Hands Behind the Back

Classic Tinker Bell Disney shirt

It’s one of Prince Charles’ trademark arm position as he’s ambling past waving crowds. Policemen and soldiers often hold this position as they stand or pace, keeping the peace. Teachers too are known to take on this posture whilst walking between the desks during exam invigilation season. Even Tinkerbell does it.

Why do people hold their hands behind their back?

Reason 1: Signal of authority and power

Placing your arms behind your back is very much the opposite of crossing your arms protectively in front of you. By holding your hands behind you, you expose the front of your body, where all sorts of sensitive organs like your heart, lungs and intestines are found. In animal-terms, you are exposing yourself to potential attack. Such little concern regarding your unprotected state indicates feelings of confidence, power, superiority and authority. It’s as if they’re saying “I’m so powerful, no-one would dare do anything to me, so I need not protect my front!”.

This is most likely the subconscious reason for taking on this posture by royalty, people with a lot of power (in the cartoon world this includes Tinkerbell!) and people who deem themselves important such as policemen and teachers.

Reason 2: Physical Restraint: Holding back their arms from throwing a punch

If rather than a relaxed palm-in-palm hands behind the back you have a more intense gripping of hands, or one hand tightly gripping a fisted other hand at the wrist, or further up the arm, it’s quite likely to indicate restrained frustration or aggression.

Here the subconscious message is: “You can’t see how frustrated I am, but if my hand would let go of the other, boy would you know!”

Reason 3: Mental Restraint: Holding back the truth

It need not necessarily be physical restraint. Holding back and hiding thoughts and words may also be symbolized by holding your hands behind your back. Generally hiding your palms is sometimes linked with hiding things, or even lying.

Sometimes people who hold their hands behind their back are surprised when they’re met with hostility, and this may well be because the message they are sending is that they are potentially untrustworthy, aggressive or superior! No great wonder it’s not the best way to come across as friendly!

Related articles
See other articles in the body language section including:
- Rubbing hands together: Why do I rub my hands together? Why do baddies in films do it? And why do salesmen do it?
- Middle Finger Insult: Why do I give The Finger?
- Body language of high or low social status

Related Products

Classic Tinker Bell Disney shirt The Sleeping Beauty Disney shirt Mickey & Friends Mickey Mouse mug Winnie the Pook Walking Disney mug

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8 Responses to Hands Behind the Back

  1. Adrienne says:

    I have been wondering about this for some time as my partner does this constantly. Excellent to know!

  2. C. Snes says:

    Fabulous post! I came across this post accidentally and discovered it really interesting and very helpful. Keep up the great work you are doing here.

  3. Irene says:

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  4. whitey says:

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  5. casey says:

    i walk with my hands behind my back and i never thought there was a reason. i saw that a character in a show did that alot and i thought. how is that comftable? and i tried it and its just what i do now. my dad told me that meant you were brave or something and that twirling your hair meant you were crazy…. i don’t twirl my hair

  6. Raa says:


  7. Anders says:

    I’ve seen this hands-clasping done with an air of subservience or obsequiousness. Makes grown men look like frightened little boys following teacher to the headmaster’s office! :)

  8. Nicola says:

    I hate seeing people walk with their hands behind their back because, their posture is awful and asking for an early upper back curvature! I always wanted to know why people do it and now I know, it is even more stupid!

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