Why do I rub my hands together?

Villains in cartoons do it. Salespeople do it. And when we’re feeling cold we do it. Why do we rub our hands together?

Rubbing hands together when Feeling Cold
Context is a very important thing to consider when interpreting body language. If it’s cold outside, and you’re talking to someone, and they suddenly rub their hands together, it’s likely they’re doing it to warm up their hands with a bit of friction, rather than it having any deeper implications on their psyche and inner thoughts.

Rubbing hands together when feeling anticipation
The hand rub is almost as if the person has excess energy, and in order to get it out of their system, they rub their hands together quickly.

Sometimes the hand rub also denotes nervous expectation, where the result of an event is unknown, such as before a blind date, interview or big public presentation.

More often however, rubbing hands together denotes positive expectation and eagerness.

The salesperson who rubs his hands together quickly is communicating anything from:
“I look forward to seeing your positive reaction when you see this great product!”
“I look forward to getting a commission from this item I’m going to sell you!”
For this latter reason, the hand-rubbing gesture has become synonymous with greed in public opinion and is often deliberately used in jest in this context.

Body language experts suggest that you can differentiate between selfish positive expectations and general positive expectations by the speed of the hand rub. A slow rubbing of the hands together communicates sneakiness, and is associated with selfish gain, whereas a fast rubbing of the hands communicates more general enthusiasm.

Villains in films usually rub their hands in expectation of getting their hands on that million dollars they’ve stolen, or in expectation of taking over the world. Notice that their hand rub is almost always the slow, devious one of self-gain. For this reason, the slow hand-rub has also become associated with “positive expectations at the expense of something bad happening to others”, although this isn’t necessarily always the case. Nevertheless, the famous baddie-hand-rub is another gesture that’s commonly used jokingly.

Other examples of the hand rub showing positive expectations include:

  • when a gambler rubs dice between his hands before a throw in positive anticipation of throwing a good roll,
  • someone rubbing their hands together before a delicious meal or fun activity, like looking forward to a concert or movie they’ve been anticipating, or even looking forward to seeing a friend.
  • If you see your waiter rubbing his hands together when you ask for the bill, it may be his body saying that he is anticipating a tip.

Rubbing hands together as if washing off guilt
Extending the idea that hand rubbing is a way of releasing nervous energy, it could also denote releasing guilt. The most famous example of Lady Macbeth “cleaning” her hands of that darn spot.

This may look differently from the positive hand rub because it’s more commonly seen in the rubbing of one palm against the back of the other hand, rather than palm-to-palm rubbing. It is more usual for guilt to be associated with the hand-wringing gesture than the hand rubbing gesture.

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9 Responses to Why do I rub my hands together?

  1. Hibbs says:

    Very good idea for a web-site article!

  2. Capouch says:

    You’re an exceedingly smart person!

  3. Ferriter says:

    You’re a Really Professional Blogger, You either have got high quality knowledge of what your discussing or you did some great research. Thanks for this excellent article.

  4. Emily says:

    I was looking everywhere for explanations on why baddies in films rub their hands and this popped up like nothing!

  5. T. Stoleos says:

    Nice entry, thanks.

  6. Shugh says:

    Interesting stuff.

  7. Brittany M Ballard says:

    Fascinating, thank you so much! Since I was a little girl, I have done something I thought was a bit odd. When I get excited, I rub my hands together…really fast. Like, really really fast, until I cant anymore. Then I would “release” the energy and it felt, well for lack of a better comparison, almost akin to a non-sexual orgasm. I am thinking it is a dopamine release? Either way, I often did this after shutting the door of the bathroom before using the toilet, or when I got off the phone etc. Nothing too be that excited about, right? Well now fast forward years later, I realized through life experience and studying that I am an empath. I have studied many forms of psychology and astrology and done a lot of meditation. I now know that I can be either very drained or very amped up after spending long periods of time around certain energies, or lots of them. Now I am wondering….was this my way of releasing the energy I had absorbed from being around and taking in others? And furthermore, if you look into “sex magic” and the use of an orgasm to create potential energy to manifest things, could the energy you release that is “extra” potentially be harnessed and transmuted/redirected at your goals or intentions? Of course, if you don’t believe in that sort of thing this sounds crazy. But even from an academic standpoint, the history of magic/energy does line up with what I am saying and it is interesting. Because it makes sense about the bad guy…liken it to a sorcerer or dark witch, creating energy with their hands as they manifest their spell or “dark evil plan”…..woah.

  8. Brittany M Ballard says:

    Upon reading this article again, it seems that yes, one could call hand rubbing “manifestation”. Because regardless of positive or negative expectation, your are hoping, expecting, nay, WILLing your outcome. For me I realized this always happened when I’m excited from the other energies around me in a good or bad way and either want to release and shield myself or feed the potential, I had too much tea (ha) and think of something mildly interesting that I think should catch on in society, or I am hopeful for an outcome. <3

  9. Mark Ammons says:

    Brittany, I would like to communicate with you; we have tremendous similarities. If you read this, please email me. s.mark.ammons@gmail.com. Thank you all so much for posting this!

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