The Head Body Language -
Positions and Tilt - Part 1

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Hi and welcome to the part where we’re gonna talk about the positions of the head in body language.

What can I find here and how is it different from the head gestures series?

First, as always, we will start with some introduction and guidelines to get the main "gist" of how this works.

Next, we will look at each position and analyze it more profoundly - where and in which context it is most likely to appear.

And... If you've already read the head gestures series, think about this part as a follow-up that focuses on the more static nature of the head in body language. This time it's about posture and direction rather than actions and gestures.

Barometer of Mental State

The position of the head is one of the quickest giveaways to mood or attitude in body language.

Why?

Because there's a direct correlation between how we feel and how we hold our head. The way we see the world around us is affected by the angle we look at it, right?

That's why happy or confident people will keep their head high in contrast to depressed individuals who will succumb and won't put effort in holding it.

This information can help us discern, in one glance, many types of attitudes:

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  • The general morale - happy vs sad, assured vs shaky.

  • Who or what is the center of attention of the person you observe?

  • How involved and engaged someone feels in a given scenario?

  • Who’s the superior and who’s the subordinate in the social power struggle?

Of course, these are not accurate predictions, I will never claim that someone is happy based upon a single fact that he holds his head high. But the head in body language is a very good barometer of mental state in a glance. Meaning - if you had only a moment to identify mood, the head position is one of the things you want to look at.

The Guidelines

1. Our neck is a vulnerable and important part of our body; it holds our head and supplies it with vital bloodstream through the carotid arteries. That's the reason why we instinctively guard our neck when we feel vulnerable (physically or emotionally), or show it with pride when we feel secure or when trying to impress.

2. In general, the higher the position of the head the higher the emotional condition of the person - I.e. Feeling better and stronger.

3. Orienting  the head is similar to pointing with the finger, where you're headed, literally, is generally where you want to be.

4. We tend to keep the head in balance, it's just easier that way -  so tilting it is appears to signify special interest.

With these notes in mind we already understand the basic principles of head positions in body language. Now it’s time to polish it out with some examples. I'll start by examining the elevated head postures and we’ll gradually descend to the lower ones, on the way I’ll do my best to give concrete and solid pointers you can use when interpreting the body language of others.

Head in the Skies

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Keeping the head high and looking upwards is usually associated with “feel-good” and positive introspective.

Examples - Relaxation, daydreaming, stargazing, ecstasy…

In such scenarios, the person is found in his own inner world, he’s not really open for communication, he's just enjoying himself\herself. It’s common when enjoying a favorite music or a good massage.

Another common explanation is that it can be a contemplative state, thinking about new ideas or reflecting upon positive events.

So it’s definitely a high spirits and carefree posture, but when it comes to communication and bonding with others it’s only good when the rest of the group are in the same mood. Otherwise the day-dreamer removes himself from the interaction and appears uncaring or even slow.

Looking Down One's Nose

The head is tilted back, the chin moves forward.

This gesture often associated with aristocracy and arrogant characters.

You know the look… a snobbish, cocky head position that almost yells: "I am better than you"

It's an annoying and dismissive signal that's often combined with a doubtful look on the face (raising one brow) and rolling of the eyes.

It can actually be enhanced further by clasping the hands behind the neck\head and spreading them to the sides to create a "know-it-all" impression.

Snobby look

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Flirting and Attraction

Like in many other expressions, when it comes to courtship the meaning can be reversed and become a playful teasing gesture rather than elitist or snobbish. E.g. A girl who's playing hard to get to taunt her date and test his determination.

Also, raising the head exposes the neck - one of the female's attractive features. A long smooth neck with a dimple is a display meant to entice men's attention and display vulnerability. Touching the neck, especially in the dimple area reveals tension - which can be good or bad, depending on the context.

Hiding Insecurity

Holding the head high can also be a way of covering up insecurity, or hiding hurt feelings. It's like saying nonverbally – "You didn't hurt me at all, I'll keep my composure". If you said something offending and the other person raises his head and turns away you can bet you hurt him more than he’ll like to show, so watch out!


Note: Don't confuse this with the quick beckoning of the head, a gesture of greetings

Read More

Continue reading the second part of the head body language here.

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