretty much the same context:

couple walk

Hold on to your partner

Image Source

Holding at the waist\ shoulders

This is actually the mobile version of the hug (link). More common in young couples who just can't leave the hands from each other.

The couple will wrap their hands around the waist or shoulder area and move as one. In some cases it's even acceptable to walk with the hand in the back pocket, almost as grabbing the ass on the move.

Do notice when it's a not reciprocal gesture. It may indicate that the other partner doesn't feel as committed or s/he's forced to the interaction.

Holding Arms

This is the classic "sophisticated" European version to hands holding. The male will offer his arm to his lady as a hook to hang on her hand\s. This gesture considered to be more classy and platonic than the usual hands holding and it can be used even between platonic friends.

Holding arms can also be utilized in group settings to show solid unity between the members. This why you can observe it often in protests - it's a powerful display with a lot of presence and sense of purpose, everyone is locked with each other as a single unbreakable front.

arms holding

A hand to lean on

This is the End

That's it folks, this is holding hands in a nutshell for you, the rest you can pretty much figure out on your own.

Return to holding hand in body language - Part 1

For more info about the body language of touch you are welcome to visit the Haptics Section

Return to Study body Language - Homepage

Return to top


Copyright © Study-Body-Language.com 2012 - 2016

Disclaimer Privacy Policy